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Swirls and Whorls: Litigating Post-Conviction Claims of Fingerprint Misidentification after the NAS Report

31 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2014  

Jacqueline McMurtrie

University of Washington - School of Law

Date Written: March 5, 2010

Abstract

The National Research Council of the National Academies’ 2009 report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward ("NAS Report"), noted that "[t]he number of exonerations resulting from the analysis of DNA has grown across the country in recent years, uncovering a disturbing number of wrongful convictions — some for capital crimes — and exposing serious limitations in some of the forensic science approaches commonly used in the United States." The evidence can include the comparisons of bite marks, hairs, voiceprints, earprints, and fingerprints.

This article provides a brief outline of latent fingerprint evidence as it is currently presented in courts. Latent fingerprint individualization was rapidly accepted as forensic identification evidence, largely without question — and before being validated through scientific research. Legal challenges only began in the 1990s. Although the NAS Report's discussion of fingerprint identification raises many questions, petitioners who claim to have been wrongly convicted because of it will still face substantial hurdles.

Keywords: Innocence Projects, wrongful convictions, post-conviction relief, fingerprints, forensic evidence

Suggested Citation

McMurtrie, Jacqueline, Swirls and Whorls: Litigating Post-Conviction Claims of Fingerprint Misidentification after the NAS Report (March 5, 2010). Utah Law Review, Vol. 2010, No. 2, pp. 267-97, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2405096

Jacqueline McMurtrie (Contact Author)

University of Washington - School of Law ( email )

William H. Gates Hall
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98105-3020
United States

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