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Assessing Physical Fit Examinations of Stabbed and Torn Textiles Through a Large Dataset of Casework-like Items and Interlaboratory Studies

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: Online Dated: 2023
Zachary Andrews; Meghan Prusinowski; Evie Nguyen; Cedric Neumann; Tatiana Trejos
Date Published

This document reports on the development and evaluation of a systematic and transparent approach for examining, documenting, and interpreting textile physical fits through qualitative feature descriptors and a quantitative metric; it describes the approach development process and evaluation.


Several organizations have outlined the need for standardized methods for conducting physical fit comparisons. This study answers this call by developing and evaluating a systematic and transparent approach for examining, documenting, and interpreting textile physical fits, using qualitative feature descriptors and a quantitative metric (Edge Similarity Score, ESS) for the physical fit examination of textile materials. Here, the results from 1,027 textile physical fit comparisons are reported. This includes the evaluation of inter and intra-analyst variation when using this method for hand-torn and stabbed fabrics. ESS higher than 80 percent and ESS lower than 20 percent, respectively, support fit and nonfit conclusions. The results show that analyst accuracy ranges from 88 percent to 100 percent when using this criterion. The estimated false-positive rate for this dataset (two percent false positives, 10 of 477 true nonfit pairs) demonstrates the importance of assessing the quality of a physical fit during an examination and reveals that potential errors are low, but possible in textile physical fit examinations. The risk of error must be accounted for in the interpretation and verification processes. Further analysis shows that factors such as the separation method, construction, and design of the samples do not substantially influence the ESS values. Additionally, the proposed method is independently evaluated by 15 practitioners in an interlaboratory exercise that demonstrates satisfactory reproducibility between participants. The standardized terminology and documentation criteria are the first steps toward validating approaches to streamline the peer review process, minimize bias and subjectivity, and convey the probative value of the evidence. (Published Abstract Provided)