Reports and Publications
The National Academies Press, 2008. Provides information about the range of acceptable conclusions in this field, as well as the lack of error rate and subjectivity of the comparison techniques.
Letter from the DOJ regarding the results of a US DOJ and FBI review of lab reports and testimony of FBI lab examiners in the Willie Manning case finds that testimony stating that a specific gun fired a specific bullet “to the exclusion of all other guns in the world” is not scientifically supported.
See pp. 150-155 for the National Research Counsel’s assessment of the discipline of Toolmark and Firearms Identification.
The 2016 PCAST Report found that “firearms analysis currently falls short of the criteria for foundational validity, because there is only a single appropriately designed study to measure validity and estimate reliability. The scientific criteria for foundational validity require more than one such study, to demonstrate reproducibility. Whether firearms analysis should be deemed admissible based on current evidence is a decision that belongs to the courts. If firearms analysis is allowed in court, the scientific criteria for validity as applied should be understood to require clearly reporting the error rates seen in appropriately designed black-box studies (estimated at 1 in 66, with a 95 percent confidence limit of 1 in 46, in the one such study to date).” See p. 112.
From the Blog
- Are you a gun nut?, 9/10/2018If you are a criminal defense attorney working on serious felony cases, you need to have a good understanding of firearm function so that you can make sense of the forensic evidence in your case. The tutorials described below can help you gain the information that you need. The University of Utah Health Sciences Library …
- We are excited to announce “Firearms 101,” the third program in our Evenings at the School of Government series. This series, cosponsored by the UNC School of Government and NC Office of Indigent Defense Services, consists of free presentations on forensic evidence and other criminal law topics that are designed to enhance the knowledge of criminal …
- The National Institute of Justice has published several reports on novel techniques that are being investigated in order to improve forensic analysis. Take a look at the reports below to learn about some of the latest techniques that are being developed and to get a forecast of what techniques you may see coming soon to …
- SBI to Begin Using New Reference Standard to Assist Examiners in Identifying Cartridge Casings, 9/10/2012A new reference standard for comparing cartridge casings has been developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The standard is known as SRM 2461, Standard Casing. It was developed to assist firearms examiners by ensuring that the equipment used to match cartridge cases to those in the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network …
- The Impression & Pattern Evidence Symposium is taking place today through Thursday, August 9, 2012. The live program, sponsored by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Office of Justice Programs and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Laboratory Division, is being streamed online here. The agenda is available here. Topics include the latest developments and …
- The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is presenting a two-day conference which will address the techniques used in firearm and toolmark comparisons, the standards for this discipline, and efforts to apply more objective and quantitative measurment based techniques to this type of analysis. This conference is being broadcast live online on July 10-11, …
- Two Bullets, One Gun?, 1/20/2012By Alyson Grine, Defender Educator, UNC School of Government In State v. Britt, __ N.C. App. __, __ S.E.2d __ (Dec. 6, 2011) the North Carolina Court of Appeals addressed the admissibility of expert testimony regarding firearms and toolmark identification. The facts, in brief: Nancy Britt, a Wake County school teacher, was shot and killed …
Article by Adina Schwartz, in The Columbia Science and Technology Law Review
- Analysis of experiments in forensic firearms/toolmarks practice offered as support for low rates of practice error and claims of inferential certainty
Article by Clifford Spiegelman and William A. Tobin that evaluates experiments used to justify conclusions of “individualization” or specific source attribution to “100% certainty” and “near-zero” rates of error claimed by firearm toolmark examiners in court testimonies and suggests approaches for establishing statistical foundations for this firearm and toolmark comparisons.
2014 article by F. Riva and C. Champod in the Journal of Forensic Sciences. Addresses new solutions to decrease the subjective component of firearm/spent cartridge case comparisons.
Article by Paul Gianelli
by Julie Bykowicz, The Baltimore Sun. 2006 article which discusses a 2001 contamination study and the FBI’s decision to no longer analyze gunshot residue in its investigations.
- Gunshot residue contamination of the hands of police offices following start-of-shift handling of their firearm
Forensic Science International published a research article by Michael Cook in Nov. 2016. The study found that 85 percent of officers had 3-component GSR particles on their hands immediately following the start-of-shift handling of their firearms.
- Hypothesis Testing of the Critical Underlying Premise of Discernible Uniqueness in Firearms-Toolmarks Forensic Practice
Article by William A. Tobin and Peter J. Blau that argues that existing studies that are typically presented in court as support for firearm/projectile comparisons are fatally flawed and thus are of no value for validation of the techniques used. The authors offer a solution that would allow a scientifically defensible opinion to be proffered to courts until comprehensive and meaningful hypothesis testing can be conducted by the mainstream scientific community. Article is available for free download.
