now browsing by month
Speckin Forensics provides clients a professional analysis based on years of experience in investigation and examination of fire scenes
Fire investigation is a forensic discipline that requires attention to detail and a systematic approach to make a scientifically sound determination of the cause, origin, and behavior of a blaze. We provide our clients a professional analysis based on years of experience in investigation and examination of fire scenes.
Components of Fire Investigation
- Burn pattern analysis
- Depth of Char measurement
- Calcination measurement
- Heat and Flame Vector Analysis
- Computer modeling
- Diagram analysis
- Witness Interviewing
- Preservation of evidence
- Investigation of origin and cause of fire
- Expert Witness testimony
- Arson Defense
- Addressing “Negative Corpus” determination
- Critical Review & Analysis of investigation methodology of previously conducted investigation
- Analyzing Compliance with accepted professional standards for fire investigations
- Daubert analysis for expert witness challenge
Read more about our Arson / Fire Investigation services at http://4n6.com/arson-fire-investigation/.
September 23, 2013
The Wayne County Board of Canvassers will continue going through challenged ballots today with hopes to wrap up a recount of the City of Detroit’s election before the week is out.
At Monday’s board meeting, the findings of a handwriting expert hired by the board to examine ballots from the election was shared with the public. The expert, who was hired to check for similarity in handwriting, reportedly found “significant differences” in the writings examined, according to the board’s chairwoman.
At least one challenger has said that some absentee ballots appear to have been been filled in by the same person.
The expert, Robert D. Coleman with East Lansing consulting firm Speckin Forensic Laboratories, also said in his report to the board, dated Sunday, that he examined the writing for naturalness, formation of the words, pen lifts from the ballots and how hard the pen was pressed to paper when writing the response, among other things, said Chairwoman Carol Larkin.
“My microscopic examinations of handwriting features of each entry on each of the 19 ballots and my side-by-side comparisons of like letters and letter conbinations between the 19 ballots revealed … there are a number of significant differences between the 19 ballots,” Larkin read from Coleman to the board.
Challengers to the handwriting, including former mayoral candidate Tom Barrow, argued that part of the problem with the handwriting samples was that ballots from different precincts were not able to be compared to each other.
“You’re dismissing the things we’re pointing to,” Barrow said. “There’s a number of people who were writing these things across the city.”
The examination of challenged ballots is expected to finish at today’s meeting. Larkin said she hopes the board will be able to certify the election at its Thursday meeting.
The Wayne County Board of Canvassers began a hand count of a sampling of Detroit votes at Cobo Center last week, initiated to investigate an allegation of fraud in the Detroit election. The hand count was stopped after the board determined ballots were not in numerical order.
The board opened several boxes of ballots last week — three containing general ballots and two containing absentee ballots — as part of its investigation into an allegation of fraud claimed by Barrow. Barrow and several other candidates filed petitions with the Wayne County Board of Canvassers alleging, among other things, that the number of applications for absentee ballots was lower than the number of absentee votes cast, and that similar handwriting appears on several ballots cast for former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan, who will face Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon in November’s general election.
Barrow and others contend the handwriting samples given to an expert were never compared to other ballots from different precincts, and challengers were only shown 10 ballots at a time during the recount, meaning few similarities could be found.
They never got around to resuming that count Monday. Instead they laid out dozens of ballots on several tables to compare handwriting again — this time using a larger sampling than the 10 ballots shown during the vote recount that wrapped up Saturday after 12 days.
D. Etta Wilcoxon, a candidate for city clerk, told the board that she objected to the fact that City Clerk Janice Winfrey never gave canvassers ballot manifests showing how many ballots were ordered and how many existed, giving way to chaos in the process.
“We don’t know how many ballots the clerk ordered,” Wilcoxon told the board. “The facts are not being carefully considered by this board.”
Speckin Forensic Laboratories has been involved in cases all around the world, from North America, South America, Australia, Europe, Asia, Japan, Hong Kong and all 50 of the U.S. states*. Our examiners have presented testimony in over 30 states in the United States, as well as, Jamaica, Israel, Mexico, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Japan and Canada in Federal Court, Circuit Court, District Court, Supreme Court, NASD Arbitrations, Employment Arbitrations, Depositions, Municipal Court, Board of Canvasers, Federal Grand Juries, Detroit Recorder’s Court, and Union Arbitrations on over 1000 occasions.
Speckin Forensic Laboratory employ’s three document examiners, one fingerprint examiner, an ink dating chemist, two DNA consultants, one toxicologist, one arson and fire investigator, three crime scene experts, a trace evidence and impression evidence examiner, two computer forensic and cell phone examiners as well as two secretaries.
Contact Speckin Forensic Laboratory today for more information at www.4n6.com.
