« PreviousContinue »
higher ethical system in handling trials, particularly among the lawyers. The better class of lawyers should not shirk their duty, but should go more often into the Criminal Courts, instead of leaving most criminal cases to many lawyers who use unethical means to secure their ends.
Walter Carlson, the finger print expert, of Los Angeles, who has taken part in the MacNamara and other noted trials, gave an address on the forgery of finger prints.
(For Address of Mr. Carlson, see page 587.) A general discussion ensued on reforms in criminal procedure, in which many of the members took part, but the general consensus of opinion was that forms of procedure are all right, if we could reform the authorities enforcing them. A speedy trial, with due regard for the rights of both the commonwealth and the defendant, the abolition of red tape, both in the drawing of indictments and in the trial of the case, and the speedy imposition of punishment at the conclusion of the trial, all would contribute to the benefit of the public and reduce criticism.
At the evening session two excellent papers were read, both of which, however, seemed to take the same turn as the general discussion. Edwin W. Sims, Esq., former U. S. district attorney, of Chicago, and now head of the Chicago Crimes Commission, spoke upon “Speedy Justice in Criminal Cases.”
(For Address of Mr. Sims, see page 596.) James R. Clark, United States district attorney, of Cincinnati, delivered an address on “Should Verdicts be Unanimous in Criminal Cases ? ” This was a most exhaustive study of the subject, covering the six years' experience of a prosecuting attorney in a very busy district. Mr. Clark was quite frank in saying that he believed in the jury system and felt that substantial justice was rendered, and under no circumstances should we change the system of a unanimous verdict in all cases.
(For Address of Mr. Clark, see page 591.) Judge Floyd E. Thompson, of Rock Island, Ill., a member of the Supreme Court of Illinois, was elected President of the Section for the ensuing year. In response to a request for a few words, he emphasized the fact that “while capital punishment may not reduce murders, it will reduce murderers; while punishment may not abolish crime, yet it will act as a deterrent to many"; and he said that, in taking up the work for the year, we should all endeavor to co-operate with the authorities to help preserve law and order and to assist the country to return to normal conditions as speedily as possible.
The other officers of the Section, elected for the year, were: Vice-President, W. 0. Hart, of New Orleans; Secretary-Treasurer, Edwin M. Abbott, of Philadelphia; and Council, Thomas J. O'Donnell, of Denver, Colo.; and Mrs. Annette A. Adams, of San Francisco.
The meetings were all very well attended and showed the interest of the lawyers present in this branch of the law.
EDWIN M. ABBOTT, Secretary.
OF LOS ANGELES, CAL. For many years I have been examining questioned documents to determine the authenticity of writings and typewritings throughout this country, and that has brought me in contact with the government, district attorneys and the various states' attorneys and civil lawyers. The particular thing that I was asked to discuss here was the fact of the finger print. Heretofore finger prints found at the seat of the crime, for instance, on a bank vault which has been robbed or on the cashier's desk, or upon a book, or upon the hilt of a knife in human blood, have been generally accepted as conclusive evidence that such were the finger prints of the defendants. You undoubtedly know that there are many cases in which the finger print at the seat of crime has been a very great material aid to convict the defendant. Now, that may be true, but the point that has been advanced is that finger prints are infallible and that they cannot be forged. Some years ago, dealing in forgeries, I determined to test that proposition. I made finger prints and submitted them to the experts of the identification bureaus, who have testified in courts as to finger prints. There was their finger print upon certain instruments that they knew they had not touched. Now a detective or finger print expert finds a finger print at the seat of crime by a microscope. He takes a little aluminum powder, being white, if the substance is upon a dark object, or if it is a pane of glass he uses a little graphite, a black powder, and sprinkles it over the surface. That identical print now upon that pane of glass, showing that the person robbed this room is brought into court with that graphite upon it or that powder, or whatever might have been used. The question that has arisen, and I have discussed it with Dean Wigmore and others, is this, is that print truly admissible in evidence in that trial? There is a print, but what you see now is the graphite. You do not see the print. The defendant is precluded from the possibility of having that original print analyzed to determine whether or not it is forged, because other chemical substances that are mixed with the identical print make it impossible to tell what the original form consisted of. A finger print is easy of forgery for this reason, because the substance of which the finger print is composed is easy of access. As you all know your hands perspire and if you touch a pane of glass you will see the finger print upon it. I hand you my business card, and the moment you touch that card with your fingers, on that card is a finger print. That finger print can be developed so that it can be seen, by spilling some form of graphite or some other chemical upon it. Without going into the details of how it can be done and I shall be glad to show you some of the instruments here that have forged finger prints upon them—it is absolutely accurate. If I had a camera here and snapped it, immediately every eye brow, every wrinkle and every touch of your face would be on what? On the film in that camera. What transpires in that camera ? That film, or paper, or glass, or tin, or whatever it might be, is sensitized with certain chemicals, and immediately those chemicals pile up in a heap. If you expose it to the light you can't see anything. Another process is necessary for development. Why cannot perspiration be sensitized ? Why cannot blood be sensitized? Why cannot nicotine be sensitized? Why cannot any other substance which is apt to fix itself to the hand, which would make a finger print upon the object, be sensitized? All you need to do is to place a little of the substance upon the pane of glass-perspiration, we will say—and it is sensitized. Place the photo of that finger print in your camera. Cover it up with, the proper light and shoot it, and you have a perfect finger print and absolutely every detail is there as accurately as any photograph can be made.
There was a case submitted to me, coming through Arizona, where a man was convicted of burglary. The principal evidence was a finger print upon the cash register. The attorney took occasion to question the identification of the finger print, but he did not ask the finger print expert upon the witness stand to demonstrate to that court and jury that the finger print upon that cash register was actually made by the contact of the human
hand, and that is the first thing that a finger print expert must, in my opinion, determine before his testimony should be admitted before any court or jury, because there is an outline—we say it is a finger print, but it is first necessary to prove that that outline was actually created by the contact of the human hand. Then the second step is to show what that contact print resembles and that it has the form of the finger print of the defendant. This case was tried in Arizona, and is now before the Supreme Court of Arizona, and as a supplement to the briefs filed on appeal they mentioned the fact relative to my having forged finger prints.
I will gladly show you a finger print or two that I have with me, and I may say in connection with this that I have shown these finger prints to the leading experts of Los Angeles, of New Orleans, of Augusta, Maine, of Chicago and Cincinnati.
(Mr. Carlson at this time passed around several specimens of finger prints.)
All these finger prints that you are now viewing are absolutely forged. In other words, they are the prints of individuals sent to me from a University as a test.
In the Literary Digest of October 18, 1919, there was published a story of the infallibility of the finger print. Here is a reproduction of it in the Finger Print Magazine, of two finger prints, one being upon the shirt of the murdered man and the other upon a card taken in jail. Upon this poker chip is forged the identical finger print as found upon that page. I took that finger print which is upon that page, photographed it, as I told you, sensitized the nicotine and reproduced the finger print upon that poker chip.
The story was that a murder occurred and on the blade of the knife was found a human finger print. They found the individual whose finger print matched the print upon the knife, and the man was convicted. Upon these two knives that I have here is also the finger print that appears upon that yellow paper. The story which is published in the Literary Digest of October 18, 1919, is of a man that was hanged in New Jersey because upon the victim was found a shirt, and on the shirt was found his left thumb in human blood. That person's finger print appears upon these knives, which I can prove were not manufactured until one year after his demise.