Fingerprints have been used as evidence in the U.S. courtroom for nearly 100 years. They have long been considered the gold standard of forensic science and are widely thought to be an especially powerful and indisputable form of evidence. Fingerprint analyst’s have taken the stand in many cases to testify if they have found that the fingerprints at the crime scene is a “match” or not. What happens to these cases when a fingerprint analyst fails to do their job correctly?
Orange County Sheriff’s Office has removed a fingerprint analyst due to mistakes that he made while analyzing fingerprints used in previous court cases. There are more than 877 closed cases that are in question. The impact of these mistakes date back to 2001. Some of the multiple job performance issues, include clerical errors, failure to identify what prints are important and the mislabeling of fingerprint cards.
“The reality is there’s only a finite number of cases where fingerprints are actually the primary evidence of the case,” said WESH 2 News legal expert Richard Hornsby. Hornsby said he doesn’t believe the investigation will lead to many overturned verdicts or result in the dismissal of pending cases.
“The prosecution is either going to have to go in and have a second fingerprint examiner examine those cases or they’re going to have to allow those people to withdraw their plea and dismiss those cases,” Hornsby said. And as for the analyst, he has been reassigned to administrative duties while the investigation takes place. The state attorney’s office said Friday night there may be more cases and they are “still in the process of researching.”
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