New Lawsuit Opposes Signature-Matching for Michigan Absentee Ballots

In a democracy, fair and honest elections are of the utmost importance. It’s why many states have laws protecting against voter fraud. Yet, many argue that these laws do the opposite of their intended effect, and instead restrict people’s right to vote rather than protect it.

In Michigan, Priorities USA, a progressive advocacy group, has filed a lawsuit claiming that the State’s signature-matching law is unconstitutional and disenfranchises voters.

New Lawsuit Opposes Signature-Matching for Michigan Absentee Ballots

The law requires election officials to reject any absentee ballot whose signature does not match the one that election officials have on-file. While on the surface this seems like a standard measure to prevent voter fraud, in reality, the lawsuit argues, it is “arbitrary and standardless” and causes people’s votes to be thrown out without real cause. This is because a signature may not match for a whole host of innocent reasons, including age, illness, injury, pen type, ink type, writing surface, etc.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, the suit claims that the law the does not require election officials to undergo any training in handwriting analysis.

“In fact,” the suit continues, “no one really knows how Michigan election officials decide whether a signature or an absentee ballot or ballot application is sufficiently similar to the previously designated signature to withstand scrutiny.”

In addition to the questionable expertise of those examining the signatures, the lawsuit also argues that there are few ways for voters to challenge the decision made by the election officials. “State law provides no mechanism by which voters whose ballots are wrongfully discarded for alleged signature mismatches may challenge that determination or cure their rejected ballots or absentee ballot applications.”

The defendant in the case, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, has made no official comment to the lawsuit at this time.

Voter fraud is a serious allegation, which is why it must be examined by expert forensic document examiners. Here at Drexler Document Laboratory, we bring decades of experience to any forensic document examination case, including suspected ballot fraud. Contact us today at 844-373-9522 to learn more about our services.

Historic Handwriting Analysis Finds Da Vinci Was Ambidextrous

Leonardo da VinciArt historians have long suspected that although Leonardo da Vinci primarily used his left hand, he was in fact ambidextrous, meaning that he could write, draw and paint with both hands.

Now, researchers at Florence’s Uffizi Gallery report that they have found evidence to prove this theory, based on historic handwriting analysis. The research team studied da Vinci’s earliest surviving work, a drawing of the Arno River completed in 1473 when the artist was just 21.

The drawing has two inscriptions: one on the front and one on the back. The inscription on the front is written in da Vinci’s signature “mirror writing” from right to left. Art historians have theorized that he wrote this way using his left hand to avoid smudging the ink.

However, the inscription on the back of the drawing is written in the more ordinary left-to-right style, and the researchers believe that da Vinci used his right hand to write it.

While the two forms of writing display some differences due to the use of different hands, they have numerous key features in common, which indicate that they were both written by Leonardo.

According to art historian Cecilia Frosinini, “Leonardo was born left-handed, but he was ‘reeducated’ at a very early age to use the right hand. From an observation of his handwriting, including the inscriptions on this drawing, it is clear that his writing as a right-hander was both cultivated and well-formed.”

However, later in life da Vinci may have lost the use of his right hand due to nerve damage.

At Drexler Document Laboratory, we’re proud to operate full-service laboratory offering experienced forensic document and handwriting analysis for both individuals and businesses involved in civil or criminal investigations. To learn more, feel free to give us a call at our toll-free number or contact us online today!

Were These Two Letters Authored by George Washington?

If you’ve been following my blog, you may remember that I was once tasked with attempting to identify the author of an anonymous letter that sparked a major scandal involving two high-profile American political figures during the 19th century. These historical investigations are always interesting, and they occasionally involve some very well-known individuals.

Several years ago, for example, I was approached by a client who asked me to confirm the authorship of two letters that had purportedly been signed by George Washington.

This investigation ultimately sought to answer two key questions: Were the signatures authentic, and was Washington the author of the letters as well? I began by studying the signatures and comparing them to known examples of George Washington’s signature.

George Washington Signatures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Based on the overwhelming consistencies between the signatures in question and known George Washington signatures, I concluded that there is a strong probability that the letters were, in fact, signed by our nation’s first president. Whether or not the letters were actually authored by him, however, is a matter of debate.

George Washington Text

 

 

 

 

 

Washington was not known for being a very skilled penman, and was even so embarrassed by his handwriting that he would sometimes spend hours practicing his penmanship and re-writing old documents that he was dissatisfied with. Based on this historical detail and my analysis of the handwriting in the two letters, George Washington could not be the author of the full text of these documents.

