When you have junk science in a case, it’s like pouring poison into a punch bowl. You aren’t going to get the poison out. So you have to pour out the punch, clean the bowl, and start all over again. ~ Texas Attorney Kathryn Kase


Junk Science 
in the 
Courtroom

Juries usually believe expert witnesses.  Unfortunately, juries rarely understand the expert testimony they hear, and don't know what weight -- if any -- to give to terms like "consistent with" and "matching" and "virtually excluded."  The lawyers and the judge rarely understand the science that is presented by these experts, either.  Our criminal justice system is adversarial and often dog-eat-dog.  When the expert falls short of the minimum standards of the profession, or worse, is an outright fraud, it can spell disaster for the wrongly accused.

Note:  We add links to updates with the original news articles reporting police and/or prosecutor misconduct, so be sure to scroll down to check for "new news".

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"Must" Reading
Links
Special Report from the Washington Post

Co-published by Pro Publica and PBS Frontline

No Forensic Background? No Problem

A new publication from The Justice Project
Improving the Practice and Use of Forensic Science: A Policy Review, (click title for report in pdf) provides an overview of the problems with certain forensic science policies and procedures, offers solutions to these problems, profiles cases of injustice, highlights states with good laws and procedures, and includes a model policy for the states.

Invalid Forensic Science Testimony and Wrongful Convictions, by Prof.  Brandon Garrett and Peter Neufeld, examines the flawed testimony by forensic experts that led to conviction of innocent defendants.  The pair studied the transcripts of 137 trials in which prosecution forensic analysts testified, and the defendants were exonerated years later by post-conviction DNA testing.  They found that in 60 percent of those wrongful conviction cases, forensic analysts gave invalid testimony that overstated the evidence."

A congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council finds serious deficiencies in the nation's forensic science system and calls for major reforms and new research.  Rigorous and mandatory certification programs for forensic scientists are currently lacking, the report says, as are strong standards and protocols for analyzing and reporting on evidence.  And there is a dearth of peer-reviewed, published studies establishing the scientific bases and reliability of many forensic methods.  Moreover, many forensic science labs are underfunded, understaffed, and have no effective oversight.

The report found that markings on bullets and shell casings are not unique, which means that one can't prove — beyond a reasonable doubt — that a bullet came from particular gun.  Flawed techniques in fingerprinting, hair and bite-mark analysis, and firearms identification produce Unreliable Results.

A collection of links to basic information about various branches of forensic science, including forensic psychiatry and profiling, document examination, firearms identification, criminal law, crime scene processing, and more.

A Comprehensive Investigation of Death Investigation

More Resources on Death Investigation in the US
National Public Radio (NPR)
Pro Publica


Michigan.  NBC News examines the junk science that put David Gavitt behind bars for 26 years, for crimes that never happened.  Trial by Fire.

United States
At least 24 men convicted or arrested based largely on murky bite-mark evidence have been exonerated by DNA testing, had charges dropped or otherwise been proved not guilty. Many spent more than a decade in prison, and one man was behind bars for more than 23 years before he was exonerated. One man is still in prison as an appeal works through the courts. The Associated Press compiled this list using court records, news reports and the help of the Innocence Project, organized by the state in which the crimes occurred.  Bite mark wrongful convictions.

Texas
A state police crime lab scientist whose shoddy work may have tainted thousands of drug cases had been promoted despite a history of problems doing accurate and timely work, according a review by the Texas Forensic Science Commission.  A little over 1/3 of his test results were wrong -- or plain faked -- but he still got raises.

Washington Kevin Fortney, the manager of the state crime lab in Cheney, WA resigned after authorities determined he lied about performing work in several cases, the Washington State Patrol announced.  His cheating shouldn't have been a surprise.  In 2000, he was suspended for 2 days for surfing porn when he was supposed to be working.  Once a liar, always a liar.

Illinois
A Chicago Tribune investigation finds that Chicago police have long ignored voluntary standards for polygraph exams, even as those methods and the examiners themselves have factored into cases costing the city millions of dollars in damages.   Polygraphs and false confessions in Chicago.

Related:  How the polygraph works.

Massachusetts.  Add the name Annie Dookhan to the Forensic Hall of Shame that includes Fred Zain, Michael Malone and Joyce Gilchrist (to name just a few).  Ms. Dookhan was a chemist with the state drug lab who thought it was her job to give the state what it needed for convictions, whether the evidence was there or not.  About 1,100 inmates are currently in prison based on her findings.  What is amazing is that Ms. Dookhan has been charged criminally.  The state drug lab has been shut down, and the investigation is continuing.  What else will they find?

Illinois (but coming soon to a courtroom near you!)
 
When Cook County prosecutors brought Cleveland Barrett to trial in 2012 for the predatory criminal sexual assault of a 9-year-old girl, they presented the jury hearing the case testimony from the alleged victim plus the kind of evidence that long has won convictions with its scientific certainty: DNA.  But this DNA was different. It was not from semen, as is often the case in rapes; instead it came from male cells found on the girl's lips.  Fact is, the DNA profile from the cells on the victim's lips could have matched hundreds of thousands of men in the Chicago region.  Tailored to fool juries, it's junk masquerading as science.

Washington, DC
Federal prosecutors have acknowledged errors in the "scientific" evidence that helped send a Washington man to prison for 28 years for murder and took the extraordinary step of agreeing to have his conviction overturned.  U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. cited DNA evidence in also agreeing to drop the murder charge against Santae A. Tribble and never try him again. But even as the prosecutor said the evidence that convicted Tribble was flawed, Machen stopped short of declaring him innocent

Washington
.  It seems disingenuous to single out the State of Washington, because the problems revealed with outright falsified certifications by the State Toxicology Lab, and the uncertainty of testing methods considered "accurate and reliable" occur in police labs around the country.  Attorney Ted Vosk has examined these problems in depth in two articles published in The Champion, published by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL).  (Both articles are in .pdf format.  You need Adobe Acrobat Reader (free) to read them.)

dwi



Pennsylvania
In the 12 years he has been on Pennsylvania's death row, Daniel Dougherty has maintained that he did not set the fire that killed his two young sons in their Northeast Philadelphia home on Aug. 24, 1985.  His fight to prove his innocence is now in a Common Pleas courtroom. His lawyers are trying to show that the lethal blaze was not arson but a tragic accident - and that Dougherty should be given a new trial.  Junk science paving the way to Death Row.

Minnesota
Ramsey County is investigating the work of Dr. Michael McGee, who has served as the county's chief medical examiner for 26 years, after a Douglas County judge found he gave false testimony in a murder trial.  McGee's testimony helped secure the conviction of Michael Hansen for the murder of his infant daughter in 2004. Douglas County Judge Peter Irvine found in July that McGee gave false testimony about infant skull fractures and about an accident that occurred six days before the baby died.  Or was Dr. McGee just doing what was expected of him?

U.S. Army
For nearly three years, the military held the key to Roger House's exoneration and didn't tell him: A forensics examiner had botched a crucial lab test used in the Navy lieutenant's court-martial.  In fact, the problem was bigger than just a lone analyst.  While a McClatchy Newspapers investigation revealed that Mills' mistakes undermined hundreds of criminal cases brought against military personnel, it also found that the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory was lax in supervising Mills, slow to re-examine his work and slipshod about informing defendants. Officials appeared intent on containing the scandal that threatened to discredit the military's most important forensics facility, which handles more than 3,000 criminal cases a year.  Hiding Egregious Errors.

USA
:  We've heard a lot about the "CSI effect," an alleged change in expectations of the power of forensic science among viewers of the wildly popular television series.  Forensic Science Magazine takes a comparative look at the "CSI effect:"  Fact or Fiction?

Ohio
After 20 years in prison, a woman convicted of murder might receive a new trial because a former Franklin County toxicologist lied about when he received his degree.   Retired chief toxicologist James Ferguson, 63, of Johnstown, admitted he testified under oath that he received his biochemistry degree in 1972 when he actually received it in 1988, according to court records.  But stay tuned: 
This is just the tip of the iceberg.

UPDATE:  Virginia LeFever's conviction was reversed and she was released from prison based on James Ferguson's lies.  He lied about his credentials, and he made up "scientific evidence" to back up the prosecution.  Double lies.

North Carolina
.  State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) agent Michael Deaver stands with a foot in each camp -- junk science and egregious police misconduct.  He can take a great deal of credit for Greg Taylor's conviction for a crime he didn't commit, because Deaver selectively reported -- and testified to -- finding blood in Taylor's truck, when he knew that more sophisticated tests showed the substance wasn't blood at all. 
SBI Director Robin Pendergraft stands behind Deaver, but there is a growing call across the state:  Re-examine Old Cases.

UPDATE - 3/5/10:  Ex-FBI Officials to Probe NC Crime Lab Practices.

UPDATE - 8/19/10:  Scathing audit of NC Crime Lab says 230 cases tainted by shoddy investigations.  No rules, bad science.

