Forensic Science and Legal Support Services

expertise in application of scientific foundation in the forensic science profession

Emerging Changes in the Forensic Science Profession

The courts and forensic science community are responding to broad changes in the forensic science profession.  Acceptance of evidence and standards based on historical practice is being replaced by requirements for scientific practices and a clearer distinction between observations (data) and interpretations (opinions). These changes are particularly significant for fingerprints and some forms of physical evidence where established practices have failed to meet minimally acceptable scientific standards, where the effects of bias have been clearly demonstrated, and where prominent errors or wrongful verdicts have been seen in a troubling number of cases.

The implications are far reaching with significant practical impact on cases and standards for acceptable practices.  This offers significant opportunities for attorneys, laboratories, and practitioners who embrace and adapt to these changes sooner, and significant risks for those who do not.


David Stoney has contributed significantly to the academic and professional developments that have lead these changes -  pioneering applications of statistics, serving as advisor to government agencies and academic institutions, and providing peer reviews for programs, research publications and legal cases. This work has included invited testimony before the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Identifying the Needs of the Forensic Science Community, review of the resulting 2009 report, “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward,” participation on the NIJ/NIST Expert Working Group on Human Factors in Latent Print Analysis, elected membership to the Scientific Working Group on Friction Ridge Analysis, Study, and Technology (SWGFAST), and appointment to the Physics/Pattern Interpretation Scientific Area Committee within NIST’s Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC). A few of Dr. Stoney’s more important publications and presentations in these areas are given below.

Publications and Presentations

Loss of the Fingerprint Exemption. Cook County Public Defender Conference on Forensic Bias and Error: Causes and Corrections, Chicago, IL, May 29, 2015.
Emergence of Scientific Latent Print Practices: Implications for Examinations, Findings, Evidence and Decision Making. Proceedings of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Vol. 20, pp. 253-254, February, 2014.
Fingerprint Identification - Scientific Status (with Champod, C). In: Modern Scientific Evidence: The Law and Science of Expert Testimony, 2012-2013 ed., Chapter 33, J.Sanders, D. Faigman, E. Cheng, J. Mnookin, E.Murphy, Eds., Thomson West, St. Paul, Minnesota, 2013 (and prior editions since 1997).
Latent Print Examination and Human Factors: Improving the Practice through a Systems Approach (as a member, Expert Working Group on Human Factors in Latent Print Analysis). U.S. Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology. 2012.
The Need for a Research Culture in Forensic Science (with Mnookin, JL, Cole, SA, Dror, IE., Fisher, BAJ, Houck, M, Inman, K, Kaye, DH, Koehler, JK, Langenburg, G, Risinger, DM, Rudin, N, and Siegel, J). UCLA Law Review, Vol. 58, No. 3, February, 2011.
Putting Individualization and Errors in Context: What forensic science has been doing while you ignored it, why you should be thankful, and how you can help, now that you’re interested. Forensic Science: A Blueprint for the Future, Program on Understanding Law, Science & Evidence, UCLA Law School, February 18, 2010.
Measurement of Fingerprint Individuality, In: Advances in Fingerprint Technology, 2nd ed., H.C. Lee and R.E. Gaensslen, Eds., CRC Press LLC, Boca Raton, Florida, 2001, pp. 327-388.
The Use of Statistics in Forensic Science (editor, with Aitken, CGG). Prentice Hall, New York, 1991.

Stoney Forensic Services
We offer assistance to individuals and organizations in understanding these changes, taking advantage of the opportunities and avoiding the risks.

Consultation and Case Support for Attorneys
We provide case-specific consultation and assistance to attorneys to review and interpret scientific basis and significance, and to identify flaws and weaknesses in investigation, evidence, or presentation.  We apply a much broader perspective and approach to these issues than most experts.  Given the recent and ongoing changes in standards and practice of forensic science this approach has a material impact on a many cases involving Latent Prints or Physical Evidence.

For defense attorneys, this assistance can mean be instrumental in challenging evidence that has been processed or presented in ways that no longer meet current standards.  For state’s attorneys it can enable them to modify the processing or presentation before they are challenged in court.

Continuing Education
We provide training and education seminars for attorneys and practitioners in latent prints and physical evidence, with emphasis on the practical implications of recent and emerging changes in the forensic sciences from the different perspectives of defense attorneys, prosecutors, investigators and laboratory managers.

Review of Processes, Approach and Programmatic Implementation of Forensic Science Capabilities
We can assist laboratories and practitioners in adapting to the recent and emerging changes in forensic science. Most external reviewers and forensic subject matter experts come from a background dominated by traditional practices and existing methods.  That is valid and valuable.  However it often misses the potential and perspective of ideas and developments outside of that box.  We provide a view from a different and broader perspective arising from a much broader scientific, academic, and historical background than is generally available.