Speckin Forensic laboratory experts weigh in on evidence of “Kennedy Letters”
- Lawyer’s Son Guilty In Jfk Forgery
- Guilty Verdict In Fraud Case Involving Jfk Forgeries
- Forged Monroe-JFK letters sought
Consider the following situations involving forensic experts:
Pages were removed from medical chart and pages were added with exculpatory language to provide a better defense and to shift the blame. The information from the original page, which is missing, was forensically recovered – even though the page was not.
An employer’s minute book regarding contributions to the employee benefit plan had about 200 pages and at least 69 pages that were rewritten as late as four years after the fact. Two pages were written to replace pages that were already rewritten. The case, which had been in litigation for four years, settled three days after the forensic expert’s deposition.
* A corporate minute book was alleged to have had the minutes from 1992 rewritten. The inks were chemically dry, the paper was correctly date coded, and the impressions were all aligned correctly and in the proper order – evidence of genuineness.
* Three photocopies of letter were supposedly mailed to a bank regarding a loan extension. The bank contended it never received any of the letters. The originals were mailed and the copies were supposedly made at the time the letters were sent. Through a legal search of defendant’s office, the age of the photocopies could be established. They were made on the copier in the office, but not at the times suggested. Rather, they were made after the lawsuit began and at approximately the same time, and not over a period of months, as suggested by the dates on the letters.
These are scenarios in which forensic chemists/experts have helped litigate cases. Sometimes when a printed form is used, the information can be obtained without the use of an expert at all, as in the case of a title to property. For example, in one case, the title company at the top of the form was not in existence when the signature was supposedly executed.
In addition, forensic chemists can perform other examinations that do not fall into any specific categories, but are useful in litigating cases. Consider the following examples.
I was approached by an attorney in a product liability case in which the plaintiff alleged that a product was manufactured, packaged and sold without the proper warning labels. The first test was performed on a known adhesive to determine at which wavelengths it would luminesce. When the questioned product was examined, no luminescence was present at these wavelengths. However, when the questioned area was examined under the beam of a nickel-cadmium laser, the mastic that was originally there was clearly present and the evidence of an attempt to chemically wash the product of the mastic’s existence was apparent.
A defense attorney once came to me with an EKG strip that was six or seven years old. The attorney said he couldn’t read it, but that it was crucial to the defense of the case and, without it, he would probably lose. The first step was to find an infrared wavelength that made the thermal markings on the paper easily visible. Once that was accomplished, the next hurdle was to find a manner in which the results of the examination could be “packaged” so that the defense’s medical expert could review and evaluated the strips. This was accomplished by recording onto video cassette from the camera head of the imaging device. The videotape could then be sent to the attorney’s expert for review.
An attorney received a copy of a microfilmed fetal monitor strip that had writing on the reverse side. It was assumed that the information could not be recovered because the original strips had been destroyed. But I traveled to the hospital to examine the strips anyway. I found there was an offset that occurred on the thermal paper from the friction of writing while the paper was folded. This was enhanced by over-exposing a photograph of the microfilm reading machine. The negative was reversed in the printing process for an easily legible rendition of the disappearing text.
An attorney received a document that contained certain portions obliterated with a marker. The underlying writing was believed to be critical to the case but was not readable. A solvent key for the marker was discovered without harming the underlying photocopy toner. The marker was chemically removed and the photo copied text which had been obliterated could now be easily read. This tuned out to be dispositive to the case.
A simple photocopy machine can transport a person’s signature to another document – but only a photocopy will exist and no original. Several examinations can be done to determine the authenticity of the signature. But if no original can be produced, it should always raise a red flag in the mind of any attorney.
In one case where the original was “lost” and all that was available was a facsimile copy, the defendant was instructed to make an acetate overlay of the signature of the fax and use this as a model to look through all the correspondence sent to the plaintiff. After searching about 1,000 documents, I received a call that defendant found what was thought to be the model and was sending it to me for verification. It was indeed the model – and it was shown to be a manufactured document. After this information was released, the plaintiff’s attorney withdrew from the case and it disappeared.
In yet another case, the entire signature block was transferred to the new document because the signature intersected the typewritten name and one could not be transferred without the other. The model was never found, but the signature block was made with a different typewriter than the text of the document and was not it correct spatial alignment. Specialized glass grids proved it was not parallel.
Through modern instrumentation and technology, the author of anonymous or harassing letters can also be determined. Several different methods and techniques are used and the rate of success is high. In one case, a social security number, address, name and bank account number were determined from the harassing note. In another case, the manufacturer of the paper led me to a person’s office over 1,000 miles away. The person was later identified as a suspect and a fingerprint examination was conducted to determine authorship.