UPDATE - 1/27/10:  North Carolina crime lab withheld test results in more than 200 cases.

UPDATE - 12/15/11:  Novelist Michael Peterson will get a new trial in the death of his wife because Michael Deaver, a key prosecution witness, misled jurors about the strength of bloodstain evidence.

UPDATE - 12/18/11:  Deaver's 23-year pattern of pro-prosecution bias.

Oregon
The State of Oregon's case against Scott Cannon for the execution-style murders of three people in 1998 rested on now-discredited bullet lead analysis and the testimony of the victims'  landlady, who told police Scott was the last person at the residence and the only one who could have committed the murders.  The landlady has been implicated in the killing of her husband and the murder of her boyfriend, and is serving a prison sentence in the latter shooting death. The Legacy of Junk Science.

UPDATE:  8/14/09--Salem, Oregon prosecutors have decided not to try to defend bullet lead analysis in Scott Cannon's case.  They have stipulated to reversal of his conviction.  Scott Cannon to get a retrial.

UPDATE:  12/18/09--Prosecutors have dropped all charges against Scott Cannon, admitting that the State destroyed the evidence in the case.  Note:  The State does not say what this evidence was, since the little there was in the first place has been discredited, and a reasonable person must suspect the authorities are lying to save face.  Meanwhile, Scott Cannon is Free.


Florida
.  William Dillon spent 27 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit based on fraudulent "evidence" from dog handler John Preston (discredited in 1984) and perjured "snitch" testimony from another jail inmate.  Now that the snitch testified at a legislative hearing about how Brevard County detectives got him to lie under oath,
the Brevard County Sheriff's Office reopened the homicide investigation.  Isn't it a bit late?

FIVE TEXAS ARSON CASES UNDER SCRUTINY

Five men charged with crimes that never happened.  Five men's lives ruined.  Two men freed.  One man executed.  Two innocent men still locked up.  This doesn't just happen in Texas.  It happens everywhere.  It can happen to anyone.  It can happen to YOU.

Florida
Wolverine prosecutors travel in packs.  Former prosecutor, now Broward County Circuit Court Judge Robert Carney's successor, Carolyn McCann, launched a full-court (no pun intended) effort to assault the credibility of Edward Blake and his lab, Forensic Science Associates.  Why?  Blake not only found DNA in the Anthony Caravella case, but his tests cleared Caravella of rape and murder charges.  In 2001, the Broward County Sheriff's crime lab "couldn't find" any DNA evidence.  They travel in the same pack.  Seek the truth?  No.  Protect the conviction.

United States
.  A report from Israeli scientists that DNA evidence can be fabricated is the real thing, and the implications are terrifying. 
“You can just engineer a crime scene,” said Dan Frumkin, lead author of the paper, which has been published online by the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics. “Any biology undergraduate could perform this.”  We have seen, over and over, in cases from around the country, that police and prosecutors will plant evidence in order to win convictions.  Victims of planted evidence include George Lee III, Nicholas Sampson and Matt Livers, Madison Hobley, Kevin Cooper and Kenneth Hudson, to name just a few.  Fabricating a Win for the State.

United States
.  The U.S. Supreme Court dragged crime labs toward transparency in its June 25, 2009 opinion
that crime lab reports used in drug and other cases can be introduced as evidence at trial only if defendants can cross-examine the forensic analysts who prepared them.  One less rock for incompetence to hide behind.

Oklahoma
.  Former Oklahoma City DA Bob Macy and police chemist Joyce Gilchrist have settled with
Curtis Edward McCarty, who spent 20 years on death row for a crime he didn't commit, thanks to the "convictions at all costs" efforts of Macy and Gilchrist.  The settlement terms with Macy are sealed, but not the settlement with Gilchrist.  The Oklahoma Gazette has peeled away the layers of "spin" to reveal inner workings in the DA's office and crime lab that are shocking.  A scoop for the Oklahoma Gazette

Texas
Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Deputy and bloodhound trainer Keith Pikett has been sued in federal court for the second time in less than a year over a scent line-up involving his dogs.  The dogs were trumped by DNA in the most recent case, and by the guilty plea of a rapist/murderer in the earlier case.  So why continue such blatantly bogus tactics?  The dogs are generating income

UPDATE:  9/27/09 - Curvis
Bickham does not know for sure whether Pikett's dogs, used to connect him to a triple murder in southeast Houston last year, made a mistake, produced a false “hit” because their handler encouraged them or responded correctly to scent that was deliberately placed on items from the murder scene. All he knows is that he was accused of capital murder, a crime that could have cost him his life.  Former Harris County prosecutor Vic Wisner, an assistant district attorney for more than 24 years,  has a one-word summation of scent evidence:  "Ludicrous."

UPDATE:  9/23/10 -
A man convicted of murder after three bloodhounds allegedly matched his scent to the victim should be set free because the evidence against him was not legally sufficient, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled.  The court acquitted Richard Winfrey Sr., reversing his 2007 conviction in the murder of high school janitor Murray Burr in the small town of Coldspring, about 60 miles north of Houston.  He cannot be retried.

UPDATE:  June 1, 2013 -- It took another 2 1/2 years for Megan Winfrey, the daughter of Richard Winfrey, Sr. , also convicted of murder on the bogus bloodhounds evidence, to gain her freedom, although the evidence against her was the same crap used against her father.  And she will have to sue to get compensation.

IllinoisWhen the U.S. government hired Michael Sheppo to help eliminate a crushing backlog in untested DNA evidence, he had all the right credentials.  He's one of the federal officials responsible for eliminating the national backlog of 350,000 DNA samples in need of testing, and his claim to fame was that he had eliminated a 1,000 DNA specimen backlog in Illinois.  But he didn't.  Under Sheppo, the Illinois lab released false figures and fired two lab employees in retaliation for criticizing an ethically questionable contract.  Sheppo knows how to make backlogs disappear.

Nebraska
David Kofoed, the commander of the Douglas County (Omaha) crime scene investigations unit is facing federal and state charges over accusations that he planted evidence in the car of two wrongly accused suspects in a Nebraska couple's murder.  He was just making the evidence fit the coerced confession.  Evidence tampering.

UPDATE:  3/23/10 -
A judge on Tuesday, March 23, 2010 convicted a top crime scene investigator of evidence tampering, after prosecutors argued that the investigator planted blood from a slaying victim in a car linked to two innocent suspects to bolster the case against them.  Cass County District Judge Randall Rehmeier said he didn't believe Douglas County CSI director David Kofoed's excuse that the victim's blood ended up in the car because of a sloppy mistake. Rehmeier said there was enough evidence to show that Kofoed intentionally planted fake evidence.  Guilty.

UPDATE:  3/25/10 - CSI director David Kofoed had
a reputation as a man who could find things others couldn't.  That reputation was destroyed when the Douglas County CSI director was convicted of planting blood evidence during a murder investigation. The conviction throws into doubt the legitimacy of other cases on which he worked, and some of those he helped put behind bars are likely lining up to appeal.  Flood of appeals expected.

UPDATE:  6/2/10 - Former CSI director David Kofoed was sentenced to between 20 months and 4 years in prison for tampering with evidence.  He plans to appeal.

Texas
.  Gary Richard of Houston has spent the last 22 years in prison, thanks primarily to the lab work of Christy Kim -- an analyst who never lets the prosecution down.  Kim said Richard was the man who abducted and raped a woman in 1987.  The rapist was a non-secretor.  Richard is a secretor, so he could not have been the rapist.  Business as usual.

California
Arron Layton, a toxicologist who did lab work on criminal evidence in thousands of cases, has admitted to fraud, forgery and perjury.   Riverside County authorities have ordered the review of 3,000 cases that were handled by toxicologist Arron Layton. It's believed Layton handled evidence for hundreds of cases in San Diego County, where District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is "circling the wagons."  Protecting convictions.

United States
A first-of-its-kind study has found that forensic experts produced flawed evidnece in the trials of 82 men wrongfully convicted of rape or murder in the 1980s.  Brandon L. Garrett, a law professor at the University of Virginia, and Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, examined 137 trials in which transcripts exist and forensic experts testified for the prosecution.  In 60% of the cases, they gave testimony overstating the evidence.

California
The Santa Clara County district attorney has opened the door to the possibility of wrongful convictions by failing to objectively investigate crime lab errors, the national Innocence Project has charged.  The group, in a national report, singled out the local prosecutor for failing to hire an outside agency to investigate a formal complaint that followed the 2007 discovery that Jeffrey Rodriguez had been wrongly convicted of robbery based on faulty testimony from a crime lab analyst concerning a stain found on the defendant's pants.  The problem with investigating yourself ...

