# Freshwater: DIY Handwriting Analysis

In my recent post on testimony on December 30 I noted that Freshwater’s attorney, R. Kelly Hamilton, engaged in some theatrics about an exhibit introduced by the Board’s attorney, characterizing it as a forgery. I also described some of the similarities in the writing on two documents. One is a copy of an article on building tall structures decorated with handwritten comments about the Tower of Babel, found in Freshwater’s classroom. The other is a lesson plan written by Freshwater in 2006 and introduced by his attorney as an exhibit. Freshwater testified that the handwriting on the lesson plan was his.

I’ve put scans of the relevant portions of both documents on the web, and I invite readers to make their own comparisons. Note that when one clicks on one or the other document there is a button towards the top right of the screen to magnify the displayed document.

For reference the similarities I noted earlier are below the fold.

1. The trailing leg of the capital “R” is noticeably extended to the right, tracing a significantly ‘flatter’ slope in both documents than that, say, in a typewritten “R”.

2. The half-circle of the capital “P” in both documents is noticeably elliptical, with the major axis of the ellipse sloped up roughly 45 degrees from the horizontal.

3. The same is true of the half-circle of the capital “R” in both documents.

4. Similarly, the right half-circle of the capital “D” is sloped up to the right in both documents rather than being symmetrically convex to the right.

5. In both documents the cross-bar of the capital “T” is fully extended to the left of the vertical stroke but is truncated (a few instances) or wholly absent (most instances) on the right side of the vertical stroke.

6. The vertical stroke of the capital “L” leans slightly to the right in both documents, with the angle between the vertical and horizontal strokes 10 or 15 degrees less than 90 degrees.

7. The capital “K” has a characteristic and obvious distortion of the upper right quadrant that is identical in the two documents.

No doubt there are others, but the specific and obvious similarities I described together with the impression of overall similarity induced by such things as the relatively close spacing between letters within words as compared with a relatively wide spacing between words strongly suggests to me that the same person wrote both documents.

The D’s tend to look like P’s in both documents, too. If there’s a forgery, there must be a forger. Hamilton have the shorts to accuse anyone yet?

Looks like a no-brainer to me; the handwriting is by the same person.

It’s easy to see a novice forger’s work, unless Hamilton wants to claim this is the work of a pro. Look for stops and starts in unnatural places on the letters. It’s caused by the forger pausing to see if they are still doing it right. I don’t see any of that here.

I got quite an education in this kind of forgery while preparing the testimony for a case involving forged checks.

fnxtr said:

The D’s tend to look like P’s in both documents, too. If there’s a forgery, there must be a forger. Hamilton have the shorts to accuse anyone yet?

Nope, and he didn’t make the “forgery” comment aloud: he mouthed it at David Millstone, the Board’s attorney who had just introduced the article into evidence, across the hearing room. In testimony Freshwater denied that the handwriting on the ‘building’ article was his.

The “Tower” document is an obvious forgery.

It all comes down to motive.

I mean, the forger is trying to make his victim, a young earth creationist Biblical literalist religious fanatic look like a young earth creationist Biblical literalist religious fanatic.

Oh, wait …

Fascinating (in the freeway pile-up sense) how these servants of the God of Truth are apparently trying to lie their way out of trouble. Reminds me of Dover.….

Notice how he also extends the vertical leg of the D to turn it into a P. In the Tower document ther are two phrases to note: “GOP- ‘Nothing will unnattainable for them’” and GOP- “Scattered the people” - “Different lang.”

Could this character be voting for the wrong GOD?

On Mr. Freshwater’s lesson plan, he writes “specific complexity” and “irreducible complexity” – these are creationist terms, not biological, are they not?

veritas36 said:

On Mr. Freshwater’s lesson plan, he writes “specific complexity” and “irreducible complexity” – these are creationist terms, not biological, are they not?

