October 1999 Volume
1 Number 3
Presented at the
2nd International Symposium on the
Forensic Examination of Questioned Documents
Albany, New York
June 14 18, 1999
The following abstracts
of the poster sessions are ordered alphabetically by authors'
Advances in Document Examination:
The Video Spectral Comparator 2000
J. H. Taylor and G. M.
Federal Bureau of
The purpose of this presentation
is to introduce Foster and Freeman's (Worcestershire, United
Kingdom) VSC2000 (video spectral comparator) to the forensic
community, explain how it functions, and how it can be used for
document examination. By utilizing a color and a black-and-white
video camera, filters, and variable light sources with a desktop
computer using Windows software, the VSC2000 allows its user
to analyze inks, visualize hidden security features, and reveal
alterations of documents.
The VSC2000 is capable of
capturing images in ultraviolet, visible, and infrared wavelengths
and can, therefore, be used to reveal the interaction of light
on different materials. These interactions, imaged on the computer
screen, enable the user to
- Reveal information beneath
- Sort shredded paper through
differences in luminescent intensities.
- Detect matching fibers across
torn or cut edges.
- Visualize faded inks.
Images captured by the VSC2000's
computer can be rotated, flipped, and rendered negative so that
they are easier to read. The computer is also capable of storing
and mixing different images thereby enabling distinct images
to be overlaid or compared side by side. These digital images
can be saved allowing duplication of analysis, printing, or attaching
to an e-mail.
Although using variable light
sources and filters are not new techniques in document examination,
the VSC2000's computer-assisted examinations allow the user to
try numerous lighting and filter options more quickly than with
conventional photography, thereby speeding analysis.
Genuine Signature: Fraudulent Document
G. J. Throckmorton
Salt Lake City Police
Salt Lake City, Utah
A typewritten document was
presented to a local bank authorizing the transfer of funds from
the savings account of an elderly woman into the savings account
of her grandson's girlfriend. Shortly after the transfer was
completed, the girlfriend withdrew the money, closed out the
account, and left the area.
Two to three weeks later,
the elderly woman received her monthly bank statement and was
surprised to note a significant withdrawal had been made from
her account. She inquired of the bank, and they produced the
typed document which authorized the transfer of funds. The questioned
letter had a signed name which clearly resembled the signature
of the woman. The victim was quite old and was uncertain if she
actually signed the document, but she could not remember doing
The document was submitted
to the Laboratory for a signature examination. A comparison between
the questioned signature and several known signatures of the
victim determined that all were done by the victim. However,
during the examination, a faint line of discoloration was observed
that went horizontal across the paper, slightly above the signature.
Ultraviolet and video spectral comparator examinations could
find no reason for this line, and there were no other indications
One teaspoon of Drano crystals
was dissolved in eight ounces of water to make a solution that
was sprayed in a fine mist upon the paper. This resulted in an
instantaneous materialization of hidden writing on the upper
portion of the paper. The writing remained visible for about
two to three minutes but then disappeared. Retreatment of the
paper caused the writing to become visible a second time, but
it disappeared again. When the document was treated a third time,
the hidden writing became visible again, and photographs were
taken before the writing disappeared. The handprinted message
said, "Gone for three days leave newspaper next door,"
and below the handprinted message was the signature of the victim.
Known exemplars were obtained
from the suspect and submitted for comparison. The handprinted
portion of the note, originally written in disappearing ink,
was of common authorship with the known writing exemplars.
The follow-up investigation
confirmed the suspect had prepared a handwritten note using a
disappearing-type ink and had the victim sign it. This note was
supposed to be given to the newspaper delivery person, but it
was not. A portion of the paper, above the victim's signature,
was soaked in water which caused the ink to dissolve and disappear
from the paper. This soaking caused a horizontal line that was
only visible using oblique lighting techniques. Once the ink
from the handprinted portion was removed, the suspect had a blank
document that contained only the genuine signature of the victim.
After making several photocopies
of the paper containing the victim's genuine signature, the suspect
practiced until she was able to type the authorization letter
around the genuine signature of the victim.