By: Erich J. Speckin
Lawyers should be interested in the forensic examination of disputed records for three reasons:
1. Case Value.
2. Perjury avoidance.
3. Due diligence in court.
Many attorneys are aware that forensic document examiners can determine the authenticity of a signature and perform various examinations on typewriters and printed documents. However, many attorneys do not know that additions, alterations or rewriting can also be detected – by a forensic chemist. A forensic chemist is able to do more than a forensic document examiner. A forensic chemist can:
* detect an alteration made with a different pen;
* determine the age of a document;
* determine the age of a particular ink;
* determine when an ink was first commercially available; and
* determine, at times, if additions, alterations or rewriting of records have occurred, and then if so, when it happened, who did it, where it was done, when it was done, what was replaced and who knew’ about it.
The dating of inks is done in three primary forms.
First is the chemical date tag. Approximately one-third of all inks manufactured in North America contain a cumerin compound that is unique for its year of manufacture. This was done from the late 1960s until 1994. Also, the first date of production can be established by determining the type and manufacture of the ink. This is primary for older questioned documents, such as the ‘Hitler Diaries”.
The second form of ink dating is the evaporation of volatile solvents and decay of bands on a chromatogram, This is the technique used to date inks to within six months until they are approximately three to four years old.
The third analysis is comparing a known dated standard of ink kept in the chemist’s library. If a consistency between a known dated standard and the questioned ink can be established in either the rare of extraction or in the ratio between the due components, the date of authorship can be accurately determined.
Qualifications for ‘record tampering’
An addition to a record must have at least one of the following criteria to be deemed significant in a case regarding the record tampering issue:
* the intentional concealment of a change that is not clearly noted but takes instrumentation to detect;
* an addition or change to a critical entry;
* an entry that was not made contemporaneously with the other entries with no notation of late charting;
* a pattern of alterations to the critical entries;
* testimony is different than the forensic evidence present;
* the whiting-out, scribbling-out or obliteration of an entry or pan of an entry; or
* the addition or removal of pages to or from a record.
Additions that are made with a color matched ink can usually be detected by the use of an infrared image converter or possibly an argon or krypton laser. The difference in the ink in this range of lights is caused by the different excitation levels in the inks. If the inks are different, one ink will luminesce while the other will be infrared opaque or filter. This can be captured photographically and makes an excellent court exhibit.
This is especially important when the questioned entry is the lynch-pin entry in a case.
Has a record been tampered with?
Some signs to look for that may indicate “record tampering” are:
* crowded entries;
* entries compressed around other entries;
* entries made in the margins or along the bottom of a page;
* slant, pressure and uniformity of handwriting;
* relative length of questioned entries to other entries in the chart;
* unnatural spacing between entries;
* entries that shift the blame onto a patient of client, such as “Pt. refused” or “non-compliant”;
* differences between what the client says and what the records indicate; and
* strange notations such as “complained of NO chest pains”.
Several cases have been forensically proven, including:
* Medical records kept on a form that was not in existence until three years after the first date on the records.
* Expansion to the records that occurred two years after the patient was dead.
* Inks used to write a file were not in existence when the writing allegedly took place.
* Contracts that were typed on paper and with a type wheel were not in existence on the date of the alleged production.
* A laser printed document that was allegedly made in 1982. This is 18 months before the laser printer was commercially available.
Forensic technology can also authenticate records. For example, a doctor kept his records over a period of five years with pens containing chemical date codes that matched the years in which the records were kept. This evidence could not be fabricated. The result was that the records were authenticated and a dismissal was entered.
Another example is where a plaintiff argued the critical entry was added to the records. The ink used in the questioned entry was identical and written at approximately the same time. Again, the subject of alteration was abandoned by the plaintiff.
Fingerprints can have several different applications in litigation. The first is showing a person was in a particular place, such as a crime scene. Other evidential values which are often overlooked are fingerprints on anonymous notes or other documents where someone denies a connection to or authorship of a particular document. We have the ability to develop fingerprints which have been on paper for up to several years.
The theory for the use of fingerprints and palmprints as a positive means of identification is based on two principles:
* 1) They are “permanent” in that they are formed in the fetal stage, prior to birth, and remain the same throughout lifetime, barring disfiguration by scarring, until sometime after death when decomposition sets in.
* 2) They are “unique” in that no two fingerprints, or friction ridge area, made by different fingers or areas, are the same (or are identical in their ridge characteristic arrangement).
Read more at http://4n6.com/fingerprints-and-palm-prints/
PCR is an acronym for polymerase chain reaction. PCR increases the amount of DNA available from a sample for typing and analysis.
Within the DNA string, some areas are the same for all human beings (conserved, or constant). Other areas tend to vary from person to person (variable, or polymorphic). The variable regions are usually scattered among the conserved regions and are used in DNA testing profiles.
