(PHILADELPHIA) - The FBI's tests for fingerprint examiners are ``a joke'' because the examples are far easier to read than typical crime scene prints, an expert testified.
``If I gave my experts these tests, they would fall (down) laughing,'' Allan Bayle testified Tuesday, the second day of a federal court hearing on the validity of fingerprints as evidence.
Bayle is a one-time Scotland Yard fingerprint analyst whose work led to a conviction in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. He now works as a private consultant.
Bayle's testimony was intended to discredit government witnesses who said FBI examiners almost never err when linking the tests' make-believe crime scene prints to their maker.
The government wants to convince U.S. District Judge Louis H. Pollak to rethink his Jan. 7 decision barring experts from testifying that fingerprints lifted from a crime scene match those of a particular defendant.
Bayle said the fingerprints on the FBI's long-secret proficiency exams are far clearer than the often smudged and incomplete prints from real-life crime scenes.
``To give this to an expert is a joke; it's too easy,'' Bayle said.
Pollak said in his ruling that fingerprint evidence has not been scientifically tested, that its error rate has not been calculated and that there are no standards for what constitutes a match.
The ruling is believed to be the first of its kind, and legal experts say it opened the door for other courts to consider the issue. If left to stand, it could ultimately change the way evidence is gathered and presented in court.
On Tuesday, Pollak recalled to the stand FBI fingerprint expert Stephen Meagher, who testified Monday that he knew of no examples of an FBI examiner testifying about an erroneous identification.
When asked by the judge if he knew of mistakes by anyone else, Meagher acknowledged that he knew of several examples of other law enforcement agencies verifying a match in court and later being found wrong.
Pollak's ruling stemmed from a death penalty case for three men accused of operating a multimillion-dollar drug ring and killing four people. Their trial is set to begin next month.
Pollak said experts may testify about and compare fingerprints from a crime scene with a defendant's, but can't declare a match.
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