The Impact of Forensic Handwriting Analysis

forensics Expert forensic handwriting analysts closely examine class characteristics from a writer’s writing system and their individual characteristics to identify criminals and verify document authenticity. Comparing known specimens written by an identified person, the “exemplar,” are judged against differences and similarities in similar words or letter combinations. There have been a number of criminals suspected, caught and convicted based on nothing more than a forensic handwriting analysis.
Jack the Ripper
Though never caught nor convicted, Jack the Ripper was supposedly found out in 2002 by one Patricia Cornwell. Having committed his murders in the 1880’s and having probably died toward the end of the 19th century or beginning of the 20th century, there would be no conviction for some of the most notorious murders in modern history.
Regardless, a detailed analysis of handwriting identified the Ripper as artist Walter Sickert. An artist having painted countless disturbing and morbid portraits and landscapes- one even entitled “Jack the Ripper’s Bedroom”- Sickert was always a suspect. But having compared his found writings to the notes left at every crime scene by Jack himself, Cornwell determined a positive match. Sickert’s disturbing psychological profile was also very convincing.
Clifford Irving
An investigative reporter and novelist, Clifford Irving was a talented writer. In the early 1970’s, Irving expressed interest writing an “autobiography” on the eccentric life of millionaire, Howard Hughes. Yes you read that correctly; Irving wanted to write Howard Hughes’ autobiography (something people are supposed to write themselves).
Because Hughes was a complete recluse, not in the public eye whatsoever, Irving and a friend decided they could probably get away with the scam very easily. McGraw-Hill, Life magazine and Dell Publications had paid over $1 million to publish excerpts of the book. But a firm of handwriting experts, who originally botched an analysis, determined writing samples submitted for the autobiography draft were false. This, combined with a teleconference with Hughes himself, was enough to try and convict Irving and his cohorts for conspiracy to defraud through use of the mails.
Son of Sam
A handwritten letter left at a crime scene addressed to NYPD Captain Joseph Borrelli brought down the Son of Sam Killer, who terrorized New York City in the summer of 1977. It revealed the name “Son of Sam” for the first time, expressed his disrespect toward the police and his intent to keep killing. But it also was valuable in profiling David Berkowitz and confirming he was the murderer. He was initially detained after his Ford Galaxy was confirmed in the area of a Son of Sam signature shooting.
The Lindbergh Kidnapping
After 20 month old Charles Lindbergh Jr was abducted in March of 1932, authorities tracked bills used to pay the ransom money to an area close to the Bruno Hauptmann residence. Though he denied everything, evidence suggested he was the kidnapper and he was subsequently convicted 2 ½ years later and executed in 1936. Combined with material used to build a makeshift ladder to commit the crime found in Hauptmann’s house, testimony from handwriting analysts was fundamental to the case against him. His writing was an uncanny match to that scrawled on the ransom notes.

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