This article documents the persistent misrepresentation and misunderstanding of the most ubiquitous forensic science of the past century. That is, the treatment of latent fingerprint evidence as categorical identification of a specific person. Following a review of the manner in which latent fingerprint evidence was presented in trials and appeals, starting at the beginning of the 20th century and continuing until the present, it introduces scientific research and advice. This juxtaposition allows us to observe how New Zealand’s legal institutions have not required fingerprint examiners to temper their claims in response to mainstream scientific research and advice (emerging largely out of the United States and the United Kingdom). In conclusion, drawing upon scientific recommendations, the article explains what is required to make the claims of latent fingerprint examiners scientifically grounded such that their probative opinions can be evaluated in ways that facilitate the goals of rectitude and fairness.
|New Zealand Universities Law Review
|Published - Jun 2020