THE HISTORY OF FINGERPRINTING IN CRIMINAL IDENTIFICATION
Edmund Locard said that whenever two objects come
into contact with each other,
years there has been some argument over who was the first person to suggest
became interested in the use of fingerprinting after Faulds
Bertillon had developed a system of identifying criminals that used
thanks to the work of earlier scientists, fingerprinting is the most common
On the morning of March 27th, 1905, William Jones went
to work at 8:30 a.m.
Scotland Yard’s Assistant Commissioner was leading the
After interviewing witnesses who saw two men leaving
the Farrow’s paint shop around
Macnaughten and Collins knew that the trial of Alfred and Albert Stratton could make or break fingerprinting. Richard Muir, the prosecutor had his work cut of for him. The Defense was pulling out all the stops. Henry Faulds, the first man to suggest the use of fingerprinting in criminal investigations, would be testifying for the defense. Why would the “Father of Fingerprinting” want to testify against the use of fingerprinting in the legal system? Faulds was weary of the fact that the police only had one fingerprint, and he did not want his life’s wok used to put innocent men in jail. Not that he believed the Stratton brothers were innocent. He just did not want a single fingerprint to send them to the gallows. Faulds was convinced that no two people had the same ten fingerprints, but the prosecution did not have ten fingerprints. They had one. Also testify for the defense was Dr. John Garson, Inspector Collins mentor. Also in attendance was Edward Henry, the man you devised a system of fingerprint classification that is still used today. This trial would set the precedence for the use of fingerprints in a court of law, and everyone was curious of the result.
Richard Muir wanted to establish first that Alfred and Albert were in the vicinity of the crime at the time of the murders, that they had the tools to break into the paint shop and that they had more money than they could account for. After Muir did this, then he intended to put Collins on the stand show the judge and the jury that the fingerprint was positive identification of the killer.
The prosecution called over 40 witnesses to the stand. One of the witnesses was Kate Wade, Albert Stratton’s girlfriend. Wade said that Albert was not with her on the night of the murder, and he usually stayed with her. Three other witnesses said they saw to men leaving the paint store on the morning of the murder and they all described the two men as wearing the same clothes. One witness, Ellen Stranton identified one of the men as Alfred Stratton. When the Doctor who examined the bodies of Thomas and Ann Farrow testified, he said that the injuries that killed the Farrows’, were caused by a weapon similar to tool that were owned by the defendants. This witnesses all presented circumstantial evidence, and the defense council for the Strattons, H.G. Rooth, and Harold Morris, did very well to point this fact out to the jury, and offer alternative explanations for the events in question. One of the stronger witnesses for the prosecution, Annie Cromarty, who was Alfred’s girlfriend, testified that two nights before the murder, she and Alfred did not have money for food, and when she awoke in the morning, Alfred had come home with money an he did not explain where he got it. She also said that after the murders, Alfred threw out clothes that he owned when he saw the descriptions of the murders in the paper. Annie also testified that Alfred to her to tell the police, or anyone else that asked, that he was with her the night of the murder. All of the evidence, up to this point, made it seem that it was quite probable that the Stratton brother committed the murder. However, the defense countered each piece of evidence with an alternative explanation. It did not look good for the prosecution, and the defense felt confident enough to call Alfred Stratton to the stand. Alfred said that on the night in question, Albert came knocking on the door at 2:30 a.m. and asked for money because he could not afford a place to stay that night. Alfred went to check to see how much money he had. He had no money, and when he returned, he found Albert was gone. Alfred went in search of his brother. He found him and told him that he had no money, but he could stay on the floor in his room. This was Alfred’s story and it explained the reason some of the witnesses saw them out late at night.
Muir called one more witness before he called Collins to the stand. He called William Gittings, an assistant jailer. Gittings was working in the jail while Alfred and Albert were in custody awaiting trial. Gittings told the court of a conversation he had with Albert Stratton. Albert said to Gittings, “I reckon he (Alfred) will get strung up and I shall get about ten years…He has led me into this.” The prosecution hoped that the jury would see this statement as a confession. Now it was time to called Charles Collins to the stand.
Muir’s plan was to first have Collins’s expertise in
the field of fingerprinting established for the jury, so they knew that
Collins was in fact an expert. Then Muir would have Collins explain to the
jury, in laymen’s terms, how the science of fingerprinting worked. After Muir
did this, then he would have Collins discuss the fingerprint involved in the
case. Collins’s expertise was established, and he explained very thoroughly
how fingerprinting worked. He showed the jury the fingerprint found on the
cash box at the scene of the crime, and he showed them the print he had taken
from Alfred Stratton’s right thumb. Muir then asked Collins how confident he
was that the fingerprint on the cash box, was that
of Alfred Stratton. Collins said that he was 100% confident that the two
fingerprints were exact matches. The jury had all they needed. The plan for
the defense was to called
Dr. Garson to the stand. Dr. Garson was Collins teacher at one point, so if
the defense could establish that Garson was more of
an expert, then his testimony would discredit Collins’s testimony. Muir had a
plan for Garson. On his cross-examination, Muir called into evidence two
letters, each written by Dr. Garson. One letter was to Muir, and the other
was to the Defense council. Each letter said that Garson
would be willing to testify for either side in the trial, depending on who
would pay him more. This completely discredited the testimony of Garson that
suggested the two fingerprints were not from the same hand. This was the
final blow to the defense. The defense
decided not to call Henry Faulds as a witness just
in case Muir was able to discredit him as well. Now it was up to the jury. If
they understood and accepted the testimony of Charles Collins, then they
would have to accept the evidence presented by Muir and convict the Strattons. If not, Alfred and Albert would go free. The
fate of fingerprints rested on the shoulder of twelve English jurors in
London, in 1905. After only two hours of deliberation, the jury found Alfred
and Albert Stratton guilty of the murder of Thomas and Ann Farrow, and
sentenced them to death. The Stratton brothers were both hanger on Tuesday,
May 23rd, 1905. They were sent to their death by a greasy smudge on a cash
box. This was the case that launched forensic science.
Thomas Alfred Edward Foster joined the Dominion Police Force in Canada in 1890. He first learned of the use of fingerprinting for criminal identification in 1904 while attending meetings of the International Association of Police Chiefs, in St. Louis. Foster decided to study fingerprinting in hopes that it would be implemented in Canada. Foster was convinced that fingerprints were superior to the Bertillon system of criminal identification. Foster was a major contributor to the establishment of a National Fingerprint Bureau in Canada in 1905. Although this new bureau was established in 1905, it was not until 1908 that an Order in Council was passed, sanctioning the use of fingerprints to identify criminals; however, this bureau was not officially established until 1911. It was not until 1910 when convict Joseph Chartrand escaped from Kingston penitentiary, that fingerprinting realized it need in Canada. Joseph Chartrand was convicted of murder in 1904. His fingerprints were not taken, as Foster had not yet brought the science of fingerprinting to Canada yet. After Chartrand escaped, he was recaptured eight days later. However, he almost fooled the authorities into thinking he was not Joseph Chartrand. Had the use of fingerprints been implemented, the authorities would have identified Chartrand immediately. After this, Canada began training fingerprint specialists, and Foster led the way. That is why Edward Foster is known as the “Father of Fingerprinting in Canada.”
C. Beaven (2001): Fingerprints:
The origin of crime detection and the murder case that launched forensic
science; Hyperion Publishing.