Fingerprint recognition technology has helped to exonerate a man wrongly convicted of rape and assault, leading to his freedom after 36 years in prison.
The man, Archie Williams, had always insisted he was innocent of the crime, which was committed in a Baton Rouge home in December of 1982. Though there were fingerprints discovered at the crime scene, including near blood stains, that did not match those of Williams, he was ultimately convicted largely on the basis of the victim’s identification of him.
In 1999, Williams requested that prosecutors test the crime scene fingerprints against a national database, but this was rejected by prosecutors at the time. Ten years later, the Baton Rouge district attorney says, officials did test the fingerprints, but failed to find a match.
It took a new judge and an upgraded FBI biometric information system to turn things around. Commissioner Kinasiyumki Kimble ordered further testing this year, and the fingerprints were matched to a serial rapist, Stephen Forbes, who died in prison in 1996.
Forbes had confessed to at least five additional rapes after the Baton Rouge incident for which Williams had been wrongly convicted.
The case illustrates, among other things, the enormous importance of fingerprint biometric technology in forensic investigations, as well as that of the FBI’s Next Generation Identification program, which includes a national fingerprint database used by law enforcement agencies across the country. Biometric forensic technologies continue to improve, which could help to prevent these kinds of false convictions in the future.
Sources: The New York Times, WAFB9
March 22, 2019 – by Alex Perala