AFDE Symposium: October 28-31, 2016 - Myrtle Beach, SC
The AFDE motto: Professionals who share knowledge increase their own skills.
The Program:
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Navigating the World of Forensic Science Standards
John Paul Jones II, BS, MBA, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Abstract: Standards development in the forensic science industry was previously executed through Scientific Working Groups (SWGs) that focused on specific forensic science disciplines like questioned documents or firearms analysis. These SWGs published their documents on their websites or through a standards developing organization (SDO) and were funded by various components of the United States Department of Justice to convene a variety of stakeholders to develop standards, guidelines and best practices. During 2014, funding for many of these SWGs was no longer available and OSAC was being developed to further standards development in specific forensic science disciplines. The OSAC is now operational and made up of 34 units and over 200 task groups populated by more than 560 OSAC members and 250 affiliates all working on specific standards activities. One of OSAC’s key features is promoting the use of SDO’s for the formal development of documentary standards. SDOs previously played a minor role in most forensic science disciplines with the exception of questioned documents, paint, glass, and drug analysis. With the onset of OSAC, SDOs are expected to play a larger role in the development of standards, which will enable many diverse perspectives to be included in the document development and approval process.

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Workshop on Cognitive Bias
Mara L. Merlino, PhD

8:30-9:30 Cognitive Human Factors and Sources of Bias
Presenter: Mara Merlino, PhD
This presentation will discuss and demonstrate various sources of bias which have the potential to influence the outcome of forensic document examinations. Factors such as neurological functions, attention, perception, automatic and effortful cognitive processes, context effects, and social influences on the interpretation of stimuli will be addressed.

9:30-10:15 Case Scenarios – What Factors Show Cognitive Bias?
M. Patricia Fisher, M.J., D-BFDE
President, Fisher Forensic Document Laboratory, Inc.

The scenarios will allow attendees to discuss domain relevant contextual information v. domain irrelevant context information that the document examiner needs to be aware of to reduce cognitive bias starting with the first contact with the prospective client.

10:15-10:30 BREAK

10:30-11:30 Mitigating Cognitive Bias in Casework: Continuing Conversations about Challenges for Government Practitioners and Private Practitioners
Presenter: Mara Merlino, PhD
This presentation will describe and discuss current issues under consideration in the effort to reduce error and improve training, education, and practice in both private practice and government labs. This discussion will include efforts to improve and standardize document examiner training, to develop standardized language and formats for expert reports, and conducting research to establish the validity and reliability of the methods and results of FDE examinations. Evidence-based education, the development of trainee learning outcomes, and evaluation of learning based on objective and measurable assessments and measurable benchmarks for success will be discussed.

11:30-12:00 Report from the NIST Human Factors Committee
Presenters: Mara Merlino, PhD, and Emily Will, MA, D-BFDE
This presentation will discuss some of the activities of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Expert Working Group on Human Factors in Handwriting Examination.
The Dynamics of Peer Review
Kaye Ballantyne PhD, Bryan Found PhD
Abstract: Peer review has long been held as the premier approach to ensure the validity of methods and conclusions, to detect errors and fraud, and to improve the quality of learned papers. Courts have used peer review as an indicator of ‘good science’ and general acceptance within the relevant communities of experts. The forensic sciences have adopted peer review, most conspicuously verification, as an essential part of quality management and error mitigation systems.
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Notwithstanding its long and widespread use, the value of peer review is frequently exaggerated; an outcome that may be the result of the variety of meanings attributed to the term. There is little evidence of the effectiveness of either peer review or verification. Whilst some forms of review may aid in the detection of errors, it is critical that the systems employed adequately account for cognitive factors, error distributions and legal requirements. We introduce a taxonomy of review and verification processes, applicable to both scientific publications and forensic opinions. Our aim is to encourage transparency in order to facilitate more reliable estimation of the ability of peer review to contribute to the accuracy of evidence produced by forensic practitioners.
Laboratory Accreditation: ISO/IEC 17025 Demystified for the Sole Practitioner
Karin Athanas, Program Manager, Forensics
American Association of Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA)