Mississippi
.  Radley Balko, senior editor at Reason Magazine, has taken an in-depth look at Mississippi's doctors of death, Steven Hayne and Michael West.  They actually videotaped themselves using a cast of murder suspect Jimmie Duncan's teeth to create bite marks on the body of the child Duncan was accused of killing.  Jimmie Duncan is on death row.  Manufactured Guilt

Wisconsin
.  In 1985, when Robert Lee Stinson of Milwaukee was 21 years old, he was convicted of the murder of a 63-year-old woman who had been savagely beaten to death the previous year.  Robert's conviction was based on bite mark evidence that didn't even match--he had a tooth missing where the bite marks indicated a tooth, a fact that didn't bother the state's "experts" at all.  DNA evidence rules him out conclusively.  Junk bite mark evidence should be barred.

Michigan
The Detroit Police crime lab is so plagued with problems that it can't be trusted to help deliver justice in criminal cases, officials said on September 25, 2008 as they announced its immediate closure.  10% Error Rate in Ballistics.

Wisconsin
.  Attorney Jerome Buting has filed a complaint about some of the big errors that have been uncovered at the Wisconsin Crime Lab. 
For example, an employee at the Milwaukee bureau of the crime lab made up results. He "falsified the data" in a case by saying a finger print didn't match anyone in a database before he knew whether it did or not.  In March of 2006, an employee at the Madison bureau of the lab was suspended for being "intoxicated" on the job.  That happens to be around the time the lab was testing evidence in one of the most high profile cases in recent memory: the murder trial against Steven Avery.   The AG's office says it will review the complaint.  Plain English:  Don't hold your breath.

UPDATE - 10/31/08:  As predicted, the Wisconsin AG's office has investigated itself -- the Wisconsin Crime Lab is part of the AG's office -- and has cleared itself.  Placating the public.

Maryland
Baltimore crime analysts have been contaminating evidence with their own DNA -- a revelation that led to the dismissal of the city Police Department's crime lab director and prompted questions from defense attorneys and forensic experts about the professionalism of the state's biggest and busiest crime lab.  Baltimore police are talking out of both sides of their mouths, saying, 'Oh, it's not a problem at all,' and on the other hand they have fired the crime lab director.  How did this lab get accreditation?

California
.  In Bakersfield, the crime lab is part of the DA's office.  There is no "firewall" between the prosecution side and the science side of the office.  This creates a conflict that recently moved
prosecutor Nick Lackie to tell a jury, "So what?"  This conflict issue has come to a head in a recent case in which a lawyer, Daniel Willsey, stands charged with causing the death of Joe Hudnall, a local deputy by driving under the influence of methamphetamine and causing Hudnall to crash.  Defense attorneys have learned that testing of the defendant's blood was conducted by a lab analyst who is a close friend of the dead deputy's family.  Cops in lab coats.

But wait -- there's more.  When Daniel Willsey's defense attorneys went back to court to argue motions related to mishandling evidence by the DA office's crime lab, everyone got a big surprise.  The crime lab had "inadvertently" destroyed the sample of Willsey's blood that the lab claimed tested positive for methamphetamines.  Gosh, it's not like the DA wanted to make sure Willsey's defense attorneys can't have a private lab test the sample.  Ooops -- Butterfingers.

Wisconsin, Washington and South Dakota -- So FarSaami Shaibani often testified for the prosecution in big murder cases, taking the stand as an expert in what he called "injury mechanism analysis" — a combination of physics, trauma medicine and engineering that he used to determine whether, say, a woman fell down the stairs or was beaten.  But after years of helping lock up killers, Shaibani could be the one in trouble.  The physicist lied under oath about his credentials, and now some of the convictions he helped secure are in jeopardy. At least one has been overturned so far.  Resume-Padding comes home to roost.

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Eighty-six years after Colin Ross of Melbourne, Australia was hanged for the rape and murder of 12-year-old Alma Tirtschke, he has been officially pardoned.  The pseudo-science of microscopic hair comparison put Colin on the gallows, despite his protestations of innocence.  Recent tests show that the hairs found at Colin's home, said to be from young Alma, weren't even from the same head.  Bad science, irrevocable results.

Pennsylvania
Emerson McCauley  is anything but a sympathetic figure.  A thief and forger, he told Pennsylvania police that he witnessed two men rape a woman and throw her off a 44-foot-high Juniata County bridge in 1977.  He was looking for a break for himself by making up lies to frame others, and it backfired.  Emerson was charged with the murder, and former star junk scientist, police chemist Janice Roadcap, clinched the conviction when she testified that a "uniquely shaped" hair on the victim's leg came from Emerson's chest.  But DNA has cleared Emerson, who appears to be what he has said all along that he is -- innocent of murder.  Roadcap Redux

California
A judge has dismissed charges against Cynthia Sommer, who was convicted of killing her Marine husband with arsenic, after new tests showed no traces of poison.  Prosecutors who were preparing for a second trial found that previously untested samples of Marine Sgt. Todd Sommer's tissue showed no arsenic.  A recently retained government expert speculated that the earlier samples were contaminated, prosecutors wrote in a motion filed in San Diego Superior Court. The expert said he found the initial results "very puzzling" and "physiologically improbable."  Contaminated Conviction.

Canada - but relevant in US
As part of a probe into autopsy errors by pediatric pathologist Charles Smith that precipitated wrongful charges and convictions, the Goudge Commission  is focusing on the role of experts in the court system.  The inquiry has been told that judges allow experts too much latitude.

Texas:
  On January 24, 2008, the Houston Police Crime lab DNA Section was shut down for the second time due to incompetence, cheating and mismanagement.  A 73-page report details just how bad the "reformed" lab was.

Lest anyone forget how bad the lab was before the fictional rehabilitation took place, we have moved the links to earlier reports to this section, so you don't have to search for them.

Houston Police Crime Lab
The HPD Crime Lab is back in the news, not because it cleaned up its act, but because it continues its tradition of sloppy testing and perjured testimony.


Few people listened when Ronald Gene Taylor declared himself innocent of a rape charge 14 years ago. But the Harris County District Attorney's Office finally agreed with him on October 3, 2007, acknowledging that the scandal-plagued Houston Police Department crime lab was responsible for sending yet another wrong person to prison.  The crime lab said there was no semen on a sheet taken from the rape scene.  New tests yielded the DNA profile of another man, a sex offender currently in prison, who looks very much like Taylor.  Another Blow to Lab.

In 1998, a rape victim identified Josiah Sutton as one of her assailants when she saw him on the street, and the Houston, Texas crime lab claimed DNA tests implicated him.  The crime lab has been shut down because of the poor quality of its work, and new DNA tests have excluded Josiah.  4 1/2 Years in Prison -- for Nothing

Christy Kim, the Houston Police Department Crime Lab DNA analyst whose faulty work sent Josiah Sutton to prison for rape, has been fired, 9 months after new tests exonerated Josiah and led to his release.  It's About Time

Never mind.  A city panel has reinstated Christy Kim, adopting the theory that individual lab analysts who testify as expert witnesses have no personal responsibility for their work.  Meanwhile, Josiah Sutton is still waiting for a pardon.  Another Free Pass

Small wonder the DNA analysts at the Houston Police Crime Lab did such a poor job.  None of them were qualified by education and training to do their jobs.  The founder of the DNA lab, James Bolding, retired rather than be fired.  Among other things, he failed both algebra and geometry in college, though he later passed both, and he never took statistics.   Interim update on Houston Police Crime Lab.

New DNA tests on evidence from four cases originally processed by the Houston Police Department's troubled crime lab have found significantly weaker links between the evidence and the defendants than the first results.  Crime Lab 'Just Way Off' in Calvin Jermany Case

No indictments were returned, but a Harris County grand jury completing its investigation of the Houston Police Department crime lab Friday criticized how officials dealt with the problem that shook public confidence in the criminal justice system.  Plato was Right - Science without Virtue is Immoral Science

Two grand juries investigating problems in Houston's police crime laboratory have widened their inquiry to include local prosecutors, asking about their potential culpability for winning convictions with Tainted Evidence .

The head of the DNA division of the Houston Police Department's crime lab has offered testimony in at least three cases that has later turned out to be wrong, according to court transcripts.  "They intentionally mislead," said Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, the former head of the DNA lab at the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office who now often works as a consultant for criminal defense teams. "And in all the cases I've been involved in, they always mislead in favor of a conviction."  Houston Democratic state Rep. Harold Dutton says, "We have a name for that in Texas, and that is Perjury ."

When handled, analyzed and interpreted correctly, DNA evidence works to exclude the innocent and convict the guilty. But when the same evidence is handled and analyzed in shoddy lab conditions and by incompetent lab staff, the consequences can be dire. One consequence is that the innocent are convicted. But another consequence is that the real perpetrators go free and continue to commit crimes. Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld tell the Houston Police crime lab: End This DNA Debacle

"There were two different problems in the crime lab — scientific incompetence and corruption," Law Professor David Dow of the University of Houston said. "That's a deadly combination. Once you have corruption, there is no reason to think that this is limited to DNA cases or cases where there is scientific evidence of any sort."  The Houston Police Crime Lab


Mississippi:  The Innocence Project has asked the state to fill the long-vacant position of State Medical Examiner, and to stop using state pathologist Dr. Steven Hayne.  Dr. Hayne's work lies at the heart of the wrongful convictions of Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks.  His credentials and the results of his work have been solidly discredited for several years, but he is under no oversight because the State Medical Examiner position has been vacant for more than a decade.   How many more wrongful convictions before the state acts responsibly?

