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Warren Commission Hearings: Vol. IV - Page 28« Previous | Next »

(Testimony of Sebastian F. Latona)

Mr. Latona.
exactly the same as it was before. If you get down to the dermal papilla, which lay like this----
Mr. Eisenberg.
You are drawing an illustration on the board which shows short, broad, downward strokes.
Mr. Latona.
If you destroy or injure these to the extent that there is actual bleeding, you will get a permanent scar.
Fingerprints can be destroyed or scarred in such a fashion that we would not be able to successfully classify them.
Mr. Dulles.
Do criminals do that?
Mr. Latona.
Yes; they do. We have had one case, probably the most successful was known as the so-called Roscoe Pitts case. This was a fugitive who in order to avoid identification went to an unscrupulous doctor who performed an operation and he did so by virtue of first cutting five slits on one side of his chest. Then he removed the pattern areas, what we call the pattern areas, which would consist of removal of the whole core area down to the delta area, sliced that off.
Representative Boggs.
How much would that be?
Mr. Latona.
He would literally have to draw blood. He would have to get down and just slice that off completely. He did that with five fingers. Then he taped the five fingers to the side of his chest and he kept them there for about 2 weeks. The same procedure was gone through with the other hand, and at the end of that time they were taken down and bound up individually. When they finally healed, all he has now is scar tissue for his pattern areas; but all we did in order to identify him was to drop down to the second joint. We made the identification from the second joint. Now, at that particular time----
Representative Boggs.
After all that business.
Mr. Latona.
It didn't do him any good. Literally, the easiest person in our files to identify is Roscoe Pitts. He is the only one that has scar patterns like that. As soon as they see anything like that, everybody that knows anything about our files knows-- Roscoe Pitts.
Representative Boggs.
Develop, if you will, please, that point that no two human beings ever have similar prints. Why is that, in your opinion?
Mr. Latona.
Well, earlier we went through a case which we have in the FBI, in which we literally have compared millions, millions of single prints with a fragmentary latent print which we developed on a demand note in a kidnapping case, one of our major kidnapping cases which occurred back in 1937, and we have compared this fragmentary print.
Now, ordinarily in fingerprints there are four basic pattern types. You have an arch, tented arch, a loop, and a whorl.
Now in making a comparison, naturally if you can tell the type of pattern you are going to restrict your comparison to the particular type.
In this instance we cannot tell what type of pattern this fragment that we developed is. We know that it is from a finger. And in attempting to identify the subject of this kidnapping case, we have compared it literally with millions of cards.
Now, existing in this fragmentary print there are only about seven to eight points that can be found, it is so fragmentary. We cannot determine the pattern. Accordingly then, when you compare it, you have to compare it with a person's 10 fingers regardless as to the pattern types. Bearing in mind that the average fingerprint has from 85 to 125 points--identifying characteristics--we have literally made millions of comparisons with only a portion of a finger, and we have failed to identify these 8 points in all types of patterns.
Isn't it sufficient to say then that people simply will not have the same fingerprints? Yet you have authorities, so-called authorities, who say that it is possible to find all 10 prints duplicated in 1 chance out of 1 followed by 60 zeros, if you can figure out what that figure is.
Representative Boggs.
Who are these authorities?
Mr. Latona.
They are really in my opinion mathematicians who on the basis of the so-called characteristic points have said 5 points times 125 times 125 times 125 to about the 10th power and wind up something like 1 followed by 60 zeros. They are mathematicians but they are not fingerprint people.
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