M. Patricia Fisher, M.J., D-BFDE
President, Fisher Forensic Document Laboratory, Inc.
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Abstract: ISO/IEC 17025 is the gold standard for laboratory accreditation that may soon be required whether the forensic document examiner (FDE) is part of a larger laboratory or is a sole practitioner. Therefore, it is important for sole practitioner FDEs to be prepared by learning how an FDE can meet the ISO/IEC 17025 standard. Meeting the ISO/IEC 17025 standard includes documenting the procedures and processes used by the organization, identifying the management structure, and establishing policies and objectives for performance. Simply stated, accreditation means that you say what you do, you do what you say, and you prove that you do what you say.
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Cognitive Human Factors and the Reliability, Validity, and Accuracy of Handwriting Analysis
Mara L. Merlino, PhD and Tierra M. Freeman, PhD, Kentucky State University; Derek L. Hammond, BA, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory; Victoria A. Springer, PhD, Adobe Systems, Inc.; Veronica Blas Dahir, PhD, University of Nevada, Reno; Bryan Found, PhD, Victoria Police; Adrian Dyer, PhD, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology

Abstract: FDEs seek those features and characteristics which may be characterized as a document’s identifying attributes or characteristics. This paper reports findings from an international study of forensic document examiners in which we investigated basic issues of validity and reliability in signature comparison tasks, the relationship between training and experience and examiner’s deployment of attentional resources and use of information available in a variety of signatures, and how much confirmation bias affects the decision making processes of FDEs and a comparison group of Lay participants (NIJ Award No. 2010-DN-BX-K271).

Participants responded to a survey about their education, training, and experience, and then participated in a series of four eye-tracking protocols in which they gave opinions about the genuineness of signatures presented singly or with known signatures of the writer. As a final step, participants were shown a subset of 11 signatures from the signature comparison protocol, and asked to give verbal descriptions of how they reached their decisions given the information contained in the signatures.

Findings concerning the deployment of visual attention related to signature type and complexity by forensic document examiners will be reported. Eye-tracking and self-report results revealed high construct validity and high convergent validity for the formal index used by FDEs to evaluate the authenticity of handwriting. FDEs made more distinctions among the features, and reported that a greater variety of features carried high evidential weight.

FDEs made more accurate calls, but also a greater number of qualified calls. Inter-rater reliability among FDEs was higher, but the extent and kind of training, education, and experience was not related to the type and number of features FDEs extracted, the weight they assigned this information, or how much FDEs outperformed Lay participants.

Information about the outcome of a prior examination may have influenced the extent of information extraction, the use of extracted information, and the amount of time spent by the FDE when making a comparison call. Confirmatory information increased decision confidence, and disconfirmatory information decreased decision confidence.

Finally, information about current research titled Cognitive Human Factors and Forensic Document Examiner Methods and Procedures (NIJ Award No. 2015-DN-BX-K069) will be presented.

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Peer Reviews of Forensic Casework: Understanding the Different Types of Standard Reviews and Why Courts Have Ruled that Evidence of Casework Peer Reviews Performed by Non-testifying Experts is Inadmissible
Andrew Sulner, MSFS, JD, D-BFDE

Abstract: Forensic document examiners (FDEs), as well as expert witnesses from other forensic science disciplines, have often testified that their casework is subjected to so-called “peer review.” Such testimony, generally elicited during direct examination, is supposedly introduced for the purpose of demonstrating the quality assurance protocol employed in the testifying expert’s laboratory prior to the issuance of a final report. Lawyers and trial judges frequently assume that the mere mention of the words “peer review” equates to a comprehensive reexamination of the evidence and an independent verification of a given opinion or conclusion; this presentation will clearly establish the fallacy of that assumption.

Some lawyers have attempted to challenge such testimony by establishing that the casework peer review was biased and unreliable because it was not performed blindly, e.g., the reviewer was a "friendly" colleague or coworker, working in the very same laboratory unit or office. However, lawyers, judges, and testifying experts need to know the impact of recent court rulings declaring that testimony about case reviews performed by non-testifying experts is inadmissible on evidentiary grounds.
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Natural Variation- How signature proportions might change under varying spatial conditions for the writer.
Susan E. Abbey, D-BFDE, CDE

Abstract: Ms. Abbey will discuss findings in her research paper “Natural Variation and Relative Height Proportions” published by the International Journal of Forensic Document Examination in the Jan/Dec issue 1999. Specifically she will show how writers were influenced by 1) Location of the of the signature line on the document; 2) A reduced length of the signature line 3) A previously written large, elaborate signature above the signature line; and other spatial limitations.
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What Forensic Document Examiners Must Know to Protect their Computer Data, Case Files, and Client Information from Cyber Threats
Claire R. LaVelle, MS CP, CISSP, CIPP

Abstract: During this presentation, attendees will be introduced to cyber security topics most relevant to small businesses. These topics include: data security, privacy issue, scams and frauds, network security, website security, Email, mobile devices, employees, facility security, operational security, payment cards, incident response and reporting, and policy development and management. Attendees will be encouraged to bring their professional concerns about computer security to discuss with the presenter and other attendees.
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Unsuccessful Attempts to Copy the Security Features in Genuine Travel Documents
Apsara K. K., B.Sc.
Honours, Sr. Asst. Government Examiner of Questioned Documents,
Sri Lanka

