It is a well-established fact that the best way to present a case is to properly prepare the case before going to court. The preparation phase of the case means conducting pretrial conferences for both preliminary procedures as well as for the trial itself. This material refers to issues, questions, and the type of questions that should be asked during direct examination of the “expert witness.”
Protocol for Preliminary Examination
- 1. Look at and evaluate what type of evidence is at issue.
- 2. Who are the investigators involved in this case?
- 3. What is the extent of their experience and training?
- 4. Was the property merely booked into police property, or was that property processed for the presence of latents?
- 5. Were latent fingerprints developed?
- 6. Were photographs taken?
- 7. Photos by photo lab or crime scene investigation or field personnel?
- 8. Were the latent prints compared based on a request, or were the latent prints identified with the aid of AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System)? Ask the investigator to explain.
- 9. If an identification was effected, are there any prints that remain unidentified?
Expert Fingerprint Testimony—Preliminary Examination
A preliminary hearing examination will be less vigorous than a trial examination. However, the qualifications of the expert witness must be established just as in a trial. Proper voir dire is essential to getting pertinent evidence introduced. The following questions may assist the district attorney in both the preliminary and the trial examinations (the first set of items, 1 through 31, will often be used for preliminaries).
- 1. State your name.
- 2. What is your occupation or profession?
- 3. By whom are you employed?
- 4. What is your current assignment?
- 5. How long have you been working in this capacity?
- 6. Have you received any special training in the developing, lifting, and comparison of latent fingerprints? Do you possess any special certificates or degrees?
- 7. At this point, the assistant district attorney may want to ask the defendant’s attorney for a stipulation regarding the witness’s expertise. (It is recommended that for a jury trial, the witness recites their qualifications and not stipulate.) If stipulation, skip to question 16. If no stipulation, continue on to question 8.
- 8. What was that training and experience?
- 9. Are you a member of any professional associations concerned with the science of fingerprints?
- 10. Have you ever held any positions, offices, or appointments in any of these professional organizations?
- 11. Have you ever taught fingerprint science in any accredited agencies or institutions?
- 12. Have you ever presented or published any papers or articles dealing with the science of fingerprinting?
- 13. Have you ever testified previously to fingerprint identifications?
- 14. On how many occasions and at what levels of court (municipal/ state/federal)?
- 15. Ask the court to certify the witness as an expert witness if there are no objections.
- 16. What is a latent print?
- 17. On_, did you go to_?
- 18. What was the reason you went to_?
- 19. Did your investigation reveal any latent prints?
- 20. Where did you locate the prints (what room and item)?
- 21. After locating and developing the latent prints, what did you do with them?
- 22. Did you bring those latent prints with you today?
- 23. Have all fingerprint cards (lifts) and envelopes marked?
- 24. Did you compare the latent prints from_marked_
with any known prints?
25. At this time you may want to ask, “What is a known or inked print?”
- 26. Are you the custodian of record of the known prints?
- 27. Did you bring those known prints with you to court today? (Ask for a stipulation that the known prints are those of the defendant. If not, lay a foundation as a business record.)
- 28. Have the known prints been marked?
- 29. What was the result of your examination and comparison? (What was your conclusion?)
- 30. Thank you. Nothing further.
- 31. After cross and redirect (if needed), have latent and known prints of the defendant entered into evidence?