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Speculation on the Hayes report

or

Is handwriting analysis a science?

One of my favorite anecdotes regards the emperor of China. So the story goes, a controversy arose as to the length of the emperor’s nose, a question hard to answer because no one outside the court had ever seen the emperor, and those who had seen the emperor were forbidden to speak of the emperor’s visage. So it was decided that the people of China would be polled to decide the question. Untold millions were asked the length of the emperor’s nose and the results were tabulated, giving a final figure precise to 7 decimal places.

Since Mike Zullo, the only one besides Reed Hayes who is reported to have seen his report on Obama’s  birth certificate, isn’t sharing it, and has reportedly even copyrighted it, I feel a little like one of those Chinese subjects surveyed about the emperor’s nose when talking about the Hayes Report.

Unlike the emperor’s nose, we have a little bit to go on, some comments by Reed Hayes on a notorious murder case noted by a commenter1 here.

I was not a follower of the JonBenét Ramsey murder case but a little boning up at the Wikipedia (they need money by the way) yielded the necessary background. A central element of the story was a handwritten ransom note left at the Ramsey home. Speculation abounded as to who had written the note. A grand jury determined that sufficient evidence existed to charge the parents of child abuse leading to death, but the district attorney refused to sign the indictment (this only learned in 2013), and there remains unmatched DNA evidence pointing to an unknown male (along with an unmatched palm print and a pubic hair).

The ransom note had to be a magnet for every graphoanalyst and graphoanalyst wannabe and Reed Hayes proved no exception and here we get into the question of whether handwriting analysis is a science, because if it is a science, its results should be repeatable. Consider this little vignette from The Rocky Mountain News:

A well-known national handwriting expert said Monday he is 99.9 percent certain John Mark Karr wrote the ransom note found near the scene of JonBenet Ramsey’s murder. … Curt Baggett, the Texas-based co-founder of the School of Forensic Document Examination [said comparing the ransom note to a high school yearbook signature] “That there are so many similarities pushes the odds up into the seven digits.” …

One person who could find himself on the other side from [Baggett] … is Honolulu document examiner Reed Hayes, author of a textbook on forensic handwriting analysis.

"I do see a few similarities between the writing in the yearbook and the so-called ransom note, but not enough that I would identify him as the writer.

"In fact, I would lean more toward him not being the writer."

Ronald Morris, who spent 23 years as a document expert with the Secret Service said both where getting ahead of themselves, criticizing conclusions based only on copies.

Hayes later told CNN, “there`s a problem here in that my colleague seemed to be reaching these strong conclusions of identification based on improper comparison material. You know, we`re looking at…” (the clueless reporter didn’t let him explain), but by Hayes own statement, an analysis has to be based on proper comparison material, and that should be a factor considered when and if we see the actual Hayes report. I do not think Hayes has any original documents.

Hayes didn’t give a percentage, but he has an opinion as to who wrote the Ramsey ransom note, reports the Honolulu Star-Bulletin :

[Hayes] makes it clear that he is not working on the case in an official capacity, but says the note is a ruse, basing his opinion on copies of the note and handwriting samples sent to him by fellow graphonanalysts. He says Ramsey’s mother Patsy was the likely note writer, although no consensus has emerged among his colleagues.

Hayes said then that handwriting analysis is 80-90% accurate, and this from someone who is reportedly saying now that Obama’s birth certificate is a 100% forgery.

A handwriting expert will say that their conclusions are base on experience and training, but a discipline that yields unrepeatable results and relies heavily on personal judgment is not solid science. The National Science Foundation on study on Forensic Science stated:

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.

The other thing we can conclude about the Hayes Report is that it must be based on faulty analysis because it is wrong. The document he claims is a forgery is about as well-authenticated as any document you’re likely to ever see.


1Commenters provide valuable contributions and in a sense this blog is “crowd sourced.”

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24 Responses to Speculation on the Hayes report

  1. avatar
    Loren July 29, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    nlike the emperor’s nose, we have a little bit to go on, some comments by Reed Hayes on a notorious murder case noted by a commenter here.