Yup, they are. In his testimony Freshwater said he didn’t know what either one of them means. Leads one to wonder why they were even in his lesson plan, say nothing of how he determined what Academic Content Standards they addressed (see the third column for that row).

veritas36 said:

On Mr. Freshwater’s lesson plan, he writes “specific complexity” and “irreducible complexity” – these are creationist terms, not biological, are they not?

Actually, they don’t mean anything, which is the real problem. But they sound sciency, which, of course, is the whole idea.

First column, third day down

“ -PepperMoth-Worksheet -PowerPoint -VCR-Tape “

I’d like to know what those were.

But Freshwater and his attorney wouldn’t lie, would they? I mean, they’re Christians, right?

:^D

Another similarity is that the letter T in words are in the shape of a 7.

See words, worksheet and assessment, on the lesson plan.

See words, the, tower, nothing, in the worksheet document.

If the school board’s attorney gets a handwriting expert I think J. Freshwater will be “cooked”.

seabiscuit said:

Another similarity is that the letter T in words are in the shape of a 7.

See words, worksheet and assessment, on the lesson plan.

See words, the, tower, nothing, in the worksheet document.

If the school board’s attorney gets a handwriting expert I think J. Freshwater will be “cooked”.

Since Freshwater has contested writing those notes, can a handwriting expert be brought in to examine them?

Wheels said: Since Freshwater has contested writing those notes, can a handwriting expert be brought in to examine them?

I imagine the Board’s attorney could call a handwriting expert to testify, but my guess is that he won’t. There are a number of witnesses lined up for the rebuttal case of the Board, but I don’t know whether a handwriting analyst is among them.

one of the best things to look at in these cases is E … there are several different stroke orders, and people nearly only ever do one of them. In this case, it’s obviously L-middle stroke-upper stroke (I’m a square C-middle stroke), and in both cases there’s a sloppy habit I’ve never seen before: the tendency to go immediately from the middle to the upper stroke without properly positioning the pen for the second, even sometimes joining the two together.

The truth is that both documents have reference to creationism, so while I’d love to see his “claim” that the one document is a “forgery” be proven wrong, I’m not sure that it will change the outcome.

The thing that bothered me the most about this particular document in relationship to the hearing was Hamilton’s actions when the document was presented by Millstone. As he held on to the document, he looked into the gallery and mouthed the words “fake” multiple times. It was a bit too theatrical for me.

snaxalotl said:

there’s a sloppy habit I’ve never seen before: the tendency to go immediately from the middle to the upper stroke without properly positioning the pen for the second, even sometimes joining the two together.

Wow, the E’s are definitely the same. Those plus the weird T’s make the case a slam dunk in my view.

“On Mr. Freshwater’s lesson plan, he writes “specific complexity” and “irreducible complexity” – these are creationist terms, not biological, are they not?”

“Actually, they don’t mean anything, which is the real problem. But they sound sciency, which, of course, is the whole idea”.

Nick Lane, in one of his books, I think it was “Power, Sex and Suicide” (on the evolution of eukaryotic cells and mitochondria) used the term “irreducible complexity” to pour scorn on Michael Behe. Of course a lot of things are irreducibly complex (take one component away and the complex stops working). But Michael Behe’s idea that complexes can’t evolve gradually is just stupid.

The mere fact that both samples are entirely capital letters is also significant. Like the person or persons who wrote these samples (which sure look similar to me), I also print almost exclusively, but most of us printers use both upper & lower case.

A pity there’s no letter “Y” in the Babel sample. It’s very distinctive in the lesson plan.

chuck said:

First column, third day down

“ -PepperMoth-Worksheet -PowerPoint -VCR-Tape “

I’d like to know what those were.

Sounds like they’re from the Jonathan Wells list of evolution examples that are supposedly flawed. I would bet that Mike Majerus’s work between 1998 and 2008 is not part of the “assignment.”

The K’s are enough for me to say it’s the same handwriting.

I think Hamilton is looking to be censured. These insinuations plus the way they’ve tried to taint the review process and go after opposing counsel. All of it is simply out of bounds.

