A Confession for Science
Proceedings of the
International Association of Chiefs of Police 1911

(This article, of historical interest, is reprinted from IDENTIFICATION WANTED --� DEVELOPMENT OF THE AMERICAN CRIMINAL IDENTIFICATION SYSTEM 1893--1943, International Association of Chiefs of Police, 1977, pp. 102--103.  Thanks to Bill Leo, LASD for the submission.)

By GEORGE S. DOUGHERTY
2nd Deputy Commissioner of Police
New York City, New York

Fingerprints left by persons on articles, such as silverware, window glasses, bottles, wood, candles, etc., have in many cases supplied the clue which has lead to the apprehension and conviction of the thief or thieves.

Situated on the ridges are the numerous mouths of ducts which conduct to the surface perspiration from the sweat glands which lie below the true skin.  Through these there is a continuous flow hardly perceptible to the naked eye.  In consequence of the moisture, when a finger comes in contact with a smooth surface the pattern of the ridges is left more or less distinct on the article touched.  It has often been found beneficial to distribute a little gray (mercury and chalk) or lamp black over the finger mark and then to brush off gently with a fine camel's hair brush.  This brings out the print much more clearly.

The loft of H.M. Bernstein & Brothers, 171 Wooster Street, manufacturer's of ladies' garments, was burglarized on the early morning of February 23rd, 1911.  Finger impressions found in this burglary were discovered to be that of Cesare J. Cella, alias Charles Crispi, who, upon this identification, was arrested and indicted for the crime of burglary in the second degree, second offense.

At first, Cella's attorneys proceeded with his trial on the plea of not guilty, but after Captain Joseph Faurot, our fingerprint expert, had testified, the attorneys for the defense withdrew the plea of not guilty and pleaded guilty for the crime of burglary.  Judge Rosalsky, after the plea had been taken, said to Cella: �I want you to make a full confession.  I can assure you that no indictment will be found against you, or any witnesses who testified in your behalf in the course of the trial, for perjury, but it is more for the interest of justice and science that you tell the truth.  It is invaluable for us to know whether or not the expert testimony given during your trial was correct or otherwise.  The fingerprint experts are of the opinion that the science of identification, by means of fingerprints, is more exact than the Bertillon system and photography.  Did you remove the pane of glass, in evidence here, from the door of the loft of H.M. Bernstein & Brothers?"

The defendant answered that �he did,� and then gave the full details of the burglary.  In view of the fact that he had assisted in the science of fingerprints, Cella was given the minimum sentence of six months in prison.

 

 

 

This article was printed in �THE PRINT�
Volume 14(3) May/June 1998, pg 5
and has been obtained from the online library provided by the

Southern California Association of Fingerprint Officers
www.scafo.org