Will West Case (1903)
Photo and caption from Michael Lynch's 2003 article "God's Signature: DNA, profiling, the new gold standard in forensic science" in the science journal Endeavour.
Photo and caption from New York Times 2012 article "Whats in a Name?"
Video from a personal interview with former Honolulu Police Detective Gary Dias, about the racial implications under anthropometry that ended with the Will West Case (2013).
In 1903, newly convicted criminal Will West was taken to the Leavenworth Penitentiary and processed for Bertillon measurements. The record keeper thought he was another registered inmate, leading to the realization of a major flaw in anthropometry.
"From the Bertillon measurements thus obtained, [the record keeper] went to the file, and returned with the card the measurements called for, properly filled out...and bearing the name, “William West.” This card was shown to the prisoner, who grinned in amazement, and said, “That’s my picture, but I don’t know where you got it, for I know I have never been here before.” The record clerk turned the card over, and read the particulars there given, including the statements that this man was already a prisoner at the same institution, having been committed to a life sentence on September 9, 1901, for the crime of murder.
Although the Bertillon measurements of the Wests were nearly indistinguishable, the two men’s fingerprints revealed profound differences, exhibiting fingerprinting's validity.
"Despite the similarity of appearance, of names, and of their Bertillon measurements, the fingerprints of Will West and William West were completely different: an Inside Whorl of 11 ridges (Will) vs. an Invaded Loop with 18 ridges (William)."
Photo from the Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum, Washington, D.C. (1960).