Aafia Siddiqui Trial: Integrity of Evidence In Question

On the third day of testimony in the trial of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman charged with attempted murder of U.S. soldiers, FBI forensic analysts conceded that evidence from the crime scene in Ghazni, Afghanistan was not properly preserved or timely collected.

When cross examining FBI Forensic expert DJ Fife, Aafia Siddiqui’s defense attorney established that evidence arrived for analysis approximately fifteen days after she was shot in Afghanistan.

FBI’s fingerprinting expert had earlier testified that he did not find any finger prints on the M4 rifle, but that in his 6 year experience in the field there is only a 10% chance of obtaining fingerprints from a firearm due to its “non-porous” surface.

Ms. Sharp questioned the testimony of D.J. Fife based on his experience and generally accepted principles in his forensic field – that latent fingerprints are recovered from firearms only about ten percent of the time. She also suggested that Fife’s opinion is not scientifically reliable, and, in the alternative, that his opinion is more unfairly prejudicial than probative “in that it is offered in an attempt to sway the jurors in favor of the Government’s case.”

Fife also talked about the general difficulties inherent in obtaining fingerprints from non-porous surfaces, such as firearms, and specifically that fingerprints are recovered from firearms approximately less than ten percent of the time. He had testified that various factors affect the ability to obtain fingerprints from firearms and other non-porous surfaces, including atmospheric conditions, environmental conditions, perspiration and the nature of the surface itself.

When asked how many guns he has analyzed, FBI expert conceded that his experience was limited around 10 to 20 weapons that he has analyzed. When asked why did he not take pictures of areas where finger prints could have been visible, FBI expert said it was of ‘no value.’

Fife testified that he conducted a series of tests on the M-4 rifle, and that after each step he inspected the rifle for identifiable latent fingerprints. Based on that examination, Fife concluded that no latent prints of value – belonging to the defendant or anyone else — could be identified on the M-4 rifle.

Fife had testified that the physical features of individuals — in this case, the small size of the defendant’s hands and fingers —negatively affect the ability to obtain fingerprints of value from items with which those individuals have been in contact.

Upon cross examination Fife said he had not tested Aafia Siddiqui’s palm and he was not in the position to characterize her hand as ‘small.’

FBI Special Agent Hurly who was tasked to collect evidence told government’s attorney that he left behind parts of M4 rifle because there was a shortage of equipment. He also said that he went back to the crime scene with the Chief Warrant Officer who is suspected of shooting Dr. Aafia Siddiqui in the belly.

When cross examined by Defense attorney Ms. Moreno, Agent Hurly said the delay in collecting evidence was due to logistical problems in the battle ground. “It is not New York City,” he retorted.

When asked why he left behind parts of M4 rifles that were prone to retaining finger prints, Agent Hurly said he made the decision so that an American army personal would be adequately equipped.

Tina Foster of International Justice Network who speaks on behalf of the family told us: “In both the testimony of FBI Agent Fife, and FBI Agent Hurly, we heard how very important and potentially exculpatory evidence was destroyed and/or excluded from their investigation. The government failed to properly secure the gun and all of its parts, the crime scene, and the partial fingerprints pulled from the weapon. Despite the clear import of this case (as evidenced by President Karazi’s involvement), FBI Agent Hurley told us that the investigation did not even begin until one week had passed. Moreover, the investigation itself was anything but unbiased. Those directly involved in the shooting of Dr. Siddiqui were responsible for guiding the investigation of the crime scene.”

Today even the jurors and journalists had to go through the metal detector. A person present at the hearing suggested that metal detectors are creating an impression as if “Aafia Siddiqui is very dangerous or the people who are coming to support her are potential threat.”

Dr. Aafia Siddiqui sat next to her lawyers and did not say a word. Her brother sat four benches behind her.

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