Instead, it’s possible that the letters were written by an aide and then signed by Washington after the fact. I then attempted to identify the author of the document text by comparing the text to other historic documents handwritten by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton and a few known penmen employed by Hamilton. Comparisons revealed that all but one of Hamilton’s penmen could be eliminated, but he could not be identified. Unfortunately, to this date the true penmen remains a mystery.

Unraveling the History of Two Mysterious Metal Trunks

Metal Trunks

Although forensic document examiners often work with pen and paper, we’re sometimes recruited to analyze markings and impressions on other objects as well. Such is the case with two metal trunks that a client brought to me several years ago. The client’s father received the trunks soon after the Korean War, with no explanation as to their purpose or history. Decades later, his son hoped my expertise in forensic analysis might help him get to the bottom of this mystery.

At first glance it was clear that these trunks were designed and built with a specific purpose in mind, but the exact nature of that purpose was unclear. There was even evidence that the trunks could be pressurized.

I began my investigation by studying any legible markings I could find on the outside surfaces of the trunks. The most significant markings were two stamp impressions that read “BZ-51” and “Inspected and Accepted.”

Stamp ImpressionsI also used my infamous “dog food can apparatus” to enhance and study additional ineligible markings on the trunks. This apparatus—which serves as a DIY alternative to video spectral comparator (VSC) devices—uses a modified dog food can and blue/green corning filter affixed to a Kodak Carousel slide projector to detect infrared luminescence, thereby making the faded lettering legible again. 

After studying all the impressions on the trunks, I made a surprising discovery.

The “BZ-51” and “Inspected and Accepted” stamps are the same impressions that were placed on the Manhattan Project’s detonators and weapons fusing assembly cartridges for “Little Boy,” the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima at the end of World War II.

Additional research revealed that the trunks were built and loaded at Los Alamos before being sent to Hunters Point Naval Base where they were picked up by the Heavy Cruiser Indianapolis. They were then placed in a detonators locker and transported to the B-29 Air Force Base at Tinian Island.

Even after all my years in forensic analysis, I never could have imagined that these seemingly ordinary trunks could have such a fascinating history. To learn more any of the services we offer at Drexler Document Laboratory, feel free to give us a call or contact us online today!

Identifying the Source of a Series of Threatening Messages

As a forensic document examiner, I’m sometimes tasked with verifying the identity of a person who would rather remain anonymous. In 2016, for example, the owner of a small bar in South Central Alabama contacted me after receiving a series of threatening phone calls, text messages and emails from a disgruntled patron.

The proprietor of the establish suspected that the culprit might be a pair of brothers who had recently been banned from the property for harassing other patrons and exhibiting violent drunken behavior. My client began receiving the threatening messages soon after these brothers were permanently ejected from the bar.

After a few months, when their threatening messages failed to produce the desired result, the suspected culprits decided to up the ante. At this point, my client received a very sinister-looking jawbone in the mail, which was inscribed with cryptic messages and bound with torn scraps of childrens’ pajamas. This jawbone gave me the handwriting sample I needed to determine whether or not the brothers were behind this disturbing pattern of harassment.

By comparing the inscriptions on the bone to limited handwriting standards from the two brothers, I was able to eliminate the younger brother as the culprit. There are indications, however, that the older brother was a likely source of the writing on the jawbone. Based on this evidence, it’s likely that my client’s suspicions were quite correct.  

Interested in learning more about how forensic handwriting analysis can help you get to the bottom of a difficult case? Give Drexler Document Lab a call or contact us online today to get started.

Who Authored the Letter That Sparked a 19th-Century American Scandal?

On February 27, 1859 Philip Barton Key sat on a bench outside the home of his mistress Teresa Sickles and signaled his arrival. Key was the son of famed author Francis Scott Key, and a lawyer who served as U.S Attorney for the District of Columbia. He also had a reputation for rakish behavior and was widely regarded as the handsomest man in Washington. Teresa Sickles, meanwhile, was the wife of congressman Daniel Sickles of New York.

Key’s affair with Sickles began in the spring of 1858, but it would come to an abrupt halt on that fateful day in February 1859.

Earlier that Week, Daniel Sickles received an anonymous letter describing the details of Key’s affair with his wife. On the afternoon of the 27th, Sickles was lying in wait to catch Key in the act. Upon seeing Key on the bench outside his home, Sickles dashed outside and cried, “Key, you scoundrel, you have dishonored my home. You must die!” Sickles then fired multiple pistol shots a Key, inflicting grievous wounds that left him dead just a few hours later.

