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The Champion

November/December 2008 , Page 16 

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Latent Fingerprint Evidence: Fabrication, Not Error

By Pat A. Wertheim

Many fingerprint experts may believe it improper to discuss the topic of fingerprint fabrication, seeing occurrences as isolated incidents rather than a pattern of dishonesty. But a simple accounting of known cases of fingerprint fabrication shows it to be a serious problem, more serious than that of misattribution, or “erroneous identification” as fingerprint experts themselves call it. Honest mistakes do occur and, unfortunately, some go undetected for years, maybe forever. But the number of such erroneous identifications shown to have actually occurred is much smaller than the number of cases of fingerprint fabrication known to have been committed.

In this specialized discussion, the terms “forgery” and “fabrication” have very different and unrelated meanings.1 A forged fingerprint is a fingerprint that actually exists on a surface, but was deposited there by some person other than the one to whom it can be correctly identified. For example, if a safe burg

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