Meeting the Daubert Challenge: A Bibliography of Handwriting Articles for the Forensic Document Examiner

Article excerpt


In 1993 the United States Supreme Court decision in the case of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., set forth a nonexclusive list of criteria for judges to use when determining whether the testimony of a proffered expert is reliable. One of these criteria is whether the theory or technique that the expert is offering has been subjected to peer review and publication. According to the court, "[p]ublication (which is but one element of peer review) is not a sine qua non of admissibility; it does not necessarily correlate with reliability ... But submission to the scrutiny of the scientific community is a component of 'good science,' in part because it increases the likelihood that substantive flaws in methodology will be detected" (Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc., 1993, p. 11). Additionally, the publication, presentation, and peer review of theories and techniques relied upon by a particular discipline go a long way in securing general acceptance for that discipline in the relevant scientific community, another of the factors set forth by the court in Daubert. To indicate that there has been considerable peer review, this paper offers a limited bibliography about handwriting and the basis for its examination and identification.


The examination of questioned handwriting is an expertise that has been provided by major federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies for almost 100 years. During this time, handwriting examination testimony has been accepted in court on a regular basis. Recently, however, as a result of the 1993 Daubert decision, the 1999 Kumho decision (Kumho Tire Company v. Patrick Carmichael, 1999), and a series of law review articles by three law professors, forensic document examiners have had the reliability of their testimony challenged in the courtroom. These challenges usually take one of two forms: either that there is no basis for the premise that handwriting is unique to the individual, or that document examiners do not possess an expertise that assists the trier of fact.

This bibliography contains articles that address these issues, including the individuality of handwriting, twin studies, the physiology of handwriting, the frequency of occurrence of characteristics, and the proficiency of document examiners. This bibliography is not intended to be all-inclusive; however, it should serve as a good starting point for forensic document examiners at all levels of experience for training, research, and preparation for courtroom testimony.


Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 US, 579 (1993).

Kumho Tire Company v. Patrick Carmichael, 526 US, 137 (1999).


Armistead, T. Issues in the identification of handprinting: A case study in anonymous death threats, Journal of Police Science and Administration (1984) 12:81-98.

Askov, E., Otto, W., and Askov, W. A decade of research in handwriting progress and prospect, Journal of Educational Research (1970) 64:100-111.

Baxendale, D. and Renshaw, I. D. The large-scale searching of handwriting samples, Journal of the Forensic Science Society (1979) 19:245-251.

Beacom, M. Handwritings by the Dionne Quintuplets at the Age of Sixteen. Presented at the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners, Rochester, New York, 1979.

Beacom, M. S. A study of handwritings by twins and other persons of multiple births, Journal of Forensic Sciences (1960) 5:121-131.

Bensefia, A., Nosary, A., Paquet, T., and Heutte, L. Writer Identification by Writer's Invariants. Presented at the Eighth International Workshop on Frontiers in Handwriting Recognition, Ontario, Canada, 2002.

Berthold, N. N. Principle Number One, Uno, Eins. Presented at the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners, Chicago, Illinois, 1995.

Berthold, N. N. and Wooton, E. X. …