Abstract: The Forensic Document Examination Laboratory in Sri Lanka receives approximately 1000 cases each year. More than one third of these cases turn out to be forged passports and visas. Despite the technical advances made to include sophisticated security features in travel documents, forgers still attempt to copy these features by substitution, alteration, counterfeiting and modifications. Using actual case studies, this presentation will illustrate attempts that were made to copy security features and how these attempts were detected using the Video Spectral Comparators 6000 and 8000.
Case studies will include attempts to duplicate the size, design, and defects of a genuine seal, an attempt to duplicate a seal with computer or mechanical device, attempts to counterfeit and alter bio-data pages, and attempts to alter numbers or substitute photographs on a visa.
In many cases forgers can create duplicates which superficially appear to look genuine. However, these attempts are unsuccessful when the documents are examined with sophisticated laboratory equipment. Security features are designed in such a manner that they will lose the definition once they are duplicated by a forger.
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A Forged Signature on a Painting: Analysis and Discussion of the Forger’s Novel Methods, with a Discussion of the Opposing Expert’s Signature Analysis
Joseph G. Barabe, BA

Abstract: The author analyzed a painting attributed to, and purportedly signed by, a noted 19th century Scandinavian artist. He found that the painting materials in the painting as a whole were consistent with the artists lifetime, the signature contained materials unavailable to him. Other aspects of the painting also strongly indicated that the painting had been manipulated to give the impression that the painting was original. The highly qualified opposing expert declared the signature “authentic to a high degree of probability”. The signature had a low level of complexity, and the expert had only photographs from which to work, with few exemplars. While the analytical details of the painting and its signature will be reviewed, of greater relevance is the question as to the plausibility of the opposing expert’s opinion and the limits of conclusion in general.
Can FDEs Decipher Words?
Lynda D. Hartwick, BA, D-BFDE
Abstract: The presenter will discuss a recent case where one FDE challenged another’s ability to decipher a word in a sentence. The presentation will include a discussion on how the word decipher applies to a document examination and whether deciphering words falls within the scope of the work of an FDE. The presentation will also include potential and real court challenges to FDEs who decipher words.
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Electrostatic Detection Apparatus (ESDA®)- An Update on Its Use in Forensic Document Examination and Related Research, Best Practices and Miscellaneous Relevant Information
F. L. “Jim” Lee, Jr., MS, BS; Foster & Freeman, USA and Summit Forensic Document Examination Laboratory

Abstract: This presentation is intended to provide to the attendee(s), with an update to some of the relevant information pertaining to the use of the ESDA® in Forensic Document Examination for indented writings and indentations on paper. It will include a discussion of research that has been conducted in recent times, regarding the ESDA® and its use. While specifically addressing the Foster + Freeman ESDA® in this presentation, the presentation will also, address the topic of best practices associated with the use of the ESDA and other types of Electrostatic Detection Devices (EDD). Attendees to this presentation are encouraged to share any ESDA®/EDD tips that they have discovered in their practice and to share accounts of any interesting or unusual cases that they have encountered where use of the ESDA® or another model of EDD has played a significant or unique role in the discovery of evidence in the case. Additionally, attendees are encouraged to bring their concerns and questions about the use of the ESDA® with them to the presentation for discussion as time may constraints may allow.
Improve PowerPoint presentations for greater impact using animation and

Charla Janney, BA, owner of Charla Janney & Associates,

Abstract: Through this lecture and demonstration attendees will learn user friendly ways to add emphasis and persuasion to their PowerPoint (and other) presentations. When emphasis is added, the forensic document examiner can with greater impact assist the judge, jury, arbitrator or other trier of fact to better understand the most important points of the examination and the analysis, as well as the ultimate conclusion of the presenter.
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Using Adobe Bridge and the Adobe RAW File Viewer in Document Examination.

Richard T. McEvoy, Jr. – AA, Certified Forensic Photographer, president and owner of Forensic Imaging, Inc.

Abstract: Though the use of a PowerPoint presentation and live hands-on demonstrations of the two Adobe software packages that will be used, the attendees should realize the ease of quickly making files in the sizes they need (both physical and pixel resolution) and, also, the ability to quickly “correct” and batch process their image files. Adobe Camera RAW file viewer will be used to do the “correction” work while Adobe Bridge will be used to do the batch file processing for sizing, naming, and file type extension conversion.

