Technological Advances Reducing Clout of Fingerprints in Jury Trials

Everyone is familiar with the fact that each person has a unique set of fingerprints. Even in the case of genetically identical twins, their fingerprints are distinguishable. For this reason fingerprints have been used in identifying criminals and crime victims for well over 100 years.

But, recent advances in technology have worked to undermine forensic professionals’ faith in the fingerprint identification process, which is quite to the contrary of what would be expected. Nevertheless, fingerprints continue to be used less and less for suspect identification during jury trials.

Fingerprints are made of various patterns imprinted on the finger including arches, loops, and whorls. And while fingerprint examiners have generally claimed that there are absolutely no two fingerprints that are alike, forensic scientists now view this assertion with more caution than in previous years.

The uncertainty among a sizeable selection of modern forensic scientists regarding the reliability of fingerprint identification has not caused crime scene investigators to stop looking for them. However, after obtaining a relatively clean fingerprint, and even after matching it with that of a suspect or victim, forensic professionals are now less likely to present such evidence to a jury for consideration.

One of the reasons fingerprint evidence is coming under closer scrutiny is as a result of the tide of convictions being overturned in light of new evidence. Some of these convictions used fingerprint evidence in order to positively identify the alleged perpetrator, only to have the conviction overturned years later as a result of more accurate identification methods such as DNA matching.

However, despite the purported decline of fingerprint pattern matching, the fingerprint will not be totally done away with as a method to identify a suspect. For example, promising new technology may allow crime scene investigators to collect DNA samples from fingerprints, which will undoubtedly provide a much stronger basis for perpetrator identification.