Handwriting analysis comments

Dear Cecil,

I would like to commend you on your response to “Is handwriting analysis legit science?” There was definitely evidence that you had conducted research on the topic. However, as a forensic document examiner, I would like to make a few additional points:

  1. Forensic document examiners (FDEs) are advocates of the evidence ONLY and are impartial expert witnesses in an adversarial court system. The testimony of an FDE may assist a jury in its decision to send people to jail, but the reality is that our examination results have also freed as many, if not more, suspects from erroneous incarceration.

  2. Since the Daubert decision in 1993 (and Kumho in 1999), the trend for admissibility of forensic handwriting analysis has been decidedly positive. In fact, every federal appellate court (16 at last count) that has considered the question has upheld the admissibility of handwriting expertise. (see also response from “minty green”)

  3. The Saelee decision was based on the government’s lack of proof that handwriting expertise is reliable. Federal decisions since then (US v. Prime, US v. Gricco, US v. Broten, et al) have concluded that forensic handwriting analysis does indeed satisfy the criteria required of it under Daubert, Kumho and Joiner.

  4. The only “dirty little secret” that I’ve become aware of is the extremely limited funding opportunities for research in forensics. The US Court system did not require that expert witnesses proffer scientific studies until Daubert/Kumho came along, and only then could justification be made for funding such research studies. Prior to Daubert, the forensic sciences met the Frye test, and later FRE criteria, for admissibility in court.

  5. You mentioned the Srihari study, but failed to note the four published studies by Dr. Moshe Kam, Drexel University(Journal of Forensic Sciences). Dr. Kam has confirmed that forensic handwriting analysts are far superior to laypersons in detemining whether a known writer wrote a questioned writing. The tests which the Saelee judge relied upon are rife with problems.

  6. Finally, at least for today, it is the expert’s training, education, and experience that the gatekeeper should emphasize when deciding admissibility of expert testimony.

Hi and welcome to the SDMB! It helps if you include a link to the column.

Is handwriting analysis legit science?

What do you mean and how do you do it?

Welcome to the Straight Dope Message Board, DCFDE, glad to have you with us.

By posting a link, we mean providing a click-on that takes someone to the column in question. At the moment, the lead-in to that column is on our Home Page so easy for someone to see… but in a few days, it will fall into the Archives, hidden amidst the thousands of columns and Staff Reports. So, providing a link to the column means that someone reading you comments, in a week or month or later, will be able to see what Cecil said in order better to understand your comments, if you follow me. And your omission is no big deal for a newcomer, so don’t sweat it.

Duck Duck Goose provided the link. The easiest way to do it is to type:
[url]<whatever the url is for the site>[/url]

You do NOT type the < and the >, and you put the actual url there. For instance, if you type:
What you’ll get is:

The fancy way to do it is to type:
[url="<whatever the url is for the site>"] <Whatever you want it to say>[/url].
Again, don’t type the <'s and >'s.
For example, typing:
[url=“http://www.straightdope.com/columns/030418.html”] Link to handwriting site[/url] will produce:
Link to handwriting site

Hope that helps, I think there’s a FAQ on it somewhere. Again, welcome!

To DDG and C K Dexter Haven: thanks kindly for the welcome and the detailed explanation regarding the link. But I’m still feeling stupid. I tried to edit my reply and add the link, but was not allowed access. Has DDG already provided a sufficient link in the follow-up e-mail, or is there a way to add it to my original thread?


DDG provided the link, that was enough. I was just providing directions on how to make links for future ref.

We don’t allow people to edit their own posts here, because when we allowed self-editing we’ve had abuse from people who say something, get negative reactions, and then edit it to say something else. I wish it were otherwise, but, like most rules and limitations, the abuses of the minority impose restrictions on the majority.

Anyhow, if you ever have a significant edit you need to make (“OOOps! I meant not but typed now!”), you can ask a Moderator to fix it.