Following a lengthy and highly-controversial trial, Sickles was acquitted of the murder of Philip Barton Key based on grounds of temporary insanity. This was the first time the temporary insanity defense was employed successfully in the United States. It’s also worth noting that Sickles’ defense attorney was Edwin M. Stanton, who would go on to serve as Secretary of War for President Abraham Lincoln.

Although the murder case was closed long ago, the author of the letter that alerted Sickles to the affair remains a mystery. In an attempt to establish authorship of the letter, I compared it to writing samples of the four primary suspects: Samuel Butterworth, Stephen D. Beekman, Rose O’Neal and Henry Wikoff.       

It was a challenging examination process, due in large part to the fact that I was limited to digitally-scanned documents which lack the detail of original documents. Despite these challenges, I was able to analyze common writing habits like letterforms, spacings, slant and connecting strokes to determine that none of the four suspected authors were the source of the letter. Thus, the letter must have been written by a fifth suspect who has yet to be identified. For now, the source of this letter remains one of the most enduring mysteries in American history.

Autographed Sports Memorabilia Isn’t Always What it Seems

Baseball in GloveFor a diehard sports fan, there’s no better gift than a piece of autographed memorabilia from their favorite athlete. Thanks to online marketplaces like eBay, it’s easier than ever to find autographed uniforms, balls and other equipment from some of the world’s most iconic sports figures. Unfortunately, however, the sports memorabilia market also harbors enormous potential for fraud.

It’s very easy for scammers to find an image of an athlete’s signature online, copy it and apply it to a jersey or photograph. Sometimes, signed pieces of sports memorabilia come with “certificates of authenticity,” but even these can be forged with relative ease. If someone is willing to go to the trouble of forging an athlete’s signature, you can bet they won’t have any qualms about making a fake certificate as well.

Last year, one such fraudster was taken into custody twice after being accused of operating a $10 million scheme that involved selling fake sports memorabilia to investors. He was first arrested in March, and then again in November when authorities found he was continuing to sell fake sports memorabilia even after taking a plea deal. Now, prosecutors are seeking a prison term of at least 11 years for his alleged crimes.

So how can you avoid falling victim to one of these scams?

As a general rule of thumb, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be sure to take those certificates of authenticity with a grain of salt as well. Whenever possible, buy sports memorabilia from reputable dealers rather than individual vendors you find on the Internet. Even if a seller has positive reviews on eBay, it doesn’t necessarily mean their goods are authentic.

If you suspect you may have already purchased a fraudulent piece of sports memorabilia, you maybe be able to take legal action against the seller. First, however, you must obtain proof that the item was forged, and that the seller knew it was forged when they sold it to you. At Drexler Document Laboratory, our forgery experts can analyze autographed sports memorabilia to verify its authenticity once and for all. Give us a call or contact us online today to learn more.

How Handwriting Can Make or Break a Case

How Handwriting Can Make or Break a CaseHandwriting is something that many people take for granted, but there are many cases where it is important to discovering the truth about a hand-written document. In some cases, handwriting can even have an impact on a case, even swaying a court’s decision. Let’s look at a prime example of how handwriting can make or break a case.

Written documentation is important in many civil and criminal cases. While many documents are now generated electronically, many are also still created the “old fashioned” way with a pen and paper. In one recent criminal case from the U.K., handwriting turned out to be critical to the defense.

A man in Bedfordshire, England was charged in 2001 with trespassing in search of game after he and another man were spotted on private land. According to reporting from the BBC, the police officer prepared a written report in the case that accused the man of illegally coursing for hare. At the trial, the accused man’s attorney argued to the court that the police officer’s handwriting on the report was so poor that he was unable to read it to prepare a defense. The court agreed with the defense attorney, and ruled that the illegible handwriting on the report resulted in a breach of the defendant’s human rights. The police department later said that they had never before encountered a case like this.

While this criminal case may be a bit unusual, it does highlight the importance of handwriting and its role in many court cases. While sheer illegibility is certainly a rare exception, handwriting comes into focus more commonly in cases of forgery or questioned documents. Hand-written notes and copy plays a role in many legal cases, and in many instances, it is essential that documents are analyzed and examined by a properly trained document examiner.

At Drexler Document Laboratory, we provide a variety of expert services, including document forgery detection, handwriting comparison, and analysis and examination of questioned documents. We provide assistance in civil, criminal and private inquiries. Contact us today by calling 844-373-9522 to discuss your case.

