Truth in Justice Newsletter - August - September, 2006
False Confessions: An Important Series from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
and The Innocence Institute of Point Park University
False Confessions: How and Why
False Confession Cases:
South Carolina: An investigation by The Post and Courier (Charleston) uncovered endemic failures in the state's system for tracking police officers that allow problem cops to keep their badges despite histories of misconduct and even criminal behavior. Systemic Failure
North Carolina: The Robeson County District Attorney has had to dismiss 180 drug cases because a state and federal investigation has led to corruption charges against former drug enforcement deputies. Three of those deputies — Roger Taylor, C.T. Strickland and Steven Lovin — have been charged in a 10-count federal indictment. The indictment alleges that they burned two homes and a business, assaulted people, paid informants with drugs, and stole and laundered public money. Power Corrupts
Wisconsin: John Maloney’s family - with the help of a high-profile private investigator - has accused a state Justice Department fire investigator of lying about tests he conducted before declaring the fire at Maloney’s estranged wife’s home an arson. Ira Robins, who garnered much of his fame for helping press for Laurie “Bambi” Bembenek’s release from prison, announced Wednesday that he has filed a petition with the state Supreme Court citing new burn tests by Dr. James Munger and alleging a Department of Justice arson investigator Greg Eggum lied while testifying during John Maloney’s homicide trial. Forensic Fraud and Perjury
To see still photos of Dr. Munger's fire tests, click HERE.
To see a short video presentation of Dr. Munger's fire tests, click HERE.
False Allegations of Child AbuseIn what experts say is the first such ruling in the nation, a Greenup (Kentucky) Circuit Court judge has barred the prosecution from introducing expert testimony that a baby was injured by shaking, unless there is other evidence of abuse. Issuing identical rulings in two cases, Judge Lewis Nichols cited biomechanical studies that have concluded it's impossible for an adult to shake an infant hard enough to cause the injuries used to diagnose the syndrome -- hemorrhaging behind both retinas and hematomas, or pools of blood, in the membranes of the brain. Not Letting Doctors Diagnose Legal Conclusions
Low Standards in Lowcountry. The Charleston, SC Family Court relies on Robert Bennett's findings to decide crucial issues of custody and divorce. His words can ruin reputations, wrest children from their parents and cost people their jobs. But a Post & Courier investigation shows Bennett's credentials, methods and the reliability of his findings are suspect or controversial.
Unreliable DNA Down Under. About 60 convicted criminals could have their cases reopened amid claims the DNA evidence used to incriminate them was unreliable. Ron Grice, a former Queensland Health Scientific Services scientist, said he was haunted by memories of submitting potentially unreliable DNA evidence to the courts. He believed about 5 per cent of the 1200 cases he had handled relied on samples too small to be retested.
Why Experts Make Errors. [Note: You need Adobe Acrobat to read this.] An article by Itiel E. Dror and David Charlton of the School of Psychology, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK, published in the Journal of Forensic Identification, 2006.
Abstract: Expert latent fingerprint examiners were presented with fingerprints taken from real criminal cases. Half of the prints had been previously judged as individualizations and the other half as exclusions. We re-presented the same prints to the same experts who had judged them previously, but provided biasing contextual information in both the individualizations and exclusions. A control set of individualizations and exclusions was also re-presented as part of the study. The control set had no biasing contextual information associated with it. Each expert examined a total of eight past decisions. Two-thirds of the experts made inconsistent decisions. The findings are discussed in terms of psychological and cognitive vulnerabilities.
Impact of Report in Scotland. Fresh doubts over the accuracy of fingerprint evidence in courts has been raised by new research showing experts can be easily swayed in their judgements by "background" information.
Since her days as a law school student, Katie Monroe has had a passion for criminal cases with more questions than answers. In 1992, her professional interests and personal life collided when the death of her mother's longtime companion landed Beverly Monroe in prison for a murder she claimed she didn't commit. Katie Monroe's work led an appellate court to overturn her mother's conviction in 2002. Now Monroe has begun a new chapter in her career as the first executive director of the Utah-based Rocky Mountain Innocence Center (RMIC), a privately funded organization that investigates claims of innocence in Utah, Nevada, and Wyoming. Fighting Wrongful Verdicts a Passion
A murder and a long list of wrongful convictions have fired a public campaign that threatens to erode confidence in the justice system in Western Australia. Western Australia Innocence Project
The links pages at Truth in Justice are frequently updated. Be sure to check them for resources, "must" reading, websites of inmates with compelling innocence claims and more. Start at http://truthinjustice.org/links.htm
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