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Questioned Documents

by: Jay Breakstone, Esq.

All of us have seen court cases in the movies and on television in which someone is caught by an analysis of his or her handwriting. Indeed, handwriting analysis, or the examination of “questioned documents,” as they Handwriting Analysis Used in Lindbergh Kidnappingare called, has been used in many famous cases, such as the Lindbergh kidnapping in 1923 and the murder of JonBenet Ramsey in 1996.

Handwriting analysis is also used civil cases to tell whether the signature on a will or an historical document is authentic. In many cases, it’s not only the handwriting that is examined, but the paper and ink as well. That’s what decided whether diaries offered by a publisher in 1983 were really those of Adolf Hitler. The handwriting had been forged perfectly, but the paper and ink the diaries were written on showed that they could not have been written by Hitler.

This morning, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that handwriting analysis would continue to be admissible in courts. The court referred to a 2009 report which found that while DNA was the only consistently reliable forensic method, handwriting analysis was well-established in the scientific community and continued to be valuable to courts and juries.