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Quantification of the Weight of Fingerprint Evidence Using a ROC-based Approximate Bayesian Computation Algorithm for Model Selection

NCJ Number
Electronic Journal of Statistics Volume: 15 Issue: 1 Dated: 2021 Pages: 1228-1262
Date Published
35 pages

This article reports on the use of an Approximate Bayesian Computation (ABC) model selection algorithm to quantify the weight of fingerprint evidence.


For more than a century, fingerprints have been used with considerable success to identify criminals or verify the identity of individuals. The categorical conclusion scheme used by fingerprint examiners, and more generally the inference process followed by forensic scientists, have been heavily criticized in the scientific and legal literature. Instead, scholars have proposed to characterize the weight of forensic evidence using the Bayes factor as the key element of the inference process. In forensic science, quantifying the magnitude of support is equally as important as determining which model is supported. Unfortunately, the complexity of fingerprint patterns makes likelihood-based inference impossible. The current project supplemented the original ABC model selection algorithm using a Receiver Operating Characteristic curve to mitigate its known shortcomings with respect to the choice of a suitable threshold and the curse of dimensionality. In a sense, this offers an alternative to other methods that have tried to address the same issues. This method is straightforward to implement, computationally efficient, and visually intuitive for lay individuals (i.e., jurors). This method was used to quantify the weight of fingerprint evidence in forensic science, but it can be applied to any other forensic pattern evidence. (Publisher Abstract)

Date Published: January 1, 2021