But Dr. Steven Hayne is only half of the despicable duo.  Forensic odontologist Dr. Michael West found "bite marks" no one else could see on the bodies of the little victims in both cases, and in both cases, testified that Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks were each guilty. 
"If you fabricate evidence in a capital murder case, where you know that if the person's convicted they are going to be executed  -- as far as I'm concerned that's the crime of attempted murder,''  says  Peter Neufeld.   "He's a criminal."

West Virginia
:
The murder case against Jeffrey Galford of Elkins, WV for the death of an infant in his care has been dismissed.  The child died in 2003.  State Medical Examiner Dr. James Frost conducted an autopsy and ruled the death homicide as the result of shaken baby syndrome.  The report, however, was not sent to the prosecutor until 2006, and Galford was indicted in 2007.  In early 2008, just before trial was scheduled to begin, Dr. Frost reviewed the child's full medical history -- something he had made no effort to do before declaring the death a homicide or in the years thereafter.  The baby's complex medical history led Dr. Frost to conclude no intentional act against the child could be proven.  Why the 5-year wait to review the baby's medical history?

Mississippi
Kennedy Brewer of Macon, Mississippi, a mildly retarded, Black defendant, was convicted of raping and killing a 3-year-old girl and sentenced to death in 1992.  In 2002, he was cleared by DNA, but he wasn't released.  He has spent the past 5 years in the local jail, awaiting retrial.  Because you can bet, the local authorities plan to get another conviction and another death sentence.  The Sheriff says he can't look for a DNA match because Mississippi doesn't have a DNA database -- which is news to the state's crime lab director.  The prosecutor will bring back his star witness, dentist Dr. Michael West, whose bite mark testimony has been disproven by DNA in other cases, and who resigned from professional forensic dentistry groups to avoid expulsion.  Prosecutors are so sure they're right about Kennedy's guilt that they're Willing to Bet His Life on It.

UPDATE:  2/9/08 - Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks, both convicted of killing 3-year-old girls in Noxubee County, Mississippi, and both cleared by DNA, are slated to be released.  What did it take to reach this point?  Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood had to take the prosecutions of these murders away from the Noxubee County DA, something almost unheard of in the state's history.  The Attorney General has charged Albert Johnson with the murders of both children.

Massachusetts Crime Lab Neglected 16,000 Cases.  Evidence samples from thousands of crime scenes across Massachusetts, including nearly 1,000 homicides and other deaths and 6,500 sexual assaults, were never analyzed by the State Police crime lab, according to an investigation of the lab ordered by the state. 
The lab's failure to process potentially crucial DNA evidence from 16,000 cases means that killers and rapists could be walking free, while innocent people remain imprisoned. 

Victims of Faulty Diagnoses by Dr. Charles Smith
Toronto, Ontario (Canada)

In Toronto, Ontario (Canada), errors were found in 20 of 45 autopsies, dating back as far as 1991, performed by former provincial pathologist Dr. Charles Smith.   Twelve of those cases resulted in criminal convictions and one in a finding of not criminally responsible. 

The first to be exonerated was William Mullins-Johnson, who spent 12 years in prison for the rape and murder of his niece.  A 2005 review of Dr. Charles Smith's autopsy and diagnosis found the the child had not been raped or strangled, but choked to death on her own vomit caused by a chronic stomach ailment.

UPDATE:  10/15/07 - Mullins-Johnson officially found innocent.

Sherry Sherrett, one of the 12, convicted of killing her own infant son, is seeking a full public inquiry into Dr. Smith's work.  The 2006 review shows her son was not murdered. 

Louise Reynolds spent 2 years in jail awaiting trial after Dr. Smith said she stabbed her 7-year-old daughter, Sharon, to death with scissors.  Charges were dropped after it was demonstrated little Sharon was mauled by a pit bull.

In 1998, Dr. Smith accused Louise and Marco Trotta of suffocating their 4-month-old son, Paulo.  Louise served 5 years in prison; Marco was sentenced to 15 years, and had served 9 years when the review indicated little Paulo suffocated on his bedding.

CBC In Depth takes a closer look at Dr. Charles Smith: The Man Behind the Public Inquiry


California Panel Calls for Standards for Scientific Analysis, Evidence. An influential California commission on May 3, 2007 said that forensic science errors are a major contributor to wrongful convictions and called for better training, more monitoring and stronger standards in the real world of "CSI."  The report cited the Innocence Project at New York's Cardozo Law School, which identified forensic science testing errors in 63% of a set of nationwide DNA exoneration cases analyzed.  The California commission also raised a red flag over the ability of the criminal justice system to expose mistakes in scientific evidence.

Are Innocent Imprisoned Because of Fingerprint Errors?  Florida officials are reviewing hundreds of criminal cases because a fingerprint expert at the Seminole County Sheriff's Office botched at least two cases, including one involving a homicide.  They dropped a burglary case because the Florida Department of Law Enforcement concluded that the expert, Donna Birks, was wrong to say a fingerprint found on a stolen wallet belonged to the defendant.  The print was smudged and could not be adequately identified.  In the other case, FDLE said Birks misidentified a print found on a shell casing at the scene of a 2006 Altamonte Springs homicide.

Perjury by Forensics Expert Throws Cases into TurmoilIn the six weeks since state police announced that longtime Baltimore, MD police gun expert Joseph Kopera had killed himself after being confronted with evidence of his falsified credentials, Baltimore County prosecutors have begun reviewing the more than 70 cases that included Kopera's analysis, and have asked the county police crime lab to retest ballistics evidence in cases in which his analysis and testimony were deemed "material" to a conviction.  Baltimore City public defenders have identified 55 felony cases in which Kopera testified and have begun collecting the police reports, court transcripts and other documents needed to determine what role his analysis played in the defendants' convictions.

Victims of Bad Medicine  In Toronto, Ontario (Canada), errors were found in 20 of 45 autopsies, dating back as far as 1991, performed by former proviincial pathologist Dr. Charles Smith.   Twelve of those cases resulted in criminal convictions and one in a finding of not criminally responsible.  Sherry Sherrett, one of the 12, convicted of killing her own infant son, is seeking a full public inquiry into Dr. Smith's work.  The 2006 review shows her son was not murdered. 

Justice Goes to the Dogs On a warm August night in 2004, Michael Espalin and his dog watched Riverside, CA firefighters douse seven burning palm trees on a residential street. It was 1 a.m., an unusual time to be walking a dog, or so thought an arson investigator.  After answering a number of questions, Espalin, then 31, was asked to rub his face and hands on a gauze pad and sent on his way.  Half a year later, Espalin was charged as a serial arsonist, accused of lighting 21 fires, mostly trees and bushes, in Riverside.  No eyewitnesses or traditional evidence linked Espalin to the crimes. But the Riverside County district attorney's office built a case against him based on a bloodhound allegedly picking up his scent on a charred incendiary device and cold crime scenes and matching it to the pad.  After Espalin spent two years in jail awaiting trial, a jury deadlocked 9 to 3 in January for acquittal. Most jurors did not believe that the bloodhound, Dakota, found Espalin's scent at the scene of the fires days and weeks after they were set.  Prosecutors say they intend to try Espalin a second time.

Expert's Lies Fall Apart.  Defense attorneys for James A. Kulbicki offered a string of alibi witnesses, and he flat-out said he didn't do it. He was, after all, a Baltimore, MD police sergeant, and, he insisted, not a killer.  But a state police ballistics expert named Joseph Kopera helped convict the officer by saying that bullet fragments found in his truck and in his mistress' head could have come from his gun - testimony that is now being questioned.  Kopera recently killed himself after being confronted with evidence that he lied about his credentials.  Kublicki's attorneys challenged Kopera's findings and assertions in court papers filed a year earlier, arguing that the firearms examiner's testimony did not match his notes. And that was before they discovered that Kopera claimed to have degrees that he never earned.

UPDATE:  It's easy to understand why the Baltimore DA wanted to blindside James Kulbicki and his attorneys.  They have to be steaming mad after Kulbicki's lawyers exposed the systematic forensic fraud committed by police ballistics expert Joseph Kopera.  But their reach exceeded their grasp when they did DNA tests -- without court approval or notice to Kulbicki's lawyers -- on bone fragments that were contaminated 14 years ago when they were collected.  Will One-Upsmanish Replace Law and Science? [Includes full texts of state and defense motions]

A joint project by the Washington Post and 60 Minutes reviews the conviction of James Kulbicki, in which key testimony and the science behind it has been discredited.

