Fingerprints Expert Witness Allowed in Bank Fraud Criminal Case

Summary: Fingerprints Expert Witness testimony is allowed as the court ruled that the expert reliably applied the fingerprinting methods.

Facts:  This case (United States of America v. Lester Aceituno – United States District Court – District of New Hampshire – October 25, 2023) involves an indictment alleging a conspiracy to deposit and withdraw funds from checks and money orders that were fraudulently obtained.  The government claims that a fingerprint found on a post office box application which was written in the name of one of the victims in this case.  In order to prove their case, the government hired Fingerprints Expert Witness Patricia Cornell to provide expert witness testimony.  Cornell analyzed the latent fingerprint and identified it as a match to the defendant.  Mr. Aceituno filed a motion to exclude this expert’s testimony.

Discussion:  The defendant argues that the method Cornell used (The ACE-V method combined with the Postal Inspection Service’s SOPs) is not reliable.  In addition, the defendant alleges that Cornell did not apply this method reliably.

The defendant first states that Cornell’s method is not reliable because there is no method to reproduce her results using the SOPs she used.  However, the court opines that Cornell utilized peer review as well as blind verification and made an attempt to falsify her conclusions.

In addition to this argument, the defendant argued that the standards for documentation, specificity, and detail were lacking in the ACE-V method of fingerprinting.  The court disagreed, stating that Cornell’s version of the ACE-V methodology is reliable.

Also, the defendant argues that Cornell did not apply the ACE-V method reliably.  The court ruled that these arguments go to the weight of the testimony and the admissibility.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness opinion of Patricia Cornell is denied.