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Significance of Angle in the Statistical Comparison of Forensic Tool Marks

Summary: [This abstract is based on the authors' abstract.] In forensics, fingerprints can be used to uniquely identify suspects in a crime. Similarly, a tool mark left at a crime scene can be used to identify the tool that was used. However, the current practice of identifying matching tool marks involves visual inspection of marks by forensic experts, which can be a very subjective process. As a result, declared matches are often successfully challenged in court. Hence, law enforcement agencies are particularly interested in encouraging research in more objective approaches. This article present an analysis approach based on comparisons of profilometry data, essentially depth contours of a tool mark surface taken along a linear path. Chumbley et al. pointed out that the angle of incidence between the tool and the marked surface can have a substantial impact on the tool mark and on the effectiveness of both manual and algorithmic matching procedures. To better address this problem, the authors describe how the analysis can be enhanced to model the effect of tool angle and allow for angle estimation for a tool mark left at a crime scene. With sufficient development, such methods may lead to more defensible forensic analyses. Data and code are available as supplementary material online.

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  • Topics: Forensics
  • Keywords: Correlated data, Constraints, Regression, Nonlinear models, Likelihood methods, Law enforcement
  • Author: Lock, Amy B.; Morris, Max D.;
  • Journal: Technometrics