08 September 2010

Fingerprint Examiners Fallacy, Again

I made a comment on a blog post, Law and Lawyers: The blue touchpaper: reflections on science and law, over at Law and Lawyers.

I've posted before about the fingerprint examiners fallacy and given examples of said. The fingerprint examiners fallacy is an ongoing example of what I was writing about when I commented on the 'Law and Lawyers' blog: that is, the objective and subjective realities of science and law.

A recent example can be found in a report by the Guardian of an ongoing trial, "Palm print led to arrest of teenage rapist 25 years later, court hears".

"A teenager who raped a woman in her home and forced her flatmate to join in the abuse was caught by his palm print 25 years later, a court heard today."

The problem I have with this sort of thing is that techniques such as palm print identification have not been validated.

In a double blind trial, what is the success rate of the forensic technician who provided the evidence for the court? What is the national average amongst forensic technicians? What is the error curve for this particular technique?

If I were a juror I would expect all of these answers so that I would be able to give the appropriate weight to the evidence given.

Without this information the evidence has no probative value it is simply prejudicial.

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