    Hayes really shows his stripes in that Star-Bulletin piece. For instance, this bit:

    “Handwriting analysis won’t reveal gender, age or ethnicity, but Hayes said it does reflect maturity level, thinking patterns, achievement potential, people-orientation, emotional responsiveness and insecurities. This is the reason corporations often call in a graphoanalyst for executive hires.”

    Except that’s not an accurate portrayal of handwriting analysis; what’s being described there is the pseudoscience of graphology:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graphology

    And indeed, most of the Hayes quotes in the article involve him espousing graphological attitudes that have no foundation in science. Even when he’s describing the work he’s hired to perform:

    “Hayes also gets called in to help lawyers determine what jurors are thinking, give employers more insight about job candidates and help individuals determine the senders of anonymous mail, whether it’s hate mail, love mail, or a combination of both.”

    Now handwriting analysis could help identify the sender of anonymous mail (provided there were adequate comparison samples), but the rest of those examples? Totally unscientific from a handwriting POV. The similarity to palmistry or psychic powers is evident in this direct quote from Hayes:

    “A woman asked me if she could analyze my handwriting and I didn’t know what to expect. She was a total stranger but she told me things about myself she could not have known. I was floored.”

  2. avatar
    CarlOrcas July 29, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

    The problem with “expert witnesses” is you can find one to support your side of virtually any case, as the lawyers on the blog will tell us.

    In this case Hayes is so far out on the birther limb that I can’t imagine how what he has prepared (whatever it may be) will be admissible in the the incredibly remote chance that whatever Zullo is plotting ever makes it to some sort of legal or political venue.

    Along that line I keep wondering where Zullo is going with this and it has recently occurred to me that he may be thinking about politics…..Arizona politics. Arpaio’s current term is up in three years. Who better to replace him than Commandante Don Quixote? Just a thought.

  3. avatar
    Hektor July 29, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    We also know that according to Mr. Zullo, he approached 212 document examiners prior to Mr. Hayes. Mr. Zullo stated that such avoidance indicates how untouchable his topic really is. So it is definitely not a fishing expedition.

    The other thing we know is that Mr. Zullo had two press conferences where he declared that the LFBC was a forgery prior to even consulting his “court-certified” document examiner. Yup, that’s exactly what an attempt to clear the President of document fraud looks like: Hiring your expert opinion who agreed with you after 212 people who didn’t months after you have made your conclusions.

  4. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 29, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

    I would love to be a consultant designing attack ads against a Zullo run for sheriff.

    Get a character in this scene, representing Zullo:

    http://i.ytimg.com/vi/1DhpiLcV4U0/0.jpg

    And have a 19th-century western reporter ask him all the important questions about the Sheriffs’ office to which Zullo responds “Obama birth certificate.”

    CarlOrcas: Along that line I keep wondering where Zullo is going with this and it has recently occurred to me that he may be thinking about politics…..Arizona politics. Arpaio’s current term is up in three years. Who better to replace him than Commandante Don Quixote? Just a thought.

  5. avatar
    richCares July 29, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

    “attack ads against a Zullo”
    .
    a good ad would be Sheriff Joe supplying Zullu with a car, the ad would show the purchase of Zullu’s Clown Car from Ringling Bros Circus, followed by Zullu driving it. This could be considered as based on a true story.

  6. avatar
    Loren July 29, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

    A Zullo campaign for Sheriff would be so wonderfully priceless. Every single interview would hopefully follow the same beats:

    Interviewer: “Mr. Zullo, you’ve been in charge of the Maricopa County Cold Case Posse for several years. The Posse was created to help investigate unsolved murders, isn’t that right?”

    Zullo: “Yes, that’s correct.”

    Interviewer: “Now in the years you’ve been in charge of this Posse, you have supposedly invested several thousand man-hours in pursuing what many Americans consider to be a silly conspiracy theory. During that time, how many cold case murder investigations has the Posse actually worked on? And if the answer is ZERO, I expect you’ll try to change the subject.”

    Zullo: “Let’s not talk about the past…”

  7. avatar
    CarlOrcas July 29, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: Get a character in this scene, representing Zullo:

    The quadruped?

