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Forensic Sci Int. 2011 Mar 20;206(1-3):12-8. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2010.08.004. Epub 2010 Sep 15.

Uniqueness in the forensic identification sciences--fact or fiction?

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  • 1University of Newcastle, School of Health Sciences, Ourimbah, NSW, Australia.


Fingerprint analysts, firearms and toolmark examiners, and forensic odontologists often rely on the uniqueness proposition in order to support their theory of identification. However, much of the literature claiming to have proven uniqueness in the forensic identification sciences is methodologically weak, and suffers flaws that negate any such conclusion being drawn. The finding of uniqueness in any study appears to be an overstatement of the significance of its results, and in several instances, this claim is made despite contrary data being presented. The mathematical and philosophical viewpoint regarding this topic is that obtaining definitive proof of uniqueness is considered impossible by modern scientific methods. More importantly, there appears to be no logical reason to pursue such research, as commentators have established that uniqueness is not the essential requirement for forming forensic conclusions. The courts have also accepted this in several recent cases in the United States, and have dismissed the concept of uniqueness as irrelevant to the more fundamental question of the reliability of the forensic analysis.

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