October 01, 2012

Jenner &  Block Partner Gabriel A. Fuentes wrote an article titled “Toward a More Critical Application of Daubert in Criminal Cases: Fingerprint Opinion Testimony after the National Academy of Sciences Report” in the October, 2012 Bloomberg BNA Expert Evidence Report. Mr. Fuentes examines the legal landscape surrounding the use of fingerprint identification testimony three years after a groundbreaking National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report that challenged examiners’ claims that they can “individualize” a latent print to a single person. Despite the NAS’ finding, Mr. Fuentes  writes, courts are still relying on Daubert v Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. to allow fingerprint examiners’ “expert” testimony. In Daubert, the Supreme Court designated trial courts as the gatekeepers to confirm the validity and reliability of expert scientific evidence. Largely unchallenged, Daubert has led the courts to unquestioningly accept examiners’ claims as evidence. Yet in the wake of the NAS report, Mr. Fuentes argues, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges should re-examine how fingerprint evidence is evaluated, presented and admitted in criminal trials. “The recurring but now discredited claim that an examiner may individualize a latent fingerprint to a single human source must be excluded from the courtroom, at least until an adequate research basis can be advanced to support the claim,” he writes.

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