Do evidence submission forms expose latent print examiners to task-irrelevant information?

Date
2019-04-01
Authors
Gardner, Brett
Kelley, Sharon
Murrie, Daniel
Blaisdell, Kellyn
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Altmetrics
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Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence
Abstract

Emerging research documents the ways in which task-irrelevant contextual information may influence the opinions and decisions that forensic analysts reach regarding evidence (e.g., Dror and Cole, 2010; National Academy of Sciences, 2009; President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, 2016). Consequently, authorities have called for forensic analysts to rely solely on task-relevant information—and to actively avoid task-irrelevant information—when conducting analyses (National Commission on Forensic Science, 2015). In this study, we examined 97 evidence submission forms, used by 148 accredited crime laboratories across the United States, to determine what types of information laboratories solicit when performing latent print analyses. Results indicate that many laboratories request information with no direct relevance to the specific task of latent print comparison. More concerning, approximately one in six forms (16.5%) request information that appears to have a high potential for bias without any discernible relevance to latent print comparison. Solicitations for task-irrelevant information may carry meaningful consequences and current findings inform strategies to reduce the potential for cognitive bias.

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This is a manuscript of an article published as Gardner, Brett O., Sharon Kelley, Daniel C. Murrie, and Kellyn N. Blaisdell. "Do evidence submission forms expose latent print examiners to task-irrelevant information?." Forensic science international 297 (2019): 236-242. Posted with permission of CSAFE.

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