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Trends in Training and Education in Forensic Document Examination
Heidi H. Harralson, MA, D-BFDE

Abstract: During this presentation, university and college programs currently available at the graduate and undergraduate levels in forensic document examination will be identified and reviewed. Opportunities and challenges associated with apprenticeship and mentoring will also be reviewed along with recommendations for improvement in both the public and private sectors. The criticisms aimed at FDEs concerning education and training need to be examined in a way that highlights constructive ways these challenges and limitations can be overcome in the field.
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A New Look at the Post Litem Motam Rulings for Handwriting and Signature Exemplars

Jacqueline A. Joseph, BA, CDE, D-BFDE

Abstract: When the available handwriting exemplars do not meet the criteria for usefulness, it may be necessary to request exemplars from all prime suspects. The presenter will discuss the parameters of requesting exemplars after the lawsuit has been filed. Case stories will illustrate cautionary tales in actual cases where only limited exemplars were available. A bibliography will be provided.

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Explaining the Basis for Handwriting Identification
Emily J. Will, MA, D-BFDE
Abstract: This paper will examine the principles, methods and practices that support the forensic examination of questioned handwriting for authorship and demonstrate how these factors answer the questions posed by judges exploring the reliability of the field of handwriting examination. It is not enough to be skilled in the procedures in conducting handwriting examinations. It is also important that the examiner understand and be able to explain how and why what they do is reliable when handwriting identification is challenged in court.
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How the EMV chip technology is impacting electronic signatures at POS terminals
Belinda R. Wilson, FDE Apprentice
Abstract: During this presentation, attendees will be introduced to EMV chip technology and how it is impacting electronic signature capturing at POS terminals during transactions. Attendees are encouraged to bring their credit cards and government issued photo identification bearing genuine handwritten and/or genuine electronically captured signatures to this presentation as the presenter demonstrates significant security features of authorized signatures. Due to fraud loss, credit card companies are widely transitioning to the use of EMV chip and PIN technology. However, during this transition gaps of security create breaches. Awareness needs to be raised to educate the forensic document examiner as to the impact being made regarding the transition to EMV chip and pin technology and its effect on electronic signatures.
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Symposium Registration:
1. Download the
AFDE 2016 Registration Form.
2. Send the completed form with your check to Patti Fisher, D-BFDE at the address on the form
pay by PayPal from the AFDE Website and email the completed form to Patti Fisher at

The Embassy Suites Hotel
9800 Queensway Boulevard
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, 29572

We are meeting Friday (Oct. 28) morning through mid-day Monday (Oct. 31). Our oceanfront hotel will honor AFDE rates three days before and after the Symposium - Reservations must be made by September 28 to get the special AFDE rates and inclusions.

Guest rooms:
Single or Double $139 - tax and resort fee included
* Wi-Fi complimentary
* Parking complimentary
* Cooked-to-order breakfast included
* Manager’s Reception each evening
* 9 swimming pools and a waterpark
* Tennis courts on property
* Golf nearby
* OCEANFRONT with Ocean views from every room.
* Two cafes and two restaurants on site, and others in nearby hotels

QUESTIONS? Contact Lynda Hartwick (573) 964-5159 or Emily Will (919) 556-7414

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Hotel Registration Procedure:
Call (800) 876-0010, option 2 for the Embassy Suites.
Identify yourself as an attendee of the Association of Forensic Document Examiners (AFDE) and use the following SRP code for Embassy: AOF.
Symposium Registration Payment:
Either pay via check, or pay with PayPal
Fees are listed on the Registration form and at the PayPal link.
Transportation: How do I get there?

The closest airport is Myrtle Beach International Airport. Spirit, American, Delta, Air France and KLM Royal Dutch fly there. It is 13 miles from the hotel ($38 by cab). The hotel has a return shuttle for $25 per person, but is not licensed to pick up from the airport. Alternatively, you could fly to Charleston, about an hour away. Charleston is a beautiful historic city - very nice to visit, and you could rent a car from there. For complete information about your visit to Myrtle Beach, go to, and for specifics about Transportation, the page is most helpful.
The Schedule:
Continuing Education Presentations:

Friday, October 28
Registration: 8 AM
Program: 8:30 - 4:30 PM

Saturday, October 29
Program: 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM

Sunday, October 30
Program: 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM

Monday, October 31
Program: 8:30 AM - ~1 PM
Business Meetings and Membership Testing:

Thursday, October 27
AFDE Board of Directors Meeting - Late afternoon meeting
AFDE Membership Testing - Late afternoon

Friday, October 28
AFDE General Business Meeting - directly following presentations
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