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Report on the Erroneous Fingerprint Individualization in the Madrid Train Bombing Case

NCJ Number
Robert B. Stacey
Date Published
January 2005
11 pages
This report describes the investigative and corrective actions taken by the FBI Laboratory after recognizing its error in matching a latent fingerprint associated with the train bombing in Madrid, Spain, on March 11, 2004.
The error occurred when personnel from the FBI Latent Print Unit performed a fingerprint analysis and reported the match of a latent print with a candidate print from a search of the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification (IAFIS) database. The match was subsequently determined to be wrong, and the latent print was ultimately matched with a different subject. In initiating corrective action, the FBI Latent Print Unit suspended all casework assignments of the three FBI examiners involved in the initial analysis; reviewed their casework for at least the last 2 years; appointed different Laboratory examiners to review the case and prepare a revised report; created an external review committee; and implemented remedial measures as deemed appropriate. As part of the process of corrective action, an international committee of distinguished latent print examiners and forensic experts was formed. Committee members prepared individual reports and submitted them to FBI Quality Assurance and Training Unit personnel. The current report outlines committee assessment objectives and summarizes the findings under each completed objective. The consensus of the committee was that the error resulted from the examiners' failure to apply correctly the prescribed ACE-V method for fingerprint comparisons. ACE-V refers to the methodology of analysis, comparison, and evaluation-verification. Although the ACE-V methodology was determined to be appropriate, the examiners' application of the methodology was flawed. This report summarizes committee recommendations for policies, procedures, and guidelines that can prevent the recurrence of such an erroneous analysis. 1 reference