Brandon Mayfield

Washington County, Oregon
Date of Crime:  March 11, 2004

(Federal Case)  On March 11, 2004, a number of bombs were detonated on trains in Madrid, Spain, which killed 191 people and injured about 2000 others, including American citizens.  A bag containing detonation caps was found outside a train station through which all the bombed trains had left or had passed through.  On March 17, digital images of fingerprints found on the bag were transmitted to the FBI and run through their AFIS database of fingerprints.  When latent print #17 was run, the database produced 20 possible matches.  FBI Senior Print Examiner Terry Green then manually compared the potential matches and found a 100% match with the fourth ranked print on the AFIS list.  The FBI has long claimed that fingerprint identification is infallible. A top FBI fingerprint official had testified to a “zero error rate.”

Two other FBI print examiners purportedly confirmed Green's match.  The source of the matching print corresponded to the left index finger of an Oregon attorney named Brandon Mayfield.  It is suspected that Mayfield's Muslim religious beliefs and his activities as a lawyer influenced the match.

On April 2, the FBI sent a letter to Spanish authorities reporting the match.  On April 13, the Forensic Science Division of Spanish National Police responded that the purported match was “conclusively negative.”  On April 21, a representative of the FBI Latent Print Unit flew to Madrid and met with ten members of the same Division.

On May 6, the federal government applied for warrants to arrest Mayfield as a material witness and search his home, office, and personal vehicles.  It represented that at the meeting with the Spaniards, the Spaniards felt satisfied with the FBI's print match.  However, that was not the Spaniards' interpretation.  The Spaniards later stated that at the conclusion of the meeting they refused to validate the FBI's finding and maintained there was no match.  The federal government's warrant affidavits also mentioned that Mayfield had represented a Jeffrey Battle in Oct. 2002 in a child custody matter, noting that Battle had been subsequently arrested and convicted as a member of the Portland 7 on federal terrorism charges.

Mayfield was arrested the same day, May 6.  Prior to his arrest, his home had been secretly searched under provisions of the U.S. Patriot Act.  The intruders had aroused his family's suspicion by bolting the wrong lock on the door and leaving a footprint that did not match any family member.  Following Mayfield's arrest, FBI agents seized many personal belongings including what they termed “Spanish documents” – apparently Spanish homework by one of Mayfield's sons.

On May 20 it became known that the Spanish police identified an Algerian as the source of the latent fingerprint.  Mayfield was released the same day.  The FBI then appeared to blame the mismatch on not having the highest resolution of the fingerprint. Subsequently the FBI determined that the print was of “no value for identification purposes.”  This point is difficult to understand since the FBI used it to identify Mayfield, and the Spanish police used it to identify an Algerian.  Evidence indicated that the FBI simply overlooked discrepancies between the fingerprint sent to them and that of Mayfield.  [3/08]


References:  Champion, MSNBC

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Oregon Cases, False Fingerprint Evidence