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False impressions

Fingerprint identification isn't as definite as you might think

Back in 1991, John O'Connor sat in the federal courtroom in Kansas City, Kan., listening to what seemed damning fingerprint evidence against his client.

The expert witness had examined a latent print, that is, one left on the getaway motorcycle by the bank robber, and had identified 10 points of similarity between the latent and a fingerprint taken from O'Connor's client, Jeffrey Jenkins.

But O'Connor had something many defense attorneys never even reach for: a pocketful of seeds of doubt.

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