People around the world are learning how the U.S. legal system works based on James Kulbicki's case -- a web of lies woven around junk science and blatant prosecutorial misconduct, a politicized judiciary unwilling to correct injustice, and an apathetic public more interested in entertainment than in truth.  As Ludwig De Braeckeleer capably demonstrates for South Korea's Oh My News, The Whole World is Watching.

Perjury on Behalf of the State.  Thomas Siller and Walter Zimmer of Cleveland, Ohio were convicted of the 1997 beating murder of 74-year-old Alice Zolkowski, based in large part on the testimony of a third man arrested in the same incident.  Police crime lab analyst Joseph Serowik testified the informant had only one drop of blood on his shirt, supporting the man's claim that he was an observer, not a participant in the crime.  A lab audit found seven blood stains on the informant's shirt.  Serowik either lied about or failed to conduct thorough blood tests on the clothing of an eyewitness who said Siller and Zimmer had beaten the woman into a coma. Serowik's testimony amounted to perjury on behalf of the state's case, Barry Scheck of the Cardozo Innocence Project said.

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.

Sloppy Work at NYPD Lab The NYPD is reviewing some 1,400 cases where a lab technician may have bungled fingerprint evidence. Officials pulled all cases handled by the lab tech after a sample review of 132 of them revealed she botched the evidence-collection process 20% of the time, police sources said.  "The common perception is that technology is always right, whether it is fingerprints or DNA, but this shows technology is only as good as the person who does the work," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

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 ScotlandFresh 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. 

Cops & Crime Lab, Working Together .  In 1994, Chicago cops used a "reverse lineup" (in which a suspect is asked to identify his victims), along with threats and physical abuse, to coerce 17-year-old Lafonso Rollins into confessing to the rape of an elderly woman.  He was convicted and sentenced to 75 years prison, but he was freed in 2004 when DNA proved his innocence.  He sued.  Discovery in his civil suit disclosed that the police crime lab had excluded him based on blood type before Rollins was ever tried.  Oops.  The great teamwork cost the city $9 million.


The Search for Truth
Like alchemists cooking up recipes to turn lead into gold, men in lab coats look to technology to replace investigation.  Junk by any other name is still ... junk.

CIA and FBI Use of Polygraphs .  In the popular mind, fueled by Hollywood representations, polygraphs are lie-detection machines that can peer inside people's heads to determine whether they are telling the truth.  The scientific reality is far different: A recent study concluded, "Its accuracy in distinguishing actual or potential security violators from innocent test takers is insufficient to justify reliance on its use in employee security screening in federal agencies."  

fMRI - Truth Machine?
CVSA Goes to Prison

CVSA - How to Coerce False ConfessionsThe Computer Voice Stress Analyzer, or CVSA, purportedly measures FM radio waves produced by muscles around the larynx. Yet, independent experts have consistently found the instrument to be dubious, at best.  "It's complete nonsense," said Richard Leo, a professor of psychology and criminology at the University of California-Irvine who specializes in police interrogations. "It's junk science with a capital J. I think these CVSA machines are dangerous, and they are contributing to the process that elicits false confessions."

UPDATE
'Nothing More Than a Prop'  A Pentagon study obtained by ABC News finds that a new kind of voice lie detector used by the U.S. military and American police departments is no better than "flipping a coin" in detecting lies. Until the Pentagon ordered a halt to its use, the Voice Stress Analyzer was being used by military intelligence interrogators at Guantanamo Bay and in Iraq.

UPDATE
6/1/10 - The widely awaited ruling on the admissibility in court of fMRI for lie detection purposes has come down, and it's bad news for proponents of the novel brain-scanning technology. In a potentially landmark opinion, a federal magistrate ruled that the technology is unreliable and has not been accepted by the scientific community. Judge Tu Pham held that the novel scientific technique has been subjected to testing and peer review, but is not general accepted by scientists nor are its error rates established. The judge's ruling also highlighted the distinction between laboratory research and performance in real-world settings.  Lorne Semrau, a psychiatrist facing trial on multiple counts of Medicare and Medicaid fraud, had sought to introduce his fMRI results as evidence of lack of fraudulent intent. The full ruling is online HERE.

CNN Presents:
Reasonable Doubt:  Can Crime Labs be Trusted?
A joint investigation by CNN and the Center for Investigative Reporting examines the lack of standards, quality controls and training at many of the nation's forensic laboratories and raises serious doubts about some forensic scientists.
Key Cases
The Labs

GSR -- or BSR?
A New Scientist investigation has found that someone who has never fired a gun could be contaminated by someone who has, and that different criminal investigators use contradictory standards. What's more, particles that are supposedly unique to GSR can be produced in other ways.

UPDATE
GSR Lacks Scientific Credibility.  A Minnesota judge has thrown out gunshot residue evidence police say solved the pool hall murders of two people.  Judge Sharon Hall ruled that GSR has no scientific backing and does not belong in a courtroom.

It's a Crime When Science Gets it Wrong An analysis was done of 86 criminal convictions that DNA evidence later found to be wrong.  F ully 63 percent of the cases featured errors of forensic science. What's more, in 27 percent of the cases forensic scientists gave false or misleading testimony.

Army Launches Probe of DNA Tests  
The Army is investigating accusations that a civilian forensic examiner at the Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory at Fort Gillem, Ga., falsified DNA test results.   The accusations, if true, would throw into doubt hundreds of criminal cases dating back at least 10 years.

Justice Under the Microscope   DNA is only as reliable as the humans testing it. Virginia's once highly touted crime lab has starkly demonstrated this in an error-ridden death-row case that was propped up repeatedly by botched DNA studies from the state's supposed experts.

CSI Effect?  
The argument that "C.S.I." and similar shows are actually raising the number of acquittals is a staggering claim, and the remarkable thing is that, speaking forensically, there is not a shred of evidence to back it up. There is a robust field of research on jury decision-making but no study finding any "C.S.I. effect."

Utterly Junk Science   Microscopic comparison of carpet fibers -- utterly junk science -- convicted Wayne Williams of two of the Atlanta child murders that terrorized the city in 1981, and police blamed Williams for 27 other uncharged killings. 
The newly ensconced Dekalb County police chief who was never convinced of Wayne Williams' guilt has reopened five of the 1981 "Atlanta Child Murder" cases.  Families of many of the murdered children have been unconvinced all these years, too.  Williams says he is imprisoned with at least four relatives of his alleged victims, and that even they believe in his innocence.

UPDATE:  DNA Testing Sought
Lawyers for Wayne Williams, blamed for the murders of two dozen children and young men in the late 1970s and early '80s, have asked to perform DNA testing on dog hair, human hair and blood.

Sloppy Pathology  A three-member panel from the state Board of Medical Examiners has so far substantiated 18 violations stemming from the long-running inquiry into the practice of Dr. Charles Harlan, a pathologist who spent three decades performing autopsies throughout Tennessee.


BS Bullet Matching   Eighteen years ago, three Boston-area men were convicted of fatally shooting a Lynnfield couple in the basement of their Main Street home as their two young children slept upstairs, a brazen crime that sent shock waves through the quiet, prosperous suburb.  Richard Costa, Dennis Daye, and Michael DeNictolis are each serving two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole for the 1985 slaying of Robert Paglia and his wife, Patricia, in a robbery at the couple's house.  But now a retired FBI agent says in an affidavit that a former colleague gave false and misleading forensic testimony -- deemed crucial to the prosecution's case -- at the trial.

More BS Bullet Matching A New Jersey appeals court overturned the 1997 murder conviction of Michael S. Behn on March 7, 2005, ruling that an FBI crime lab technique that prosecutors relied on to link the fatal bullets to the defendant was based on "erroneous scientific foundations."

UPDATE: 
The FBI has announced that it has discontinued the use of bullet-lead matching, a forensic technique used for at least 25 years that had been heavily criticized as inaccurate and misleading.  Nonetheless, FBI Laboratory Director Dwight E. Adams said, "we stand by the results of the reports we have already issued."  Never Admit Error

UPDATE: The Kentucky Supreme Court has reversed Shane Ragland's murder conviction, which was based on comparative bullet lead analysis (CBLA).  When Ragland was tried in 2002, CBLA was all the rage at the FBI Lab.  By 2005, CBLA had been discredited as junk science.  No Choice But to Reverse Conviction

UPDATE: 
Hundreds of defendants sitting in prisons nationwide have been convicted with the help of an FBI forensic tool that was discarded more than two years ago. But the FBI lab has yet to take steps to alert the affected defendants or courts, even as the window for appealing convictions is closing, a joint investigation by The Washington Post and "60 Minutes" has found.  Silent Injustice.

