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Articles from The Science Of Fingerprints

Fingerprinting Equipment

Classification Of Bandaged Or Imprinted Fingers


Record Of Additional Arrest


Fingerprint Files

Ridge Counting

Chemical Development Of Latent Impressions

Illegible Inked Prints

Filing Sequence

Technical Consideration

The methods described are intended to record, either by printing with
ink or by photographing as legibly as possible, the ridge details of
the tips of the fingers of unknown dead for identification purposes.
The securing of the impressions enables the fingerprint examiner to
classify and search them through a file. This search, of course,
means merely to make a comparison of the deceased's prints with the
prints of known individuals.

It is well to bear in mind the fact that the dermis or epidermis may
have undergone certain physical changes and that in order for the
fingerprint examiner to make a proper comparison he must know the
changes which can and do occur. Otherwise, he may fail to make an
identification (fig. 403).

[Illustration: 403. Epidermis or outer layer of skin commencing to
peel from dermis or second layer of skin, result of decomposition.]

Consider first the epidermis or outer layer of skin in cases of
maceration (the skin is water soaked). There may be considerable
swelling. The ridges become broader and are more distinct. An inked
impression in such an instance may show a pattern larger in area than
a print made from the same finger when the person was alive. Also, if
the skin is on the finger but is loose, inking and rolling could
distort the impression so that some of the ridge formations would seem
to be in a different alignment from corresponding details in a print
made during life. When decomposition commences, what are really solid
ridges may be broken, giving rise to the possibility that there appear
to be more characteristics than there actually are (figs. 404 and

[Illustration: 404. Inked fingerprint made during life.]

[Illustration: 405. Inked impression of same finger of deceased
showing effect of decomposition.]

The existence of wrinkles may also cause the impression to acquire an
appearance of dissimilarity when compared with the original inked

With respect to cases of desiccation, there will probably be
shrinkage, hence, the impressions made may appear smaller than in life
and the ridges will be finer. In cases in which the epidermis has been
lost and there remains only the dermis or second layer, there will
usually be shrinkage with the same results. Here also, wrinkles, if
present, may cause a difference in appearance from the normal print.

In addition to shrinkage and wrinkles in cases involving the second
layer of skin, there is a radical change in the appearance of the
ridges themselves. The second or dermal layer of skin is composed of
what are called dermal papillae which have the appearance of minute
blunt pegs or nipples. The dermal papillae are arranged in double rows
(fig. 406). Each double row lies deep in a ridge of the surface or
epidermal layer and presents the same variations of ridge
characteristics as are on the outer layer of skin except that they are
double. Accordingly, when the second layer of skin is printed or
photographed, the ridge detail will appear in double. That is, the
ridges will appear as though they were split. This may well confuse
the fingerprint examiner in that what may be a loop having 10 ridge
counts may appear to be a loop having 20 ridge counts when the
impression is made from the second or dermal layer of skin. These
double rows of ridges are finer and not as sharp as the detail on the
outer skin, which adds to the difficulty of arriving at a correct
classification and making a proper comparison.

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