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Validity of fingerprint evidence dependent on technician skill

Juries in Georgia tend to place great value on fingerprint evidence. Although everyone appears to have unique fingerprint patterns, mistakes in the processing of fingerprint samples could place blame for crimes on the wrong people. The accurate identification of a fingerprint depends on criminal evidence technicians never making any mistakes. Criminal defense attorneys contend that no one can avoid mistakes 100% of the time, especially when technicians often work with partial or smudged prints.

A high-profile case of a fingerprint mistake involved three FBI experts. All three of them agreed that fingerprints collected at the scene of a bombing belonged to the same man. The defense for the suspect eventually proved that the fingerprint evidence was wrong, and the government had to pay the man $2 million in a civil lawsuit.

People serving on juries rarely hear about the shortcomings of fingerprint evidence. Television crime dramas present fingerprints as unassailable evidence that places people at crime scenes. An evaluation of certified crime technicians, however, found that they were wrong in 20% of fictitious cases presented during the test.

A criminal defense attorney might be able to provide representation to someone who has been accused of a crime. The lawyer might scrutinize the evidence and question any shortcomings in the investigation. Applied skepticism on the part of the lawyer might reveal holes in the case that an attorney might leverage to get charges dropped or reduced. If the person goes to trial, an attorney may ask the jury to take a critical look at evidence instead of simply trusting that the prosecutor has presented accurate information. Presenting evidence in this way may lead to an acquittal.

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