Practice’’ appears regularly in the Michigan Bar Journal. This
column is designed to provide advice and guidance on how to effectively
prepare for and conduct trials.
handwriting identification links the handwriting of an unknown document
with a suspected author in cases involving forged checks, credit card
charge slips, anonymous letters, and ransom notes. It is also used to
determine the genuineness of someone’s signature on documents such as
wills, contracts, and trusts. This type of testimony has been accepted
in state and federal courts for over 100 years.
individuality in our handwriting, which allows it to be identified with
us is caused by a number of factors: the schools we attended; our parents;
our sense of neatness; the size of our hands, fingers, and arms; and our
eyesight. All of these factors make handwriting a product of the brain:
neurological transmissions come through the arms and fingers to impart
uniqueness into our handwriting.
material for this article originates from a medical malpractice case examined
by the author in which a dispute arose regarding when the plaintiff acquired
multiple personality disorder (MPD), an ‘‘abnormal condition in which
two or more well developed personalities exist within the same individual.
Awareness of the others among the various personalities may not occur.
Each may take over at a certain time. Change from one to another is usually
sudden and linked to stress.’’ Mosby Medical Encyclopedia.
role was to examine diaries authored by the plaintiff from 1986–1991 and
determine if evidence existed of different writers. The original diaries
were used for the analysis. All parties agreed that the diaries and entries
were prepared on their respective dates so the possibility that they were
all made at one time after the filing of the lawsuit was not an issue.
Conseqùently, no ink dating tests were performed. The examination consisted
of comparing the handwriting habits in the diaries with each other to
determine if they were consistent, inconsistent, contrived, or if evidence
of different authors was present.
results were startling. Most of us see differences in our handwriting
from day to day, which can be caused by haste, writing position, fatigue,
stress, or writing surface. In these diary entries, which appeared under
different names, were four distinct handwriting styles. They presented
not only pictorial differences, but the writing systems themselves were
different. These differences were far outside the natural variation we
all notice in our handwriting. These styles repeated over time and were
identifiable with themselves but not with the others. This evidences four
different neurologic contributions. Another significant finding was that
when the author of the diaries handprinted, the handprinting had the quality
jnd maturity of an elementary school child as shown by immature letter
formations and baseline placement.
conclusion was drawn from these results that the author of the diaries
presented evidence of multiple personalities. When she was one person,
for example Sue, she wrote differently than when she was Jean. I have
no ability or training to diagnose multiple personality disorders and
am not claiming that normal variation in handwriting, which we all experience
in our lives is evidence of MPD. This case involved a mature woman who
was diagnosed with MPD. Her diagnosis was not in question nor was the
production dates of the diaries. This presented a rare insight into the
writing product of an MPD patient.
you are confronted with a case involving a person with suspected or alleged
MPD, one yardstick that can be used to determine the existence of the
disorder is an examination of this person’s handwriting over a period
of time to see if there is evidence of different writers. This evidence
alone would not support a finding of MPD without a competent psychiatric
evaluation, the most important diagnostic tool.
must also be exercised to determine that the writings are the patient’s
natural work product and were done over a period of time such as with
diaries, work records, and relatedÕdocuments. Documents generated at one
time to establish an alibi or buttress a claim and then backdated are,
in most cases, easily detected through modern forensic document examination
and ink dating technology.
Disorders: Their Effects Upon Handwriting.” Author: Hanna F. Sulner.
and the Mentally Ill.” Author: Ordway Hilton, Journal of Forensic Science,
V7, N1, Jan 1962, pp 131–139.
Mental Condition be Indicated by Handwriting.” Author: Charles C. Scott,
American Society of Questioned Document Examiners, July 7, 1954.