What Hollywood gets wrong – indented text from the paper above it

Something New Every Day – Lecture 13 – Handwriting and forgery analysis

The TV cliché of a detective lightly rubbing a pencil on an indented document to read what was scrawled on the page above it would never be used in a real forensic situation. Doing that ruins the paper for fingerprinting or any further testing and can even smooth out the indentation and oblitirate the message.

Much better is to use an electrostatic device to recover indented writing. Document specialists place a thin plastic sheet on the document and slide it into an electrostatic box. The plastic is electrically charged and dusted with black toner which sticks to the plastic sheet and reveals the lettering as a ‘print’. This method leaves original unharmed for further or repeat testing.

‘Trails of Evidence: How Forensic Science Works” is a The Great Courses DVD lecture series