Is Fingerprint Identification Valid? Rhetorics of Reliability in Fingerprint Proponents' Discourse

27 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2006  

Simon A. Cole

University of California, Irvine - Department of Criminology, Law and Society

Abstract

Beginning around 1999, a growing number of scholars have claimed that validation studies for forensic fingerprint identification do not exist. This article revisits that claim by reviewing literature produced by proponents of fingerprint identification in response to that charge. It shows that fingerprint proponents employ rhetorical tricks in which they claim to address the validity question, but then subtly shift the question to ones that are easier to address. The article explores several different rhetorical strategies fingerprint proponents use to appear to be demonstrating validity, while in fact demonstrating other things. These include the fingerprint examiner's fallacy and the casework fallacy. The inability of fingerprint proponents to refute the charge that validity studies are lacking is further evidence that the charge is, in fact, correct.

Suggested Citation

Cole, Simon A., Is Fingerprint Identification Valid? Rhetorics of Reliability in Fingerprint Proponents' Discourse. Law & Policy, Vol. 28, No. 1, pp. 109-135, January 2006. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=871541 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9930.2005.00219.x

Simon A. Cole (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine - Department of Criminology, Law and Society ( email )

2340 Social Ecology 2, RM
Irvine, CA 92697
949-824-1443 (Phone)
949-824-3001 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.seweb.uci.edu/faculty/cole/

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