Most organisms naturally copy their DNA in the same way. The PCR mimics this process, except replication takes place in a test tube. When any cell divides, enzymes called polymerases make a copy of all of the DNA in each chromosome. DNA polymerase is also used in PCR to make copies of specific target strands.
DNA is made from four nucleotide bases, represented by the letters A (adenine), C (cytosine), G (guanine), and T (thymine). The A on one strand of DNA always pairs with the T on the opposite strand, and C always pairs with G. The two strands are said to be complementary to each other.
To copy DNA, the polymerase requires two additional components: a supply of the four nucleotide bases and something called a primer. DNA polymerases cannot copy a chain of DNA without a short sequence of nucleotides to “prime” the process, or get it started. So the cell has another enzyme called a primase that actually makes the first few nucleotides of the copy. This portion of DNA is called a primer. Once the primer is made, the polymerase can take over making the rest of the new chain.
There are three major steps in PCR. The first step in this process is to denature (unzip, unwind) the target genetic material in the two DNA chains of the double helix. This is done by heating the material to 90-96oC. As the two strands separate, DNA polymerase makes a copy using each strand as a template.
The primers cannot bind to the DNA strands at such a high temperature, so the vial is cooled to 55oC for the second step in the process. At this temperature, the primers bind or “anneal” to the ends of the DNA strands.
The final step of the reaction is to make a complete copy of the originals. The specific polymerase that is used for this process works best at around 75oC, so the temperature of the vial is raised one more time.
The three steps in the polymerase chain reaction – separation of the strands, annealing the primer to the template, and synthesis of new strands – take less than two minutes. At the end of a cycle, each piece of DNA has been replicated.
The process can be repeated to get more of the targeted DNA; the process can be repeated using the DNA that was replicated in the first procedure. The total amount will double every time.
Speckin Forensic Laboratories is an International forensic firm specializing in consulting with “plaintiff” and “defense” lawyers involving issues concerning: Forgery, Sequencing of Entries, Alterations, Additions, Rewritings, Ink Dating, Document and Paper, Typewriting, Facsimiles, Photocopies, Fingerprints, Narcotic and Street Drug Analysis, Analytical and Forensic Chemistry, Biological Fluid and DNA, Firearms and Toolmark Examination, Shoe and Tire Prints, Handwriting, Crime Scene Reconstruction Criminal Forensic Matters, Computer Forensics, Digital Forensics and Cell phone Forensics.
Speckin Forensic Laboratories has been involved in cases all around the world, from North America, South America, Australia, Europe, Asia, Japan, Hong Kong and all 50 of the U.S. states. Our examiners have presented testimony in over 30 states in the United States, as well as, Israel, Mexico, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Japan and Canada in Federal Court, Circuit Court, District Court, employment arbitrations, depositions, Municipal Court, Federal Grand Juries, Detroit Recorder’s Court, and Union arbitrations on over 1000 occasions.
We employ three document examiners, one fingerprint examiner, a forensic ink dating chemist, a biological evidence examiner and DNA consultant, a trace evidence and impression evidence examiner , two digital computer forensic examiners as well as two highly skilled forensic secretaries. Our examiners are forensic specialists not only in the area of signatures and handwriting problems, but also in alterations, additions, and the rewritings of medical and business records. We occupy 6,000 square feet of professional office space where our state-of-the-art instruments are located.
Can an examination be conducted of a signature or handwriting from only a photocopy?
Yes, but if it is possible to obtain the original it allows a more thorough examination of the document and the circumstances of its production. The possibility of a tracing of a machine copy transfer forgery cannot be ruled out.
Is it possible to date pencil or typewritten documents?
Yes, in some cases.
Is it possible to determine when a questioned document was produced?
Yes, through several different methods that can be conducted in our laboratory.
Some Methods Dating for Handwritten documents
1) Dating of the ink
2) Dating of the paper
3) Impressions found and sequencing of writing with impressions
Some Methods for Dating Photocopied documents
1) By comparing the unique photocopy damage pattern that changes over time, to a series of documents of unquestioned date from the same office.
2) Comparison of the toner used as in the same manner above, noting the time frames that toners matching the questioned document were used.
Some Methods for Dating Computer Generated documents
1) Examination of the computer and hard drives that created the document.
2) Toner analysis as described above for copiers.
3) Damage patterns that may exist from the printer, commonly seen in inkjet printers.
4) The type of paper used and any associated watermarks.
What is necessary to make a signature examination?
The original questioned document or the best generation copy available; also undisputed known signatures of the alleged signatory as contemporaneous with the date on the questioned document as possible.
Can a signature examination be conducted from only a microfilm or facsimile copy?
Yes, again the original is best if available.