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Bias Amoung Forensic Document Examiners - A Need for Procedural Changes

NCJ Number
Journal of Police Science and Administration Volume: 12 Issue: 4 Dated: (December 1984) Pages: 407-411
L S Miller
Date Published
5 pages
Twelve college students trained in the forensic examination of questioned documents were used in an experiment designed to test the hypothesis that forensic document examiners are influenced by their social interaction with the police officer or attorney requesting their services and the context in which they were requested to do an analysis.
The 'cases' were constructed from cleared investigations in which the outcomes were known. The first group of six examiners was given standard articles of evidence normally provided by a police agency: a synopsis of facts about the investigation, the suspect's name and handwriting samples on a request exemplar form, and three checks allegedly written by the suspect. Both groups received the same amount of fictitious evidence to examine, except that group two received two additional 'suspects' on request forms for comparison. Group one received only one suspect request form and was advised that was from the police suspect; further, group one was advised the police had two witnesses who would testify they saw the suspect write out and pass the check. Group two was requested to examine all three 'suspects' to determine if any of the three wrote any of the questioned checks. The conclusions and opinions reported by the examiners support the bias hypothesis. Procedures that can limit the amount of bias in a document examiner's conclusions are outlined. Twenty-seven references are listed.


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