In this seventh episode of the Case Studies season of the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ’s) Just Science podcast series, John Vanderkolk and Marcus Montooth of the Indiana State Police were interviewed about erroneous identification and the Lana Canen case.
John R. Vanderkolk received a BA in forensic studies and psychology from Indiana University in 1979 and is currently the manager of the Indiana State Police Laboratory. He was trained in latent print, shoe and tire print, firearm and tool mark, and fracture examinations. Marcus Montooth received a BS degree in Biology from the University of Evansville in 2001. He has served as a forensic scientist with the Indiana State Police since 2001. He is an IAI certified latent print examiner, an ASCLD/LAB Certified Technical Assessor, and an Indiana Law Enforcement Academy certified instructor. The case study discussed in the interview involved Lana Canen, who was convicted in 2005 for being an accomplice in the robbery and murder of Helen Sailor. After being imprisoned for 8 years, her conviction was overturned, and she was released from prison. The interview focuses on reasons for this wrongful conviction and the changes in forensic knowledge. practice, and training needed to prevent wrongful convictions. The focus is on a fingerprint examiner’s mistake in concluding that Lana Canen’s prints matched those found at the crime scene. The wrongful conviction was exposed due to the persistence of an attorney who pushed for a re-examination of the fingerprint analysis. Even the original fingerprint examiner concluded he had made a mistake in identifying a match. The interview focuses on what is needed to prevent flawed forensic decisions that can lead to wrongful convictions. Suggestions include continuing, updated training in forensic science disciplines and requiring independent technical reviews by multiple and independent experts of all match decisions.