Is That Signature Disguised?

Disguises of signatures work to a certain degree like Halloween costumes. Like a mom being able to identify her kid in a Halloween crowd of trick-or-treaters, in many circumstances, I am able to identify the real writer in cases involving disputed signatures.

When I am working on identifying the writer of signatures that may have suspiciously been disguised, I compare the finer features in the inconspicuous areas of the written evidence. These include such points as whether or not the capital letter is connected to the rest of the signature; the length of the “t-bar” crossing the letter “t,” and how far up the stem of the “t” it is place and a lot more.

Disguising a signature is an attempt to concoct a camouflage of one’s signature in order to conceal identity. My research and the research of my forensic colleagues worldwide has shown the most common tactics used by people to self-disguise their signatures (Click here to find out more about disguising).

In one of my cases involving the custody of a minor child, I was retained by the attorney representing a young woman who was orphaned at age 14 due to the death of her entire family in a car accident. As a result of the accident, she inherited a large sum of money. She was 15 when an older man pursued her into a relationship. Eventually, her pregnancy led the two into marriage. Several years later, in the midst of their bitter divorce, she moved out of state with their child.

The father’s purported signature appeared on the questioned document that was a stipulated supplemental judgment of dissolution awarding the mother custody of the minor child and included parenting time by the father. As the result of the move, the father claimed a geographical challenge to the parenting time provision and firmly denied signing it. The mother vehemently claimed he signed it.

During the initial part of my examination, I had access to the documents in the court file where I located thirty signatures (exemplars) of the father for use in my comparison with his disputed signature on the questioned document at issue in this case.

At the onset of my examination, I maintained a neutral position regarding the identity of the writer. I measured every signature and I found several significant similarities in the inconspicuous areas of all the signatures. For example, the same precise location where the writer placed the pen to start writing the letter “a” was observed in all the signatures. I continued my examination before rendering my opinion.

Maintaining my neutral position about who signed the document, I also observed a curiously conspicuous pictorial difference between the way the disputed signature looked and the ways the signature exemplars in the court file were written.

Even though the letter shapes were not the same in the disputed signature as compared to his thirty valid signature exemplars, I found significant evidence that he wrote his signature in a disguised manner on the questioned document. My opinion was based on a very specific observation revealing the movement of his hand while writing all of the signatures.

This most compelling observation was the comparative length of his graphic motor sequence. Graphic motor sequence is defined as a measurable unit of movement between the point at which the pen touches the paper to begin moving and the very next point at which the pen lifts off the paper to stop writing. In this case, although the overall shape and of the father’s disputed signature was somewhat different than the group of his exemplar signatures, the graphic motor sequence measured the same in all of his signatures creating an identifying pattern unique to him as the writer. This was astonishing when considering the unique muscular coordination required by an individual during the act of writing.

Illustrating my expert opinion to the court, I testified that the disputed signature of the father was genuine. I demonstrated enough significant similarities, including the graphic motor sequence, between the divergent questioned and known signatures for a reasonable elimination of the identification of another person as the writer. Furthermore, the hypothesis of disguise sufficiently explained the pictorial differences in the signature style variations. The court decided in favor of the mother.

As you can see from the above story, signature falsification cases are often complicated and can be tricky. However, in this case I was successful in finding the truth and moving justice forward.



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