UPDATE: 
Lee Wayne Hunt of Smithfield, NC vividly remembers the day 21 years ago when an FBI scientist walked into a North Carolina courthouse and told jurors that he was able to match the lead content of bullets found at the crime scene to that of bullets in a box connected to Hunt's co-defendant. The testimony provided the sole forensic evidence to corroborate the prosecution's circumstantial case.  In 2005, the bureau ended its bullet-lead-matching technique after experts concluded that the very type of testimony given in Hunt's case -- matching a crime-scene bullet to those in a suspect's box -- was scientifically invalid.  They threw out the science -- but haven't lifted a finger to help the wrongly convicted put into prison by it.  Still in Prison

UPDATE: 
In 1998, when teacher Jimmy Ates of Crestview, Florida was convicted -- 7 years after the crime -- of murdering his wife, the only evidence prosecutors had against him was the FBI test that concluded the lead in the bullets that killed Norma Ates matched the lead in bullets Jimmy owned.  The bullet lead test was discredited in 2005.  Now Jimmy's conviction has been reversed and he has been given a new trial.  Invalid Evidence

Officially Sanctioned Abuse  
The Darke County, Ohio prosecutor has said he is closing the homicide investigation into the death of 5-year-old Daniel Crow Jr. because a rare genetic disease may be the cause of the boy's death, not abuse.  It's too late for the rest of the family.  Their other children were seized by the state and adopted by other families.

Bite Mark Baloney  
Cook County, Illinois prosecutors have dropped murder charges against Dan Young, Jr. and Harold Hill, who have spent more than 12 years behind bars, after DNA test results undermined their confessions and testimony from a dentist who implicated the two through a bite mark and a hickey.

More Bite Mark Baloney  Jeffrey Moldowan, who spent 12 years in prison before winning a retrial and acquittal in a Warren rape case, has sued the victim, the police, a trial witness and Macomb County prosecutors.  The witness is Dr. Alan Warnick, whose bogus bite mark testimony railroaded an innocent man.

Gunshot Residue   This evidence, used for years in thousands of investigations, is not as clear-cut as it has often been portrayed in court, or in the television crime dramas that have made forensics popular.  Across the country it is under increasing scrutiny as defense attorneys, prosecutors and police officials evaluate how easily suspects' hands can be contaminated by other items already covered in gunshot residue: handcuffs, car seats, even police officers themselves.

Gunshot Residue Ricochet 
The Baltimore state's attorney's office said that it has found about half a dozen convictions in cases that may have involved the controversial identification of gunshot residue evidence.  The preliminary review of shooting and weapons cases from the past five years came after a Circuit Court judge decided to exclude a two-element particle of gunshot residue evidence from a trial. He said a particle containing three elements -- lead, barium and antimony -- is required to meet the scientific community's threshold for establishing that a substance is gunshot residue.

Digital Fingerprint Identification   The Chicago Tribune has found that the same digital technology that has allowed the FBI to speed fingerprint checks so dramatically has created a new risk -- in an already subjective and non-scientific field -- of accusing the innocent.

SBS: Dubious Diagnosis  
In the UK, a review of nearly 300 cases in which parents were convicted of killing their young children has identified 28 where there was "sufficient cause for concern to warrant further consideration", the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, has told Parliament.  A further 89 cases of "shaken baby syndrome" will be reconsidered in the light of a judgment from the Court of Appeal expected in 2005, Lord Goldsmith promised.  Three pending prosecutions have already been abandoned "on the grounds that it was not safe to proceed".

UPDATE: 
In 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

Forensic scientist Charles Vaughan,
whose testimony helped wrongfully convict two young men of murder in Oregon, has been working for the Washington State Patrol crime lab since the case unraveled nine years ago.  Landing on His Feet .

Read the Seattle Post-Intelligencer series that "outed" Charles Vaughn

Back in 1988, Texas Department of Public Safety serologist Glen Adams testified that Brandon Moon was among "15% of the population" who could have contributed semen in a 1987 rape.  Relying on that overstated testimony, an El Paso jury convicted Moon and he was sentenced to 75 years in prison.  It was another win for junk science.  In 2004, DNA Cleared Brandon Moon .


Todd Willingham - Executed for an Accidental Fire

Strapped to a gurney in Texas' death chamber in February, 2004, just moments from his execution for setting a fire that killed his three daughters, Cameron Todd Willingham declared his innocence one last time.  " I am an innocent man, convicted of a crime I did not commit," Willingham said angrily. "I have been persecuted for 12 years for something I did not do."  Four fire cause and origin experts -- Gerald Hurst, John Lentini, John DeHaan and Kendall Ryland -- agree.  "There's nothing to suggest to any reasonable arson investigator that this was an arson fire," said Hurst, a Cambridge University-educated chemist who has investigated scores of fires in his career. "It was just a fire."

UPDATE
(In pdf format - Includes Report and Supporting Documentation)

UPDATE - August 15, 2008
Texas Panel to Probe Findings That Led to Willingham's Execution

UPDATE - September 14, 2010
Reconstituted Texas Panel Set to Whitewash Willingham Execution

UPDATE - January 8, 2011
Panel Finally Hears Arson Experts

UPDATE - April 15, 2011
Panel Recommends Revisiting Old Arson Cases

UPDATE - September 9, 2011
Panel Not Allowed to Issue Opinion on Willingham, But Old Arson Cases May Be Reviewed

Link:

An Exclusive Excerpt from "Incendiary"

by Evan Smith, The Texas Tribune
December 29, 2010

An exclusive excerpt from "Incendiary," a forthcoming documentary about the Cameron Todd Willingham case.


Thelma Younkin used an oxygen tube to help her breathe. Her killer used it as a murder weapon. 
In November 1991, the frail, 65-year-old Younkin was strangled with the tube, bitten and raped in her room at the Post Park Motel along a grim stretch of Yuma, Arizona.  A fellow resident of the low-budget motel, Bobby Lee Tankersley, was convicted and sent to Arizona's Death Row for the attack, based largely on the testimony of a forensic dentist who said he had matched Tankersley's teeth to bite marks on Younkin's body.  But on December 6, 2004, the same judge who sentenced Tankersley to death will hold a hearing that promises to showcase the problems of forensic science in America's courts, from the legacy of discredited experts to new DNA tests exposing the questionable science behind many other disciplines, including bite-mark comparison.  Bite Mark Verdict Faces New Scrutiny

UPDATE:  Bobby Lee Tankersley has been granted a new sentencing hearing.  Bogus Bite Mark Evidence Cited .

Should medical experts who give fraudulent testimony be subject to discipline for unprofessional conduct?  The Federation of State Medical Boards thinks so.  FSMB Guidelines

Los Angeles County officials scrambled to review at least 27 -- and possibly dozens -- of pending criminal cases to determine whether critical evidence was tainted or falsified during analysis by the nation's largest private DNA lab.  Cellmark found the problems through its own audits, and said
the testing protocols were not followed and that the analyst substituted results and changed computer records.  All It Takes is One Bad Apple

Computer Voice Stress Analysis (CVSA) is promoted by police who use it as a reliable lie detector.  Even the manufacturer
the National Institute for Truth Verification, "acknowledges that the CVSA is not capable of lie detection and specifically cautions its users regarding the proper use of the device." But it works well for getting gullible suspects to confess -- especially when they are innocent.  More Junk

Saying the autopsy report was wrong, Winchester, TN
District Attorney Mike Taylor dismissed a murder charge against Margaret Mignano, accused of killing her severely disabled daughter with an overdose of medication.  The murder charge was based on the autopsy report of Dr. Charles Harlan of Nashville, a forensic pathologist who is defending his medical license against state charges of misdiagnosing causes of death in other cases and destroying evidence in criminal investigations.  No Overdose

Post Mortem Drug Test Errors  
A technique for inferring how much of a drug a patient has taken may be putting innocent people behind bars.  The problem seems to be that doctors are incorrectly applying the method to corpses, in a bid to establish how much of a drug a deceased person took, or was given, before their death. That error can result in vastly inflated readings.

Independent Crime Labs   The risk of deceptive forensic practices is heightened by the strong institutional kinship between the technicians who analyze forensic evidence and the law enforcement agencies that investigate and prosecute criminals. Virtually all crime laboratories have direct affiliations with law enforcement agencies.  Locke Bowman and Rob Warden make a strong case for independent crime labs in Illinois.  Actually, we need independent crime labs throughout the country.

A Remarkable Series from the Chicago Tribune

Forensic Science Under the Microscope
Critics Say: Show Us the Science
Arson Myths Fuel Errors
Bite Marks: From the Start, a Faulty Science
When Labs Falter, Defendants Pay
Scandal Touches Even Elite Labs

* * *
Internationally known dog handler Sandra Anderson dazzled police in Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Michigan and Panama with the ability of her dog, Eagle, to find evidence that eluded everyone else.  Of course Eagle could find it -- Anderson planted the evidence.  Anderson has pled guilty to federal evidence tampering charges.  How Many Cases did She Taint?

Recently discovered DNA evidence proves that House did not rape Carolyn Muncey immediately before she was killed in 1985 in Union County, north of Knoxville, Tennessee.  Other evidence has surfaced that might show that House did not rape or kill Muncey.  While Tennessee's judiciary argues over how many jurors can dance on the head of a pin, Paul Gregory House remains on death row.