Documented Evidence: The Role of Document Examination in the Lindbergh Baby Case

Back in September 1934, a man named Richard Hauptmann was arrested and charged with first-degree murder for killing Charles Lindbergh Jr., the oldest son of famous aviator Charles Lindbergh and his wife, Anne. The following January, Hauptmann was put on trial for the murder of the young boy, and after a monthlong trial, he was found guilty and sentenced to the death penalty. Hauptmann’s trial was referred to as the “Trial of the Century” at the time, and while there were plenty of scandalous details surrounding it, document examination is what ultimately played a key role in Hauptmann receiving a guilty verdict at the end of the court proceedings.

Handwriting in Court CasesShortly after the Lindbergh’s baby disappeared in March 1932, the Lindbergh family received a series of ransom notes demanding money in exchange for the return of the child. There were a dozen or more ransom notes in total and several other written correspondences between the suspected kidnapper and the Lindberghs. Many of these documents can be seen on investigator Jim Fisher’s website.

During Hauptmann’s trial, document examiner Albert S. Osborn was able to determine that all of the ransom notes had been written by the same person. Osborn was able to obtain a few documents written by Hauptmann independently, but he also requested dictated writing samples that were carefully constructed to offer insight on certain character formations that could be used to clearly tie the ransom notes to Hauptmann. In addition, some of the misspellings and grammatical errors that were present in the letters ware repeated in Hauptmann’s own personal correspondence, while distinctive inversions of certain letters that marked his handwriting style.

Hauptmann’s handwriting was also a hot topic during the investigation into the Lindbergh baby’s death. Police asked him to rewrite the ransom notes that had been sent and also had him write out other statements in an effort to prove that he had indeed written the original notes. Unfortunately, police were unable to conclude much from the handwriting analysis that was done because they incorrectly asked him to copy the notes and also spelled certain words out correctly for him. However, Osborn’s work in tying Hauptmann’s writing to the random notes through document examination was still viewed as one of the central pieces of evidence against him and is often touted as some of the most compelling evidence that resulted in his conviction.

Document examination can play a major part in all kinds of different legal cases. If your case involves a contested signature or other handwritten evidence, you should call the experts at Drexler Document Laboratory. We can verify, authenticate, or investigate documents with questionably authentic writing, and our determinations are legally admissible in both civil and criminal court actions. As the Lindbergh baby trial proved, testimony offered by document examiners in court can be used to strengthen a case, and it could even be a deciding factor for your situation.

Learn more about handwriting analysis and examination services available for your case from Drexler Document Laboratory by calling us at 844-373-9522 today.

Honest, Fair Elections: How FDE Helped the Government Successfully Prosecute Voter Fraud

Voter fraud is a recurring news topic, particularly during election seasons. While voter fraud allegations and concerns may often seem to be a partisan issue, the reality is that it amounts to a crime against all citizens. Honest, fair elections are an essential component of our democracy and a hallmark of the voting process. Forensic document is well-known for aiding in civil and criminal cases, but in one case, it was the vital evidence needed to reveal disenfranchisement and voter fraud.

Election FraudThe year was 1994, and as National Review reports, the citizens of rural Greene County, Alabama were preparing to vote in an election. As it turned out, several county and Eutaw city political races were close contests. In more than one race, an incumbent was in danger of being voted out of office.

The tax assessor was the first to publicly raise concerns about the abnormal number of absentee ballots in the 1994 election. There were about 7,700 registered voters in Greene County at the time, and more than 4,800 voted in person on Election Day. The margin on several political races was razor thin based on in-person votes, but more than 1,400 absentee ballots had been cast in this election – absentee ballots that helped to shift the outcomes of several of the races.

The initial concerns about election fraud centered around these absentee ballots, many of which – more than 1,000 – had been delivered to the local post office by just five individuals on election night. In addition, the high number of absentee ballots totaled more than one-third of all votes cast in Greene County, a percentage that was significantly above historical trends in both the county and the state of Alabama.

The subsequent investigation revealed that a number of local elected officials, their spouses and other government employees had been involved in a conspiracy to cast fraudulent absentee ballots. Following the investigation, two of the accused were found guilty at trial and nine others entered guilty pleas.

Forensic document examination is a vital tool for discovering the truth in many different situations. In the Greene County election fraud case, forensic document examination helped prosecutors build solid criminal cases against those who would thwart democracy. Through the analysis of signatures of victim voters on corresponding absentee ballot applications and absentee ballots, the handwriting of witnesses on absentee ballots, and interviews of the victim voters, a pattern of blatant voter fraud was revealed. As a result, however, reforms were made, turnouts at elections improved and honest and fair elections were restored to the county.

Drexler Document Lab brings decades of experience to any forensic document examination case, including suspected ballot fraud. Contact us today at 844-373-9522 to learn how our services can help with your case.