Law & Order (1990–2010)
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Myth of Fingerprints 

A fingerprint analyst's error put an innocent man in prison. Detectives discover that this may not have been the only error she has made in favor of prosecutors.


David Platt


Dick Wolf (created by), Terri Kopp (teleplay by) | 2 more credits »


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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Jerry Orbach ... Lennie Briscoe
Jesse L. Martin ... Ed Green
S. Epatha Merkerson ... Anita Van Buren
Sam Waterston ... Jack McCoy
Elisabeth Röhm ... Serena Southerlyn
Dianne Wiest ... Nora Lewin
Diana Scarwid ... Lisa Russo
Jeremy Davidson ... Luke Campbell
James Colby ... Bobby Campbell
David Green David Green ... FBI Agent Foster
Lenny Venito ... Detective Wade
Tara Bast ... Brenda Warren (as Stacey Leigh Ivey)
Joe Maruzzo ... Glenn Edwards
Adam Mucci ... Terry Fullmer
Leslie Hendrix ... Dr. Elizabeth Rodgers


While investigating the murder of an ex-con leads to the revelation that a man who was convicted of a crime ten years ago might be innocent. And it turns out that Van Buren was the lead investigator. They eventually learn that the tech,who said that the fingerprints were that of the suspect, has been deliberately claiming prints sent to her for identification, were positive when in fact they were inconclusive. Written by

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis





Release Date:

14 November 2001 (USA) See more »

Filming Locations:

New York City, New York, USA

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


First on-screen role for Ginnifer Goodwin, who at the time was only 22. She plays the victim's girlfriend during the cold opening. See more »


When discussing samples of fingerprints, a tech mentions 7 of 20 aren't matches. The Assistant DA replies, "that's almost a third" when 7 of 20 is exactly 35%, while a third is 33.333333%. See more »


Luke Campbell: The methodology is based on the premise that no two sets of fingerprints are alike.
Mr. Rowan: Yes, but no one really knows what the error rates are, do they?
Luke Campbell: No.
Mr. Rowan: Which means you can't sit here today and tell us that print is not Campbell's?
Luke Campbell: Well, I don't think it is...
Mr. Rowan: But you cannot absolutely exclude him, can you?
Luke Campbell: No.
See more »


References The Myth of Fingerprints (1997) See more »

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User Reviews

A history of false IDs
20 October 2013 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

The death of a man who nobody is going to mourn leads Jerry Orbach and Jesse Martin on the trail of a homicide of a case long solved. And the investigating officer was none other than S. Eptha Merkessen way back in her undercover days.

Turns out the deceased killed someone in the past and two people went to prison for that crime, one of whom was killed in the joint. The case rested on fingerprint identification and the woman in charge of the police lab, Diana Scarwid did the ID.

It was a false ID and as it turns out she's got a history of that. It will be quite a reach but DA Diane Weist has Sam Waterston charge Scarwid for the murder in prison.

What she did was irresponsible in the extreme. In her defense we learn that fingerprint IDs is not an exact science and one has a lot of latitude. It's also what makes careers for defense lawyers. And Scarwid sees it as her contribution to law and order.

A most thought provoking episode.

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