UPDATE - 5/12/09:  Charges dropped against former TN death row inmate


Criminal Science: The Paul House Case
[pdf format - use Acrobat Reader]
Can we rely on forensic science as the arbiter of truth in the courtroom?  In his latest investigation for Seed Magazine , writer Simon Cooper exposes a case of corrupted science at the heart of our justice system -- and the forensic failures that put a man on Tennessee's death row. 

Ken Marsh
Ken Marsh spent 21 years in California prisons for a crime that never happened.  He was convicted in 1984 of murdering 2-year-old Kenneth Buell based on testimony of treating physicians -- with no independent corroboration -- who were seeking to protect themselves from malpractice claims.  His conviction was reversed without an evidentiary hearing based on insufficiency of the medical expert evidence.

Ken Marsh and his attorney, Tracy Emblem, have generously made available extensive forensic resources utilized in his case for the benefit of other innocent people facing similar charges.  Visit Free Ken Marsh

Dr. Patricia Moore, a former Harris County associate medical examiner accused of botching an autopsy that led to a young mother's imprisonment has come under scrutiny in several other cases in which her conclusions were later contested or revised. 
Moore attributed infant deaths to shaken baby syndrome at a rate considerably higher than the rate at which it happens in the general population.  Biased Autopsies

UPDATE:  Brandy Briggs, accused by Dr. Moore of shaking her baby son to death, followed her lawyer's advice in 1999 and pled guilty to injury to a child.  Subsequent review demonstrated that the child died of natural causes, and was neither abused nor neglected.  Now the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals has thrown out Briggs' conviction based on her lawyer's Deficient Performance .

UPDATE: September 14, 2009 - The Harris County (Texas) Medical Examiner's office has quietly rewritten the results of a 1998 autopsy, prompting renewed innocence claims on behalf of a baby sitter sent to prison nearly a decade ago for allegedly shaking a 4-month-old infant hard enough to cause fatal injuries.  The original autopsy classified the baby's death as a homicide and was used by prosecutors as a key piece of evidence against Cynthia Cash, now 53, a former nurse convicted of fatal injury to a child after 4-month-old Abbey Clements died after being rushed to the hospital from Cash's home.   But the modified autopsy report made public in a new appeal calls the cause of death “undetermined” and found no evidence of “trauma” in the postmortem exam.  DA continues to back Dr. Moore, a team player.

Convicted of rape and exonerated after 13 years in prison, Michael Green of Cleveland, Ohio sued the city for $10 million.  He settled his case for $1.6 million -- and
re-opening of more than 100 cases that included testimony from Joseph Serowik, the same forensics lab worker who falsely testified in Green's trial.  Doing the Right Thing

"The premise is interesting that scientific evidence is more reliable than other evidence. . . . It would be nice if it were true," said Simon A. Cole, an assistant professor of criminology, law and society at the University of California at Irvine. "In the cases of wrongful conviction that we know about, scientific evidence is a very significant factor."  Massachusetts Gov. Romney believes in the myth of infallible science, and he's willing to bet other people's lives on it.  Foolproof Forensics


Three separate FBI examiners — Terry Green, Michael Wieners and John T. Massey — identified a fingerprint linked to the Madrid train bombing as that of Oregon attorney Brandon Mayfield.  Even when Spanish authorities disagreed, the FBI stood by their conclusion of a "100 percent positive identification".  They gave Mayfield the "Richard Jewell/Wen Ho Lee" treatment -- smear his name, destroy his law practice, throw him in jail.  Oops.  The FBI was Wrong.

Commentary: 
Until now, many people in the field of fingerprinting have defensively resisted calls for additional research and investigation of fingerprinting. Because experts are permitted to testify about "100 percent positive" matches and to claim in court an error rate for the technique of zero, they have little incentive to support any research. No matter how accurate fingerprint identification turns out to be, it cannot be as perfect as they claim.  The Achilles' Heel of Fingerprints

Commentary:  The pseudoscience of fingerprint identification lacks baseline standards.  It is subjective, based on "because-I-said-so" analysis.  The result is that the government can profess certainty and be Dead Wrong .

UPDATE: 
The fingerprint identification controversy is coming before the highest court in Massachusetts. The Supreme Judicial Court is scheduled to hear arguments on September 7, 2005 about whether to quash key fingerprint evidence in the case of Terry L. Patterson, who is being retried in the 1993 slaying of a Boston detective.  In addition, Patterson's lawyer in the case, John H. Cunha Jr., wants the SJC to do what no other state supreme court has done: bar fingerprint analysis from being presented in all criminal trials until it is subjected to rigorous scientific scrutiny and proven reliable.  Unreliable Pseudoscience 

UPDATE: 
A single fingerprint found at the scene of a crime is such powerful evidence that it's almost an automatic conviction. Fingerprints never lie: Juries have been told that for more than a century.  But a criminologist at the University of California, Irvine, has documented 22 cases, most involving violent crimes, in which fingerprint evidence turned out to be dead wrong, usually discovered after defendants had served time for crimes they did not commit.  Faulty Analysis Difficult to Uncover

At the trial of Martha Stewart and her broker, Peter Bacanovic -- charged with lying to federal investigators -- govenment document examiner Larry Stewart testified that Bocanovic's worksheet notation to sell Martha's Imclone stock "at 60" was written in a different ink than the other notes.  It was "absolutely critical" to the government's case.  And It Was A Lie

The collection and handling of evidence in criminal cases is critical to the subsequent scientific analysis of that evidence.  You would think only the most qualified police officers would be assigned this task.  In Boston, just the opposite was true.  For years the Boston Police Identification Unit was a dumping ground for cops unfit for street duty.  Island of Misfit Cops

LINK: 
A WGBH Forum Network Lecture - Remembering Trauma
Richard J. McNally, professor, psychology, Harvard
Belle Adler, professor, Northeastern School of Journalism

Are horrific experiences indelibly fixed in a victim's memory? Or does the mind protect itself by banishing traumatic memories from consciousness? How victims remember trauma is the most controversial issue in psychology today, spilling out of consulting rooms and laboratories to capture headlines, rupture families, provoke legislative change, and influence criminal trials and civil suits. A clinician and laboratory researcher, Richard McNally challenges the ready acceptance of a notion he says goes beyond common sense. He contends that traumatic experiences are indeed unforgettable and the evidence for repressed memories is surprisingly weak.

Some would argue that the psychological theories behind the indefinite detention of sex offenders is junk science.  It would be difficult to disagree, considering the "treatment" James Rodriguez received.  Convicted of molesting two boys, Rodriguez figured there was only one way out of California's hospital for the criminally insane, where he was stuck indefinitely after being labeled a sexually violent predator.  After maintaining his innocence for nearly two decades, James Rodriguez realized he would have to say he committed the crimes that put him in prison and then in Atascadero State Hospital.  The doctors believed him.  And then the case fell apart.  The molestations never happened.  How many other innocents have to Lie Their Way to Freedom ?

A Harris County, Texas prosecutor says faulty physical exams performed by a former nurse may have resulted in wrongful conviction of some defendants in child sex abuse cases.  170 Potential Wrongful Convictions

 The Evidence for Shaken Baby Syndrome
The theory of shaken baby syndrome rests on core assumptions: shaking is always intentional and violent; the injury an infant receives from shaking is invariably severe; and subdural andretinal bleeding is the result of criminal abuse, unless proved otherwise.  Retinal haemorrhage is one of the criteria used, and many doctors consider retinal haemorrhage with specific characteristics pathognomonic of shaking. However, in the March 27, 2004 issue of the British Medical Journal,  Patrick Lantz et al examine that premise and conclude that it "cannot be supported by objective scientific evidence." 

Read the British Medical Journal Case Report and Editorial (pdf files - use Adobe Acrobat Reader)
Perimacular retinal folds from childhood head trauma
by P. E. Lantz, et al.
BMJ Editorial
We Need to Question the Diagnostic Criteria

Audits found the same problems that shut down crime labs in Houston and McAllen, Texas at crime labs in Austin, El Paso, Garland, Lubbock, Corpus Christi, and Waco.  Stanley Schneider, chairman of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association's crime lab strike force, observed, "If crime labs were in the private sector, they'd all be shut down. Business would not tolerate this kind of functioning."  More Flawed Labs

In 2001 at condemned prisoner Philip Workman's clemency hearing, Shelby Co., TN Medical Examiner O. C. Smith testified that his microscopic analysis showed that Workman's bullet was the one that felled a police officer in 1981.  Clemency was denied.  Soon after, Smith was found outside his office, chained to a stairwell, wrapped in barbed wire with a bomb hanging around his neck. He told officers that an attacker had thrown a caustic substance in his face.  Now the forensic pathologist has been indicted, charged with staging the elaborate and extremely dangerous "abduction".  Can we talk credibility here?