Although various examination
techniques were utilized, there was no indication of the hidden
writing until it was sprayed with the Drano solution. Crystal
Drano (Drackett Products Company, Cincinnati, Ohio) was used
in this examination because a weak base solution was needed to
make the ink visible and because it was easy to obtain.
The Drano solution is a weak
base solution which will frequently make hidden writing visible
when used on certain types of disappearing ink. This examination
of the document confirmed the victim's story and determined that
the questioned signature was genuine, but the document was fraudulent.
Eradication Of Impression Evidence: Part 1
T. W. Welch
Michigan State Police
East Lansing, Michigan
Impression evidence can be
an extremely valuable piece of evidence concerning fact-finding
issues in document examination. These impressions can provide
the basis for truth, deceit, and identification. Without latent
impressions, the truth of these issues may never be known or
If someone fraudulently signed
his or her name on top of another document and later received
knowledge that there might be impression evidence that could
incriminate, could he or she eradicate any possible impressions
left behind? And if so, would there be any evidence to support
such a finding? The purpose of this experiment, therefore, was
to determine if impression evidence can be eradicated by means
of rubbing with the hand and to determine if there was any evidence
to suggest that someone attempted to eradicate these impressions.
In addition, an effort was made to determine if different writing
instruments had an effect on the ability to eradicate impression
The implementation of this
experiment included the selection of a test group.
Individuals within this test
group were asked to eradicate impressions in a packet of documents
to which they had placed their signatures while using different
writing instruments. The attempt at eradication was noted by
the part of the hand used and the amount of time spent rubbing
the impression. The documents were then processed utilizing the
ESDA. The data was compiled and placed into five categories.
These categories included the following:
- The signature name.
- The time, in minutes and
- The area of hand used.
- If the impressions were
- If there was evidence of
After compiling the data,
nothing could be said about the effect of the type of writing
instrument used on those documents which did not reveal any impressions
after an attempt to eradicate was made. However, 30 of the 40
documents revealed impressions observed with side lighting. Of
the ten documents which failed to reveal impressions using side
lighting, nine were written with a Sharpie Permanent Marker-Ultra
Fine. With respect to the eradication of the impressions, 85
percent of the documents examined contained evidence suggesting
that there was an attempt to eradicate the impressions. Therefore,
and for the purposes of this experiment, the results suggest
that it is possible to eradicate impression evidence by rubbing
with the hand. It also suggests that as a result of this action,
there may be evidence supporting that an attempt was made to
eradicate these impressions.
Preparing Research Articles for Publication
in Forensic Science Journals
J. M. Winchester
of Law Enforcement
Recent court cases emphasize
the need for research and scientific findings published in peer-reviewed
journals. The research article should follow a specific formatting
style; contain illustrations, charts, or graphs; and list accurate
Methods and Materials
The forensic document examiner
conducts research in order to replicate current procedures and
to describe new scientific findings. Detailed research results
are suitable for publication in scientific journals.
The researcher should adhere
to the preferred format for writing the research. Information
concerning the preferred format is found in the Instructions
for Authors section of journals. Information about the Journal
of the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners
may be found on the Internet at www.ASQDE.org.
Research articles usually
include an abstract, an introduction, methods and materials,
results, a discussion, and references. Articles should also include
illustrations, charts, and graphs with labels and captions. A
ruler should be included in photographs and the citation of magnification
noted. Quoted books and articles should be attributed. References
must be accurate and listed alphabetically at the end of the
article. The researcher must take responsibility for authenticity
of the research.
The properly prepared research
paper may be submitted to a scientific journal. The advantage
of sending the research paper to a peer-reviewed journal provides
the author and the public the assurance that the paper was reviewed
by two or more peers familiar with the scientific area. Reviewers
are governed by the agreement of confidentiality and are free
from any conflicts of interest. The publication of research provides
a valuable resource for the forensic science discipline.
There is a need for increased
scientific research and the publication of the findings. Additional
research in the field of questioned documents will provide a
valuable source of information important to the criminal justice
FORENSIC SCIENCE COMMUNICATIONS OCTOBER 1999 VOLUME
1 NUMBER 3