Education & Training

Capital Litigation Initiative: Crime Scene to Courtroom Forensics Training

Webinar 21: Evolution of Fingerprint Practices and Implications to Litigation

Evolution of Fingerprint Practices and Implications to Litigation
September 28, 2021
2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. EDT

An very informative webinar was presented by fingerprint expert Mr. Henry Swofford as he discussed the Evolution of Fingerprint Practices and Implications to Litigation. Fingerprint evidence has been admissible in legal proceedings for over a century and practiced by nearly every forensic laboratory throughout the world. Once viewed as the gold-standard of forensic evidence, the fingerprint discipline, along with many other pattern interpretation disciplines, has experienced mounting criticism from the general scientific community as to whether the validity and reliability of its methods have been properly demonstrated to satisfy modern admissibility requirements in criminal and civil courts. Specifically, concerns have focused on the quality of foundational research related to error rates and the lack of standardized and robust examination methods, interpretation protocols, and reporting.

Although the forensic fingerprint discipline has come a long way over the years and was ultimately determined to be foundationally valid following an independent assessment of existing research by the Presidentís Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) in 2016, questions remain regarding the validity of the practices when applied to a specific case and appropriateness of the conclusions conveyed during testimony by individual forensic service providers. These concerns have led to several changes to recommended practices and efforts to promote greater scientific rigor across the community.

This presentation is now available on-demand and will:

  • Provide a broad overview of key issues related to traditional fingerprint examination practices raised by various scientific committees over the last decade
  • Summarize salient findings from major research studies (e.g., black-box error rate studies) and their implications
  • Discuss general trends and recently developed standards and best practice recommendations proposed by the Organization for Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science Friction Ridge Subcommittee
  • Highlight key areas to focus on during litigation of fingerprint evidence

Mr. Henry Swofford is the Principal Forensic Analyst at HJS Consulting, LLC in Washington D.C.† Swofford is certified by the International Association for Identification (IAI) as a latent print examiner with over 15 years of experience working in an ISO/IEC 17025 accredited forensic science laboratory.††

Swofford received his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from Georgia State University and his Masters of Science in Forensic Science from the University of Florida. Prior to serving as an independent forensic consultant, he was the Chief of the Latent Print Branch for the United States Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory (USACIL) responsible for overseeing forensic latent print operations in support of the criminal investigative mission of the U.S. Department of Defense.† Under his leadership, the USACIL Latent Print Branch became the first laboratory in the United States to implement statistical methods and strengthen the scientific rigor of latent print examinations.† Prior to this, he served as a Quality Assurance Manager, Research Coordinator, and Physical Scientist/Latent Print Examiner for the USACIL as well as a Laboratory Technician for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation since 2003.
Over his career, Swofford has authored several articles and given approximately 150 professional presentations throughout the United States and International community related to forensic science methods and practices, including applications of statistical methods to latent print examination. He has testified in federal, state, and military courts as an expert and currently serves as the Chair of the Organization for Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) Friction Ridge Subcommittee; a member of the Board of Directors for the IAI; a member of the Editorial Boards for the Journal of Forensic Identification, Journal of Forensic Sciences, and Forensic Science International: Synergy; a member of the Academy Standards Board (ASB) Friction Ridge Consensus Body; member of the Science Advisory Board for the District of Columbia Consolidated Forensic Science Laboratory; and a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS), among other committees and professional affiliations.†

Course materials:

This webinar is designed for both prosecutors and defense attorneys. Attendees who complete this webinar will be eligible for Continuing Legal Education credits. The Stetson Office of Professional Education will work with each individual participant for reporting specifics. CLE applications will be made to Florida and other states per individual requests. Please email for further information and state specific requests.

This project was supported by Grant No. 2015-CP-BX-K006 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the SMART Office. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.