    Four feet make it easier to tap dance……which is what Zullo does a lot of.

    I doubt Zullo would succeed in a general election but he might make it through a Republican primary in Maricopa County.

  8. avatar
    Dave B. July 29, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

    Okay, me and Carl, we both want to know– which one’s supposed to be Zullo?

    Dr. Conspiracy: Get a character in this scene, representing Zullo:

    http://i.ytimg.com/vi/1DhpiLcV4U0/0.jpg

  9. avatar
    CarlOrcas July 29, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

    Dave B.:
    Okay, me and Carl, we both want to know– which one’s supposed to be Zullo?

    Oh….I’m pretty sure I know.

  10. avatar
    JPotter July 29, 2013 at 10:15 pm #

    Reed Hayes, the equivalent of an ambulance chaser? I’m shocked, shocked I say. Opinions for sale, opinions for sale.

  11. avatar
    RanTalbott July 30, 2013 at 12:27 am #

    Hayes is 80-90% sure that it’s a 100% forgery.
    Seems to me that, legally speaking, the paper copies _might_ be considered forgeries if the WH ran off extras and embossed them with a counterfeit seal. But, since all the information content has been affirmed, it can’t be called that in the popular sense of the term.

  12. avatar
    Keith July 30, 2013 at 12:47 am #

    RanTalbott:
    Hayes is 80-90% sure that it’s a 100% forgery.
    Seems to me that, legally speaking, the paper copies _might_ be considered forgeries if the WH ran off extras and embossed them with a counterfeit seal. But, since all the information content has been affirmed, it can’t be called that in the popular sense of the term.

    Only if there was intent to defraud.

    And why would he counterfeit a seal to produce counterfeit Birth Certificates when he can just contact Hawai’i to obtain as many real ones as he wants?

  13. avatar
    RanTalbott July 30, 2013 at 1:09 am #

    Keith: Only if there was intent to defraud.

    That’s certainly true of, say, photoshopped pictures of the Florida swampland you’re trying to sell. But isn’t there a separate offense for official documents? I’m pretty sure that, if I whipped up an authentic-looking copy of my driver’s license in case I lost my wallet, the state would be less-than-amused if I tried to pass it off as an original.
    I can’t see Obama having any urge to counterfeit, but remember that getting the certified copies of the _long form_ was a one-time-only-must-order-before-midnight offer.

  14. avatar
    John Reilly July 30, 2013 at 1:10 am #

    As Doc has observed in other contexts, the birth certificate is a forgery because, well, it has to be.

    Look, Hawaii has certified Pres. Obama’s birth there in 1961 seven ways til Sunday. Two birth certificates,. Three certifications to secretaries of state. Web page. Sworn testimony. A Republican governor saying so. In the face of all this evidence you can do what David “Ex Lax” Farrar does, say ignore the evidence, what else you got? Or you can do what Helen does, say my job is secret but I want to know every last detail about the President because, well, except she’s incomprehensible. Totally incomprehensible. Back to the days of the difference between certificate and certification. Babble is the word for it.

    In the real world, the best way to counteract evidence like the birth certificate is with evidence of a birth elsewhere. Except the Birthers don’t have that. Even the one Indonesian document they have says Pres. Obama was born in Hawaii.

    So they have to keep pressing that the actual evidence is forged. Forget that they can’t persuade a single judge (and we are waiting on Roy Moore) to their view. Or get a Senator and Representative to back them up. Heck, there are some members of my party in Congress who think the world is flat and 6,000 years old and they are still not gullible enough to fall for the Birther claims.

    So the birth certificate has to be forged because it has to be. If the Birthers concede what we all know to be true, they have to admit defeat. And they can’t.

    And then there is Mr. Nash, the fellow who thinks that the President is not eligible because he’s mixed race, and thus not a natural anything. (Mr. Nash is more colorful and offensive.) In Mr. Nash’s world, the American Kennel Club needs to certify your heritage. He’s a Nazi, and like Dr. Taitz, they want an Iranian-style committee to tell us who is an approved candidate. They both need to call back under whatever rocks they came from.

