Posted on 23 January 2010 by Ibrahim Sajid Malick
Two FBI experts who testified last week in high profile trial of Dr.Aafia Siddqui in New York conceded that there were no finger prints on the M4 rifle, and it is not certain that the rifle was even fired.
Aafia Siddiqui is accused of snatching the Chief Warrant Officer’s M4 Assault Rifle and firing it at him and other United States officers and employees in Ghazni, Afghanistan on July 18, 2008.
These alleged actions are the key of the government’s case against Dr. Siddiqui
for attempted murder and assault.
If Dr. Siddiqui did not pick up the M4 assault rifle and did not point and shoot it at the Americans in the room at the headquarters of the Afghan National Police (ANP) on July 18, 2009, then she is actually innocent of the charges or, at the very least, there is reasonable doubt that Dr. Siddiqui committed any of the crimes with which she is charged.
We learned last week that Dr. Siddiqui’s fingerprints were not on the M4 rifle that she is alleged to have grabbed and fired at the warrant officer and others.
To counter the absence of fingerprint, which is mostly used as “the powerful forensic, exculpatory fact” the Government presented FBI expert D.J. Fife to explain that it is not uncommon to find no finger prints.
During his testimony Mr. Fife testified that no latent fingerprints were recovered from the M-4 rifle that Dr. Siddiqui allegedly grabbed from the Chief Warrant Officer and explained the general difficulties inherent in obtaining fingerprints from firearms. He also testified that fingerprints are recovered from firearms approximately less than ten percent of the time.
FBI expert Fife testified about various factors that affect the ability to obtain fingerprints from firearms, including atmospheric conditions, environmental conditions, perspiration, and the surfaces of firearms.
He also testified about various physical features of individuals that can affect the ability of a fingerprint examiner to obtain fingerprints of value.
It was his position that Dr. Siddiqui has very small hands and fingers, which negatively affect the ability to obtain fingerprints of value from items with which she has been in contact.
During cross examination when defense attorney Ms. Sharp asked Mr. Fife if he has ever tested Dr. Siddiqui’s palm, he replied in negative which led to next logical question as to how he know if he she has small hands. FBI agent Fife was agreed that many his assertions were not ‘scientific’.
Defense attorney Sharp also established that evidence arrived for analysis approximately twenty days after she was shot in Afghanistan.
Citing a study (Barnum Study) which was conducted nearly fifteen years FBI’s expert had earlier testified that 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.”
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 Dr. Siddiqui or anyone else — could be identified on the M-4 rifle.
Second key FBI expert Carlo Rosati Carlo Rosati, who testified on the fourth day of the high trial of Dr. Aafia Siddqui conceded that he cannot say with certainty that any shots were fired from the M4 rifle.
Rosati’s testimony included descriptions of his observations and his knowledge of firearms, bullet trajectories, and crime scene analyses.
The Prosecution tried to establish Rosati as an expert based on his vast personal experience in his fields, particularly the behavior of bullets when fired in various circumstances and the need to preserve crime scenes for proper analysis and testing.
Rosati testified that the firearms he examined in this case — the 9-mm pistol that the Chief Warrant Officer used to shoot the defendant and the M-4 rifle that the defendant allegedly used to attempt to kill U.S. officers — were operable and functioning at the time of testing.
He said that based on his examination, one 9-mm bullet and two 9-mm cartridge cases recovered at the crime scene were fired from the Chief Warrant Officer’s 9-mm pistol. He also testified that he examined a curtain obtained from the crime scene for the presence of gunshot residue, but none was found.
He then testified regarding various scenarios that can occur when a bullet fired from an M-4 rifle strikes a solid surface. He said that bullets from an M-4 rifle travels at a very high rate of speed, and can explode or fragment upon impacting hard surfaces, or can penetrate other surfaces.
Based on the texture and content of the debris that he examined in this case, he testified that a bullet fired from an M-4 rifle into a wall comprised of this material might shatter or fragment.
However, upon cross examination he conceded key element of the bullet – a steel tip that penetrates the target never fragments and should have remained intact.
During cross examination Defense Attorney Charles Swift asked the FBI expert if he was certain that the one 9-mm bullet and two 9-mm cartridge cases recovered at the crime scene were fired from the Chief Warrant Officer’s 9-mm pistol. FBI expert Rosati categorically said, “Yes”.
When asked if he is certain an M-4 was ever shot at the crime scene, the FBI expert responded in negative.
The FBI expert also agreed that there was no evidence that Dr. Aafia Siddiqui fired an M4 rifle. He agreed that if a bullet fired from M4 rifle penetrated the wall, as alleged by the government, it would have been found. He said he had examined the debris of the wall and did not find any evidence that would lead him to believe that a bullet penetrated the wall.
Rosati also agreed with the defense attorney that no gun shot residue was found on the curtain, which was allegedly within six inches of the M4 when it was fired.
But there is a whole slew of exculpatory evidence in this case: Dr. Siddiqui’s DNA was not found on the M4 rifle; no bullets, casing or shrapnel of any kind from the M4 rifle were found in the quite small enclosed space where Dr. Siddiqui was alleged to have fired this firearm; in fact, there is no indication that investigators even attempted to test the M4 rifle at issue to see if it has been fired at the time of the incident at or around July 18, 2008.
The trial will resume Monday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher La Vigne categorically told District Judge Richard Berman in New York Monday that a Pakistani woman accused of assaulting FBI agents is not being accused of terrorism, or having any ties with terrorist organizations including al-Qaeda or Taliban.
Government’s lawyer argued that the material allegedly found on Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s possession should be allowed as evidence to "provide context to these events."
Defense attorney Linda Moreno argued that testimony and evidence from Siddiqui's capture in Afghanistan the day before the shooting should not be included in the trial.
Prosecutors allege she was carrying a list naming the Stature of Liberty and other New York landmarks, and notes about chemical and biological weapons.
Defense attorney argued that there were no fingerprints or other forensic evidence that can prove that her client even picked up the weapon. "We're saying she simply didn't do it," the lawyer said. Defense said the jury should only consider whether Siddiqui's client fired a weapon - not her motive.
As she entered the court, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui looked at her brother present in the court and said, "They are not my attorneys. I have fired them many times."
When leaving the court she said, “this is an international case. It should be tried in the International court.”
The U.S. government has accused Dr. Aafia Siddiqi of grabbing a U.S. Army officer's rifle during an interrogation in Afghanistan in July 2008 and exchanging gunfire with U.S. soldiers and FBI agents.
In Pakistan, her sister Fauzia Siddiqui told High Court last week her sister was not arrested from Afghanistan but by the previous Pakistani regime of General Pervez Musharaf on March 30, 2003, along with her three children from Karachi and handed her over to the United States. Only one of her kids have been returned so far.
Trial Begins But Where are the Children? By Ibrahim Sajid Malick
During the pre-trial hearing Dr. Siddiqui appeared in a complete veil, unusual for her according to family members. here
The intelligence factory: How America makes its enemies disappear
By Petra Bartosiewicz