During the collection process of signature specimens to submit with the questioned signature(s), maximize the comparison process by the following: Collect ‘like’ documents. For example, if a signature was written on a legal document it is preferable to submit signature samples from other legal documents rather than from greeting cards, credit card receipts, etc. Similarly, if a questioned signature is on a check, the best comparison samples would be other checks known to be signed by the account holder. Known signature exemplars should be provided to the forensic document examiner dated as close as possible to the document in question. Comparing a signature on a Will dated in 1995 with a document signed several years before or after, would serve little purpose. An ample quantity, and quality images, of the known signatures submitted provide a better foundation for the examiner to establish the writer’s ‘range of variation’, resulting in a credible, objective opinion.
A common request made to forensic document examiners is to ‘date’ a signature or handwritten entries in a medical file, diary, etc. The dating process is a specialized area requiring the expertise and laboratory instruments of an ink chemist. Ink samples must be taken from the page and the components analyzed to determine the manufacture and date of the inks’ introduction to the market. Because of the physical removal of the ink from the paper (by micro-punches), it is considered a destructive process. However, ink chemists are careful to take the necessary samples and leave an ample amount of ink for a subsequent examination by an opposing chemist. One process used to determine if a ‘self serving’ entry was added to a document, is an analysis of the evaporation rate of ink. Ink recently placed on paper will have a higher evaporation rate than ink placed on the same page several months or years prior. The majority of document examiners do not have the sophisticated laboratory equipment to date ink but will be able to provide the name of a reputable ink chemist.
May 7, 2010 in Advances in Instruments, General Blog by James A. Green | Comments Off on Instrumentation
A properly equipped laboratory will have a a variety of instruments to use during examinations. One that is particularly useful, is the Video Spectral Comparator (VSC), that allows an examiner to compare inks. The VSC relies mainly upon the use of the infrared light spectrum, but has several other useful features. Although inks may visually appear the same to the human eye, differences are often vividly seen when the inks are subjected to the near infrared portion of light waves. The VSC is commonly used to examine alleged alterations of dollar amounts, ledger entries, medical records, etc. It may also be very useful resolving obliteration problems; the over-writing of text or numerals.
An unfortunate reality of a private document examiner’s work, is the number of contested will cases received. Without question, there are more will related cases submitted than other types of documents such as contracts, medical records, anonymous notes, etc. It is unfortunate to see the relationship of family members suffer because of a suspected alteration or fabrication of a will. Forensic document examiners always prefer to have the original will for examination. The provision of the original will may be difficult or impossible because it may be in a court file, in possession of the opposing party, purportedly destroyed, etc. If possible, provide the original or have the examiner travel to the location where the original is located for the examination. If the original is unavailable, provide the examiner with the best copy you have. Provide as many known signature specimens of the decedent as possible, preferably originals and dated close to the date of the will signature. Work with a document examiner to make the signature comparison as successful as possible.