Opinion: Prosecutors Hope New Study of Handwriting Analysis Will Silence Skeptics

Dr. Mozelle Martin

A former student of mine was going through old files and found this today. She emailed it to me and I was so impressed that I decided to use it as today's article. Here is the original New York Times article.

In 2002, the New York Times published an article detailing how the first investigative discipline specifically developed to help courts resolve disputes is the science of handwriting analysis. During the last century, Judges accepted it uncritically for cases such as contested wills, ransom notes, and forged checks. However, in the last decade, federal courts have grown increasingly skeptical.

Personally, I believe this occurred due to there being no federal agency to oversee the integrity of the science such as that of behavior health or other forensic disciplines. I think the reason there is no federal oversight is due to a mistake that was made in the 1800s. I'll share that in a bit.

The Times article went on to state that prosecutors are using a new computer-based program to restore the credibility of handwriting analysis as an investigative tool.

Under the 1993 Supreme Court decision known as Daubert, judges are routinely called upon to decide large concerns about the validity of handwriting analysis, DNA, fingerprints, hair samples, ballistics, and other disciplines.

Critics of handwriting analysis compare it to phrenology and astrology but proponents say that will change with the new study that appeared in the Journal of Forensic Sciences in July 2002.

Sargur N. Srihari, Professor of Computer Science at the State University of New York in Buffalo said, "the study was by far the most comprehensive effort to prove one of the premises underlying handwriting analysis and that is, we provided that everyone's handwriting is truly unique and therefore accurately identifiable. Although it's not the 99.9% result as in DNA testing, we'll take the 98% confidence level."

I agree with the study that human analysts should be studied for accuracy as well. The issue is that, unless they assure those analysts they choose to study are significant in the field, it wouldn't support the accuracy. It's important that the analysts used didn't just learn from a library book, are simply hobbyists or under-trained, and that did not learn by unreputable means. The unethical analysts or those who lack training or integrity would throw off the results and further destroy the reputation of this field. It truly would be unfair to the actual experts.

Now as promised, this is why the United States falls far behind Europe and largely doesn't believe in the science of handwriting analysis. It was a shyster who conned someone over a financial deal and we're still paying the price today.

Allow me to explain...

In 1715, France because very interested in this subject during the reign of Louis XIV, when a graphologist read the King's handwriting without knowing it was his. The King's foibles and vices were so faithfully pointed out and publicly identified to him, that the King imprisoned the graphologist, threatening to behead him due to his embarrassment.

Because of the fame of the field, in 1830, Abbe Michon and Crepieux-Jamin started the first systematic study of handwriting and personality. After founding Societe Graphologique in 1871, Michon published the results of their long-term study. Jamin then rapidly published a series of books and, starting from Michon's integrative approach, Jamin started a holistic approach to graphology.

In December 1868, a meeting was held in Paris that would be of crucial importance for the future of the field. Adolphe Desbarrolles was an eminent chirologist (palm reader) who had tried unsuccessfully in every way possible to develop a method of analyzing handwriting to use with his palm reading. He was introduced to Michon at the meeting by de Saulcy, who was the head of the archaeological expedition in the Middle East.

Michon participated in the expeditions and it was shared with Desbarrolles that Michon had a fully formed method of analyzing handwriting that was successful for many years.

Desbarrolles persuaded Michon to publish his method and agreed to finance the publication. Michon stated repeatedly and adamantly that he did not want the handwriting analysis field to become intertwined with palm reading. The full name of the essay was L'Ecriture and included typographical and archaeological notes. Included in the publication was the Syllabus of Errors, a papal denunciation of 80 modern opinions that contradicted the Catholic faith. It was considered by society, government, and the church as an all-out war against the ideas of the time including liberalism, socialism, rationalism, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech.

This went on to demand a separation of church and state. Last in the Syllabus of Errors was the idea that the Roman Pontiff should reconcile himself and come to terms with progress, liberalism, and modern civilization.

Michon was appalled and very upset by this as Desbarrolles had misled and conned him about the intention of the publication.

It soon transpired that Michon and Desbarrolles had a difference of opinion and Michon was further upset that Desbarrolles was using his handwriting analysis findings and skills inappropriately. Desbarrolles, against Michon's permission, combined palm reading with graphology and threatened to sue Michon should he continue to be upset. Despite Michon's strong objections to mixing occultism with graphology, he had no money and was forced to keep quiet.

Michon then decided to dissolve the relationship with Desbarrolles and devoted himself to correcting the unethical means of Desbarrollees and fixing the damage that was done to the reputation of the handwriting analysis field.

On November 24, 2871, Michon held his first public meeting in Parison in which he presented his discovery and again strived to fix the reputation. This caused an influx in the interest and he was asked to travel to all the large European towns to talk about this situation and science.

In the following years, Michon published two books that showed his fully evolved method of analysis. In 1875, it was Systeme de grapholgie and in 1878, it was Methode pratique de graphologie. Then in 1879, Histoire de Napoleon d'apres son ecriture was published in which he shared an in-depth analysis of the handwriting of young Napoleon. The results were so shocking that the government's faith in the science was renewed as was the reputation of handwriting analysis throughout Europe.

While Europe has recognized its benefits ever since, including using it for hiring decisions. Unfortunately, many in the United States consider the science of handwriting analysis to be a parlor trick even though the Library of Congress has it classified under Applied Psychology.

Perhaps had Michon not died before spreading the news to this country, it would be more accepted today.

What do you think?

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Oh, and you may also like Clinical Graphology.


This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. This content should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

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35-Year Forensic Handwriting & Body Language Expert @ ColdCaseFoundation.org

Lubbock, TX

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