The “t”s are particularly interesting.

RBH said: … he didn’t make the “forgery” comment aloud: he mouthed it at David Millstone, the Board’s attorney who had just introduced the article into evidence, across the hearing room.

Seriously? Is this guy thirteen? Maybe he has snapped and is hallucinating that he’s at a middle school dance in a pink gown and is mouthing “Slut” across the gym to the girl who stole his boyfriend.

MPW said:

RBH said: … he didn’t make the “forgery” comment aloud: he mouthed it at David Millstone, the Board’s attorney who had just introduced the article into evidence, across the hearing room.

Seriously? Is this guy thirteen? Maybe he has snapped and is hallucinating that he’s at a middle school dance in a pink gown and is mouthing “Slut” across the gym to the girl who stole his boyfriend.

Yup, seriously. I was looking right at him when he did it.

Another delicious coup, reading the scans. The T that looks like a 7 or 2 in both samples is a dead giveaway that the author was the same, but even more hilarious is the idea of the allegedly excellent science teacher not only slipping into the lesson plan items not approved (specified and irreducible complexity) but that these were notations that under his own admission he claimed not to know what they meant.

We’ve slipped into Cabinet of Dr. Caligari expressionism here, where the somnambulist teacher annotates without meaning. What ever did he think he was going to say about these things he did not know the meaning of in his course? Freshwater’s tortucan ruts are starting to look like C5A runways!

Surely the Explanatory Filter will sort this out?

Surely the Explanatory Filter will sort this out?

Do they show the same amount of Specified Complexity?

raven said:

Surely the Explanatory Filter will sort this out?

Do they show the same amount of Specified Complexity?

Apparently the filter recognizes only Specified Stupidity. If that is the case, everything of Freshwater’s should get through.

raven said:

Surely the Explanatory Filter will sort this out?

Do they show the same amount of Specified Complexity?

Why yes they do, Raven. Specified Complexity is measured in units of Bill-Stevens, named for its inventors. Given that the handwritten notes in the first are on the tower of Babel, and in the second are on teaching creationism in class, we can say with confidence that the Bill-Stevens content of each letter approaches unity…making them equally full of BS.

Entertaining as this all is (and it’s been very entertaining!), it’s probably moot, unless Hamilton has the cojones to say this out loud in public or in court, or unless it was recorded on video.

My guess is that he’s found out about postings like this, and will realize that for him to claim that Millstone forged one of the documents will immediately result in censure (and, IANAL, but other punishments as well?). This kind of unethical and childish behavior will also be very damaging to his client’s case, both legally and in the court of public opinion.

eric said:

Specified Complexity is measured in units of Bill-Stevens, named for its inventors.

I’m sure we’ve discussed this before, I though it was measured in “dits”, for “Dembski Information Thingies”.

Maybe there’s a new standard, how many old-style dits are in a Bill-Stevens?

GvlGeologist, FCD said:

Entertaining as this all is (and it’s been very entertaining!), it’s probably moot, unless Hamilton has the cojones to say this out loud in public or in court, or unless it was recorded on video.

I’m sure Hamilton doesn’t have the balls to make the charge out loud; his mime display was more hearing room theatrics of a sort he has displayed before. As I said, I suspect he entertains the illusion (delusion?) that he’s Perry Mason.

And there’s no video – the referee does not allow any recording devices in the hearing room.

stevaroni said:

eric said:

Specified Complexity is measured in units of Bill-Stevens, named for its inventors.

I’m sure we’ve discussed this before, I though it was measured in “dits”, for “Dembski Information Thingies”.

Maybe there’s a new standard, how many old-style dits are in a Bill-Stevens?

While there is a single, unified set of SI units, the “big tent” approach means that there must be two sets of DI units. Whereas they are both based on the cubit-schekel-second system, there are distinct OEC and YEC units, due to the disagreement as to how long an Evening and a Morning is, with the consequent problem of defining the length of a second.

