Sunday, July 31, 2005

Microscopic Hair Analysis Upheld by Connecticut Supreme Court

The Connecticut Supreme Court has issued a major opinion upholding the admissibility of expert testimony on microscopic hair analysis. See State v. West, No. SC 16627 (Conn. Sup. Ct. July 26, 2005).


Anonymous writes ...

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7:41 AM  
Anonymous writes ...

Forensic hair examiners using traditional microscopic comparison techniques cannot state with certainty, except in extremely rare cases, that a found hair originated from a particular individual. They also cannot provide a statistical likelihood that a hair came from a certain individual and not another. There is no data available regarding the frequency of a specific microscopic hair characteristic (i.e., microtype) or trait in a particular population. Microtype is a term we use to describe certain internal characteristics and features expressed when observing hairs with unpolarized transmitted light. Courts seem to be sympathetic to lawyer's concerns that there are no accepted probability standards for human hair identification. Under Daubert, microscopic hair analysis testimony (or other scientific testimony) is allowed if the technique can be shown to have testability, peer review, general acceptance, and a known error rate. As with other forensic disciplines, laboratory error rate determination for a specific hair comparison case is not possible. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based typing of hair roots offer hair examiners an opportunity to begin cataloging data with regard to microscopic hair association error rates. This is certainly a realistic manner in which to ascertain which hair microtypes and case circumstances repeatedly cause difficulty in association. Two cases are presented in which PCR typing revealed an incorrect inclusion in one and an incorrect exclusion in another. This paper does not suggest that such limited observations define a rate of occurrence. These cases illustrate evidentiary conditions or case circumstances which may potentially contribute to microscopic hair association errors. Issues discussed in this review paper address the potential questions an expert witness may expect in a Daubert hair analysis admissibility hearing.

PMID: 10507796 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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7:14 AM  

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Fed. R. Evid. 702: If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.