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A Validation Study of Bullet and Cartridge Case Comparisons Using Samples Representative of Actual Casework


The foundation of firearm and tool mark identification is that no two tools should produce the same microscopic marks on two separate objects that they would be inaccurately or wrongly identified. Studies addressing the validity of identification infrequently employ tests that mirror realistic casework scenarios. This study attempted to do so using a double‐blind process, reducing test‐taking bias. Test kits including bullets and cartridge cases but not the associated firearms were completed by 31 analysts from 22 agencies. Analysis of the results demonstrated an overall error rate of 0.303%, sensitivity of 85.2%, and specificity of 86.8%. Variability in performance across examiners is addressed, and the effect of examiners’ years of experience on identification accuracy is explored. Finally, the article discusses the importance of studies using realistic case work scenarios when validating the field's performance and in providing courts with usable indicators of the accuracy of firearm and tool mark identification.

Authors:   Tasha P. Smith, G. Andrew Smith, Jeffrey B. Snipes
Journal:   Journal of Forensic Sciences
Year:   2016
Pages:   n/a
DOI:   10.1111/1556-4029.13093
Publication date:   02-May-2016
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