- Knife and Saw Toolmark Analysis in Bone: A Manual Designed for the Examination of Criminal Mutilation and Dismemberment
by Steven A. Symes, Ph.D. et al. for the U.S. Department of Justice. Available through the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (2010)
Article that summarizes the findings of a group of scientists and practitioners who met to address issues with gunshot residue analysis and attempt to create guidelines for this type of analysis. This document references several studies that have been published regarding contamination of subjects and proper collection, testing, and reporting procedures.
by Dennis L. McGuire, M.S., Forensic Magazine – discusses the lack of a uniform standard for GSR analyses based upon validated studies. States that until those studies are completed, “positive determinations of GSR should be seriously scrutinized.”
The National Institute of Justice has an online training that includes topics such as Bullet Comparison and Identification, Gunshot Residue and Distance Determination, and Toolmark Identification. The training provides both a general understanding of firearms/firearms evidence and gives a detailed explanation of techniques used by firearm examiners. The program is for criminal justice professionals and you must create a login to access the content.
The National Forensic Science Technology Center created this website to explain in simplified terms the principles of each type of forensic analysis and how the analysis is performed. Topics include DNA, digital evidence, fingerprints, firearms, trace evidence, blood stains, and more.
An international organization dedicated to the advancement of Firearm and Toolmark Identification. See the Admissibility Resource Kitfor links to opinions, transcripts, motions, briefs and articles supporting and opposing the practice of firearm identifications.
Document created by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation provides a clear description of the analyses performed by firearms and toolmark examiners. It is presented from the perspective of a crime lab, so it does not question the reliability of any of the techniques presented, but it is a helpful document for attorneys because it explains the procedures used and illustrates them with photographs.
This Scientific Area Committee (part of the OSAC) has taken over the work previously done by the Scientific Working Group For Firearms and Toolmarks (SWGGUN). The SAC will focus on standards and guidelines related to the examination of firearm and toolmark evidence. This includes the comparison of microscopic toolmarks on bullets, cartridge cases, and other ammunition components and may also include firearm function testing, serial number restoration, muzzle-to-object distance determination, tools, and toolmarks
The University of Utah Health Sciences Library has several firearms tutorials posted which cover information about the different types of firearms and how they work, ballistics (the science of the travel or a projectile in flight), patterns of tissue injury, laboratory methods, and examination of gunshot residue. The tutorials provide basic foundational information as well as more technical information about firearm function.
Information about a new research database and techniques used in firearm-toolmark comparisons.
Sample direct and cross-examinations of various forensic witnesses, including a firearm/toolmark expert, fingerprint expert, pathologist, DNA expert, and other forensic experts.
Motions and Briefs
Trial court denied the motion, but initially prohibited the State from offering testimony “that the bullets in question were fired from the same weapon” because of potential for misleading the jury. However, the testimony was allowed after the trial court found the defense opened the door to the testimony during opening statements.
- Motion to Exclude Firearm Identification Testimony, Memorandum of Law, State’s Brief in Response to Defendant’s Motion, and Order
2011 motion in limine by Richard Ramsey. Example of how to use the National Academy of Sciences report and other professional standards in a motion to exclude or suppress forensic evidence. Transcript of motion’s hearing available upon request.
Motion filed by David Botchin and Mark Rabil.
- Order Allowing Testing and Inspection of Firearms Evidence and to Transport Evidence to Defense Expert
Order granted in 2009, filed under seal until case was resolved.
Firearms in the News
- Wrongfully imprisoned for 43 years. Here’s the story of how he was freed., by Keith Barber, Raleigh News & Observer, 7/10/2019
- DA won’t retry wrongfully convicted Wilson man who spent 40 years in prison, by WRAL, WRAL, 6/26/2019
- Wrongfully convicted Wilson man freed after four decades in prison, by Ken Smith and Matthew Burns, WRAL, 5/23/2019
- DPS crime lab employee arrested for theft of ammunition and weapon accessories (AZ), by Clayton Klapper, ABC15, 4/30/2019
- Secondary Transfer of Organic Gunshot Residue After Handshakes, Arrests, by Seth Augenstein, Forensic Magazine, 1/17/2019
- Illinois Man Who Took on Ballistics Evidence Faces Retrial, by Ivan Moreno, AP, 1/10/2019
- N&O loses appeal of $6 million libel verdict in SBI agent’s lawsuit, by John Murawski, The News and Observer, 12/18/2018
- Catching Killers by Matching Tiny Marks on Bullets, by Ian Urbina, The New York Times, New York Times, 11/16/2018
- William Bailey, Rougemont, NC
- Peter D. Barnett, Hayward, CA
- Jack Benton, Lubbock, TX
- Curtis Caldwell, NC
- Steven Carpenter, Cary, NC
- William E. Conrad, Fredericksburg, VA
- Frankie E. “Eddie” Harrant, Dunn, NC
- Francis T. “Jay” Jarvis, Armuchee, GA
- Don Mikko, Ellenwood, GA
- John Nixon, Bippus, IN
- Lester Roane, Street, MD
- Ronald L. Singer, M.S., Fort Worth, TX
- Russell Thomas, Roxboro, NC
- William (Bill) Tobin, Lake Anna, VA
- Robert S. White, Charleston, WV
- Josh Wright, Asheville, NC