NYT’s has article on the hearings:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/20/e[…].html?ref=us

… I though[t] it was measured in “dits”, for “Dembski Information Thingies”.

I think I probably coined the term dit, for Dembski bit, here.

No doubt there are others, but the specific and obvious similarities I described together with the impression of overall similarity induced by such things as the relatively close spacing between letters within words as compared with a relatively wide spacing between words strongly suggests to me that the same person wrote both documents.

Isn’t the point of a forgery to mimic the handwriting such that you can’t tell the difference? For what it’s worth, there is no “science” of handwriting analysis that allows an expert to distinguish a forgery from a “genuine” signature, or to prove based on handwriting alone that a “signature” was fake.

Experts that claim otherwise are junk peddlers.

Matt Young said:

I think I probably coined the term dit, for Dembski bit

Fair enough. I remembered “dit” but I couldn’t remember wha the “it” was supposed to stand for.

Still… I do kinda like my “Dembski Information Thingie” version.…

unregistered troll:

For what it’s worth, there is no “science” of handwriting analysis that allows an expert to distinguish a forgery from a “genuine” signature, or to prove based on handwriting alone that a “signature” was fake.

Experts that claim otherwise are junk peddlers.

mglaw.net:

HANDWRITING ANALYSIS There is some dispute regarding whether handwriting analysis is sufficiently reliable to be admissible under Rule 702. However, most courts agree that the field of forensic document examination is premised on the assumption that no two persons’ handwriting is exactly alike. The field assumes that each person has a unique handwriting pattern that allows the person to be identified through a comparison of proper handwriting specimens. Analysts subjectively assess the qualities and quantities of characteristics such as pen lifts, shading, pressure and letter forms. All acknowledge that this is not an exact science and that different experts can reach different conclusions.

Many courts have recognized the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners (“ABFDE”) as an appropriate accrediting organization for handwriting experts. This organization has been held to have a legitimate certification process and verifiable professional standards. There are other organizations that purport to certify experts in this field, but some are simply mail order businesses that sell certificates. Other organizations have their roots in graphology, which is the “art” of determining personality traits from looking at a person’s handwriting.

The courts in the USA disagree with you. Handwriting analysis is admissable in court and often used to prove forgeries, which are not uncommon.

federal evidence review:

5. General acceptance “The court recognized the broad acceptance of handwriting analysis and specifically its use by such law enforcement agencies as the CIA, FBI, and the United States Postal Inspection Service. Given the comprehensive inquiry into Storer’s proffered testimony, we cannot say that the district court abused its discretion in admitting the expert handwriting analysis testimony. The district court’s thorough and careful application of the Daubert factors was consistent with all six circuits that have addressed the admissibility of handwriting expert testimony, and determined that it can satisfy the reliability threshold. See United States v. Crisp, 324 F.3d 261, 269–70 (4th Cir. 2003); United States v. Mooney, 315 F.3d 54, 63 (1st Cir. 2002); United States v. Jolivet, 224 F.3d 902, 906 (8th Cir. 2000); United States v. Paul, 175 F.3d 906, 911 (11th Cir. 1999); United States v. Jones, 107 F.3d 1147, 1161 (6th Cir. 1997); United States v. Velasquez, 64 F.3d 844, 850–52 (3d Cir. 1995).”

Prime, 431 F.3d at 1153-54 (other citations omitted).

Based on the consideration of the five non-exclusive factors, the introduction of the handwriting expert testimony was affirmed. The Prime case is useful not just for its conclusion concerning the admissibility of handwriting expert testimony but also to show how the five Daubert factors were applied.

If Freshwater and Hamilton want to start throwing wild accusations and assorted garbage around, let them.

Perjury and obstruction of justice are felonies. They may yet turn a civil case into a prison term. Martha Steward wasn’t convicted of insider trading, a civil case. It was perjury and obstruction of justice. Same thing for Bill Clinton and Kent Hovind. The courts really hate it when people try to subvert the process of law and justice.