    Last, I want to thank Misha for being my wingman the other day. Misha, I’d be proud to fly with you.

  15. avatar
    misha marinsky July 30, 2013 at 1:44 am #

    John Reilly: In Mr. Nash’s world, the American Kennel Club needs to certify your heritage. He’s a Nazi, and like Dr. Taitz, they want an Iranian-style committee to tell us who is an approved candidate. They both need to call back under whatever rocks they came from.

    Last, I want to thank Misha for being my wingman the other day. Misha, I’d be proud to fly with you.

    See my comment:

    http://www.obamaconspiracy.org/2013/07/why-obamas-birth-certificate-cant-be-believed/#comment-277823

  16. avatar
    Keith July 30, 2013 at 3:39 am #

    RanTalbott: I’m pretty sure that, if I whipped up an authentic-looking copy of my driver’s license in case I lost my wallet, the state would be less-than-amused if I tried to pass it off as an original.

    In your scenario, you are attempting to defraud.

  17. avatar
    hlelen July 30, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    “The other thing we can conclude about the Hayes Report is that it must be based on faulty analysis because it is wrong. The document he claims is a forgery is about as well-authenticated as any document you’re likely to ever see.”

    Absolutely postively true as none of the readers will ever see the original document!

    But, things are not always true because they have been authenticated ,are they?

    I think the Heidelberg man would be a good example!

  18. avatar
    Dr Kenneth Noisewater July 30, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

    hlelen:
    “The other thing we can conclude about the Hayes Report is that it must be based on faulty analysis because it is wrong. The document he claims is a forgery is about as well-authenticated as any document you’re likely to ever see.”

    Absolutely postively true as none ofthe readers will ever see the original document!

    But, things are not always true because they have been authenticated ,are they?

    I think the Heidelberg man would be a good example!

    Talk about false equivalences. HDOH is the issuing authority of the BC they verified it. But I notice you didn’t answer my question about what you thought of Johnson or Reagan’s BCs in the other thread. President Johnson’s BC had just his last name on it and was amended decades later to include his first and middle name with a friend acting as a witness. Reagan’s wasn’t filed until he was in his 30s.

  19. avatar
    Majority Will July 30, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

    hlelen:
    “The other thing we can conclude about the Hayes Report is that it must be based on faulty analysis because it is wrong. The document he claims is a forgery is about as well-authenticated as any document you’re likely to ever see.”

    Absolutely postively true as none ofthe readers will ever see the original document!

    But, things are not always true because they have been authenticated ,are they?

    I think the Heidelberg man would be a good example!

    That’s really stupid.

  20. avatar
    Slartibartfast July 30, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

    Helen,

    Let’s try this another way: Who is the final authority on whether or not a person was born in Hawai’i? According to the US Constitution, that would be the Hawai’ian DoH. Their word is final unless and until fraud on their part is proven, in court, beyond a reasonable doubt. Since this cannot be done, for all intents and purposes President Obama was born in Hawai’i and is a natural born citizen. Any position which rejects the authority of the DoH calls the validity of your own birth certificate (as well as everyone else’s) into question—something which would cause chaos, not to mention being completely intellectually dishonest. Why do you insist on continually promoting such dishonest and uncivil behavior?

  21. avatar
    Craig July 30, 2013 at 8:54 pm #

    Because she hates the constitution, that’s why. “Full Faith and Credit” clause is for COMMIES and MALES. Especially MALE COMMIES.

  22. avatar
    misha marinsky July 30, 2013 at 9:27 pm #

    hlelen: But, things are not always true because they have been authenticated ,are they?

    Cue spooky music.

  23. avatar
    scott e July 31, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    that hayes was the two hundred and twentyth something expert they asked is highly significant.

  24. avatar
    Dr Kenneth Noisewater July 31, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

    scott e: that hayes was the two hundred and twentyth something expert they asked is highly significant.

    Yes it means that he was the only one willing to say what they wanted for cash. Don’t you think it’s odd that 212 people turned them down only for Hayes to jump onto their scam?