Fingerprint Analysis is High-Stakes Work—But It Doesn’t Take Much to Qualify as an Expert

BRENDAN MAX AND two of his colleagues in the Cook County, Illinois, public defender’s office got some good news and some bad news in the spring of 2018. Actually, it was the same news: The three lawyers had nearly aced a proficiency test designed for fingerprint examiners.

None of them had any training or real expertise in latent fingerprint analysis — the practice of trying to match a fingerprint collected from a crime scene to the known print of a suspect — aside from what they’d learned during their years working criminal defense.

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