Narrator: This is Science Today. The first trial in the United States to use fingerprint evidence was in 1910. By 1930, judges and juries in every state routinely accepted fingerprint evidence in criminal courts. Scott Cole, a professor of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California, Irvine, studies the use of forensic evidence and technology in the legal system.
Cole: And I was interested in how fingerprinting got accepted in the courts and what I found was that it was accepted pretty much on face value without being subjected to the sorts of demands for validation studies that we would ask of scientific evidence today. Essentially, I found that fingerprinting was accepted on trust early in the 20 th century and it's been living on that trust ever since.
Narrator: In recent years, courts challenged fingerprint technology, arguing it relied solely on the experience of experts and less on science. Since then, the bar has been raised on expert forensic testimony. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.