Science Nut said:

NYT’s has article on the hearings:

It’s a “he-said-she-said” attempt at seeming neutrality, with local colour. The most salient fact noted about the hearing is that it has dragged on for a year and cost the local school board half a million dollars, which is certain to give pause to any other.

In fact, on reflection, I think that’s the purpose. The newspaper quotes the actual complainants and a witness, but when they want to know about local reaction, who do they ask? Two local Protestant pastors, one of them among Freshwater’s most vocal supporters, a spokesman for the Minutemen, (a bunch of sectarian goons who’ll turn up to monster anyone who publicly disses theocracy) and a woman at a religious studies meeting at the local Congregational Church.

Yes, two of them are against Freshwater teaching his religion in the public schools, but that’s not the point. Why them? If we’re going to be even-handed about this, why are these the only people quoted?

Even-handed, my foot. (So to speak.)

stevaroni said: Still… I do kinda like my “Dembski Information Thingie” version.…

‘Like’ is as good a criteria as any other. Until the authors commit to a single, rigorous definition of what CSI is (which they won’t), the units can be anything you want them to be. You might as well just spin the

Wheel!

Of!

Units!

Registered User said: Isn’t the point of a forgery to mimic the handwriting such that you can’t tell the difference? For what it’s worth, there is no “science” of handwriting analysis that allows an expert to distinguish a forgery from a “genuine” signature, or to prove based on handwriting alone that a “signature” was fake.

Well, we’re not dealing with a “signature” here, we’re dealing with considerably more text that is not as automated and stereotyped as one’s signature is. Further, the document–article–doesn’t exist in a vacuum. For example, it was found in Freshwater’s classroom, not just any old where. And do you reckon there’s an expert forger wandering around here hired by – who? – to create the handwritten text on the article? I’d be surprised. As I said, what I see in the two documents “…strongly suggests to me that the same person wrote both documents.”

I’d be surprised. As I said, what I see in the two documents “…strongly suggests to me that the same person wrote both documents.”

There is more to authenticating documents than handwriting analysis.

Fingerprints

DNA analysis

ink dating

ink analysis

semantic analysis

And so on. If Freshwater and Hamilton are going to allege that the documents are forged, they better be certain of that. If multiple methods of analysis determine that it is not, they may well go to jail for perjury and obstruction of justice. Not in this hearing which is a hearing, but if they try that in a court of law,.….

Dave Luckett said:

Science Nut said:

NYT’s has article on the hearings:

It’s a “he-said-she-said” attempt at seeming neutrality, with local colour. The most salient fact noted about the hearing is that it has dragged on for a year and cost the local school board half a million dollars, which is certain to give pause to any other.

I’ve been reading this saga from the beginning (thanks for posting it, Richard). I’ve been wondering for a while if dragging out the proceedings like this is usual for this type of hearing or if the referee has completely lost control of the process. Couldn’t he just say “We’re meeting every day until this is resolved. Clear your calendars.” and have it over in a month?

Maya said: I’ve been wondering for a while if dragging out the proceedings like this is usual for this type of hearing or if the referee has completely lost control of the process. Couldn’t he just say “We’re meeting every day until this is resolved. Clear your calendars.” and have it over in a month?

Presumably he could have, but he lost control more a year ago and has made no visible effort to regain it.

There is more to authenticating documents than handwriting analysis.

true, but the handwriting analysis component of authenticating documents is more rational than what people usually think of when they hear “handwriting analysis”

For anyone who’s interested, the new NAS study on forensic science covers handrwiting analysis. The money quote starts at the bottom of page 166.

The scientific basis for handwriting comparisons needs to be strengthened.98 Recent studies have increased our understanding of the individuality and consistency of handwriting and computer studies99 and suggest that there may be a scientific basis for handwriting comparison, at least in the absence of intentional obfuscation or forgery. Although there has been only limited research to quantify the reliability and replicability of the practices used by trained document examiners, the committee agrees that there may be some value in handwriting analysis.