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Warren Commission Hearings: Vol. IV - Page 2« Previous | Next »

(Testimony of Sebastian F. Latona)

Mr. Latona.
I have testified in Federal courts, State courts, commissioners' hearings, military courts, and at deportation proceedings.
Mr. Eisenberg.
Mr. Chief Justice, I ask that this witness be accepted as an expert.
The Chairman.
The witness is qualified.
Mr. Eisenberg.
Mr. Latona, could you briefly outline for us the theory of fingerprint identification?
Mr. Latona.
The principle of fingerprint identification is based on the fact primarily that the ridge formations that appear on the hands and on the soles of the feet actually are created approximately 2 to 3 months before birth, on the unborn child, and they remain constant in the same position in which they are formed until the person is dead and the body is consumed by decomposition.
Secondly, the fact that no two people, or no two fingers of the same person, have the same arrangement of these ridge formations, either on the fingers, the palms, or the soles and toes of the feet. Plus the fact that during the lifetime of a person this ridge formation does not change, it remains constant--from the time it is formed until actual destruction, either caused by voluntary or involuntary means, or upon the death of the body and decomposition.
Mr. Eisenberg.
Mr. Latona, do you have any personal experience indicating the uniqueness of fingerprints?
Mr. Latona.
Yes; I do. My experience is based primarily upon the work which I have actually done in connection with my work with the FBI. I have had the experience of working on one case in particular in which millions of comparisons were actually and literally made with a small portion of a fingerprint which was left on a piece of evidence in connection with this particular case, which was a kidnapping case.
This fragmentary latent print which we developed consisted of approximately seven to eight points. Most fingerprints will have in them an average roughly of from 85 to about 125.
This fragmentary latent print was compared with literally millions of single impressions for the purpose of trying to effect an identification. And we were unable, over a lengthy period while we were making these millions of comparisons, not able to identify these few fragmentary points.
The important thing is simply this; that on the basis of that fragmentary print, it was not possible to determine even the type of pattern that the impression was. Accordingly, we had to compare it with all types of fingerprint patterns, of which there are really four basic types--the arch, tented arch, loop, and whorl. And we are still making comparisons in that case, and we have not been able to identify these few points.
Now, that means simply this--that the theory that we are going on an assumption that people do not have the same fingerprints--and we find it not necessary to compare, say for example, a loop pattern with a whorl pattern, and as there is a possibility that, it is contended by some of these so-called authorities, that maybe the points that you find in a loop may be found in the same arrangement in a whorl--is not true. I think that that case, a practical case we have actually worked on, disproves that theory so strongly in my mind that I am convinced that no two people can possibly have the same fingerprints.
Mr. Eisenberg.
That is, you had a print with seven points, and these same seven points appeared in none of the millions----
Mr. Latona.
Of the millions that we actually compared over a period---well, since 1937. You may recall the case. It was the Matson kidnaping case out in Tacoma, Wash. That is one of only three major kidnaping cases the FBI has not yet solved.
Mr. Eisenberg.
Are palmprints as unique as fingerprints?
Mr. Latona.
Yes; palmprints are. They are not as useful for purposes of setting up a me in order to conduct searches, for the simple reason that there are not as many variations of patterns occurring with any frequency in the palms as occur on the tips of the fingers. That is primarily why the fingertips are used--because you have 10 digits, and there is a possibility of finding
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