Shelby Co., TN ME Indicted
Clarification Sought in Workman Case

Tennessean
Editorial:  A Review in Workman Case

A scientific report released February 10, 2004 revealed serious flaws in FBI testimony involving evidence on the chemical composition of bullets presented in hundreds of criminal cases.  "If this technique had not been used for years to send people to prison, no reasonable scholars of forensic evidence would consider it ready for court," said William Thompson, professor of law and criminology at UC Irvine.  Bullet-Proof No More

Until recently, FBI examiners misleadingly expressed high confidence or even certainty that crime scene lead fragments did or did not come from the “same box” of other ammunition in evidence.  In cases where a so-called “match” was identified, the results have at times been devastating to the truth-seeking process, which is the essence of any criminal or civil trial.  Speaking for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Barry Scheck issues a Call to Reopen Cases .

A classic, this case has it all:  botched crime scene processing, forensic fraud by the FBI Lab, reliance on perjured testimony by jailhouse snitches, manipulation of a credulous media to slander the defendant and poison the jury pool, plus inciting hatred and a desire for revenge against the defendant among the victims' families that is so intense they cannot let it go even after the feds are forced to admit the defendant didn't do the crime.

Defense attorney Fred Heblich said,
"I think that people looking at this, if nothing else, that they should take heart in the operation of the system."  Truth in Justice respectfully disagrees.  People looking at this, if nothing else, should be very, very afraid of the operation of the system.

In 1997 an assailant dropped his hat when he shot Boston police officer Gregory Gallagher in the buttocks.  Then the shooter burst into a nearby home, drank a glass of water and dropped his sweatshirt before fleeing.  Later Officer Gallagher identified Stephan Cowans as the assailant (although the woman whose home was invaded disagreed) and a crime lab technician said a fingerprint on the water glass was Stephan's.  Now DNA has trumped both.  DNA on the hat, the sweatshirt and the water glass are from the same person -- but not from Stephan.

UPDATE:  Two days after vowing to retry Stephan Cowans -- calling the fingerprint identification "compelling evidence" -- the Suffolk County District Attorney has admitted the print is not Stephan Cowans.  Conviction Vacated   (Why are these "mistakes" always in favor of the prosecution??)

UPDATE:  10/26/07 - Stephan Cowans was found shot to death in his home.

UK: The cases of more than 250 parents convicted of killing their babies are to be reviewed urgently after a landmark Court of Appeal ruling on January 19, 2004 changed the rules on baby death prosecutions.  The Court ruled that in future no parent who had lost two or more babies should be prosecuted if the case relied solely on expert evidence that was disputed by other professionals who believed that the death could have been caused by natural, if unexplained, causes.  US Needs Similar Review

UK: 
The cot death expert at the centre of a series of high profile cases against women accused of killing their babies is to face a professional conduct committee.  Sir Roy Meadow invented "Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome", a theory that has punished grieving parents and destroyed families on both sides of the Atlantic.  His pseudoscience continues to thrive in the US, but in the UK, authorities are questioning his Fitness to Practise

Barry Laughman of Adams Co., PA has been cleared of murder charges by DNA.  This is the second conviction tossed by overturning the evidence of state police chemist Janice Roadcap.  How Many More Innocents Did Roadcap Convict?

Other so-called forensic identification sciences, including microscopic hair analysis, handwriting identification, bite-mark analysis, ballistics, and even fingerprints have also been under attack in recent years. The Supreme Court, in its 1993 Daubert decision, established the “known rate of error” as one of the indicia of scientific reliability.  Yet courts continue to admit "ear witness identification" and juries continue to convict innocent people believing witnesses are much better at voice recognition than research indicates. 

The coroner whose career was derailed after he botched Ellen Andros' autopsy - prompting a murder charge against her husband, police officer James Andros , an innocent man - will retire.  He has lost his license and failed in his bid for reinstatement.  But this isn't his first mistake.  He couldn't tell a beating death from cardiac arrest, or strangulation from the impact of an air bag.  And by the way, this is the guy who performed Martha Moxley's autopsy.

California's 2nd Appellate District Court has overturned Jose Salazar's murder conviction in the death of Adriana Krygoski.  That conviction was based on the testimony of LA Dep. Coroner James Ribe, who claimed that "shaken baby" injuries -- in this instance, intracranial bleeding -- could be accurately "timed" and therefore used to identify the assailant.  This "theory" has been discredited by medical science.

But what the justices cited in Salazar's case was Ribe's longstanding record of incompetent work and astounding lack of credibility, which the prosecution failed to disclose.  The most heartening aspect of this case, besides Salazar's retrial on level ground, is that a prosecutor, Dep. DA Dinko Bozanich, broke the code of silence and disclosed the "intolerable and unethical practices at the highest levels" of the LA DA's office.

Mistakes made by lab scientist Ranae Houtz in Bethlehem could call into question evidence in 615 criminal cases in 27 counties across Pennsylvania. Would you buy a used car from these people?  For years we've been buying Junk Convictions .

The biggest "stars" converged on Adams County, PA in 1987 to convict Barry Laughman of murdering his elderly relative, Edna Laughman.  State Trooper Jack Holtz --who took $50,000 from author Joseph Wambaugh for information on the case against Jay Smith, framed for a murder he didn't commit-- got Barry, who is retarded, to "confess" by saying "yes" to whatever Holtz suggested.  Then crime lab chemist Janice Roadcap came up with the fanciful theory that antibiotics Edna was taking at the time of her death changed Barry's blood type from B to A, the killer's blood type.  Holtz and Roadcap have been exposed as frauds.  Barry is Still in Prison .

Former Montana State Crime Lab director Arnold Melnikoff's troubles keep piling up.  Melnikoff's testimony convicted Jimmy Ray Bromgard and Paul Kordonowy, both of whom have been cleared by DNA.  Now the state has identified five more probably innocent people Melnikoff's junk science pronouncement put in prison.  Bad Testimony

Anthony Bragdon spent 10 years in prison for a rape he did not commit because FBI Crime Lab analyst Michael Malone gave inaccurate testimony and withheld evidence.  Bragdon has finally been freed, but Malone's misconduct was not disclosed until 2 years after he retired.   FBI Takes Care of Its Own

Former FBI lab technician Jacquelyn Blake admitted she failed to follow required scientific procedures while analyzing 103 DNA samples during the last few years.  But her errors indicate more serious problems.   "The FBI peer-review system never caught the Blake errors," says Peter Neufeld of the Cardozo Innocence Project. "That tells us that the system is bogus and at least ineffective."  Inside the DNA Labs

Victims of Dr. Joan Wood
For nearly a quarter century, the citizens of Florida's Pinellas and Pasco Counties suffered with an incompetent and corrupt Medical Examiner, Dr. Joan Wood.  Some suffered more than others.

John Peel
David Long
Amos King

Phoenix police crime lab technicians blundered nine cases while analyzing DNA evidence to be used against murder, rape and aggravated assault suspects.  Have you noticed how these mistakes never help defendants, only the prosecution?  Miscalculated -- or Manipulated?

Incredible!  You won't believe the unadulterated garbage prosecutors put on as expert testimony in arson cases. Unfortunately, judges and juries believe it.  The Prosecutions's Expert .

The FBI crime lab is dealing with new wrongdoing by employees that has opened the door for challenges of the lab's science in scores of cases involving DNA and bullet analysis.   "Defense lawyers are being ambushed and jurors are being misled," retired FBI metallurgist William Tobin said.  " There is no comprehensive or meaningful data whatsoever to support their analytical conclusions."   More FBI Crime Lab Wrongdoing

It's not just Houston's police crime lab that is under fire -- and under investigation.   A review of three years' worth of DNA evidence processed by the Fort Worth Police Department's crime lab is under way after a proficiency test revealed that a senior forensic scientist did not follow proper procedures and protocol.  Police Crime Lab Subject of Criminal Inquiry

UPDATE: 
No one was wrongly convicted or accused of a crime because of flawed DNA analysis in the Fort Worth police crime lab, a two-year investigation has found.  The Tarrant County district attorney's office, however, did find widespread problems in the serology and DNA unit, as well as troubling practices in the lab's chemistry and firearms sections, according to a report recently obtained by the Star-Telegram.  Tarrant County Report Summary

Janine Kirk was murdered in 1988 in Erie County, PA.  The investigation reached a dead end in 1990, so then-DA William Cunningham began consulting psychics and Tarot card readers.  In 2000, James Fleming was charged with Janine's murder, based on evidence authorities say they obtained from a profiler.  Cunningham is now a judge, and he doesn't want to talk about the use of psychics to direct the investigation.   Call It Eerie

In 1987, Broward County, Florida (Miami) Sheriff's detectives put Michael Rivera on death row for the abduction, rape and murder of 11-year-old Staci Jazvac.  A crime lab technician testified 2 hairs found in Rivera's van "could be concluded as being" from Staci's head.  A jailhouse snitch -- subsequently found to be a habitual liar -- sewed up the case.  Similar murders in the same area continued -- Linda Kalitan, Terry Gilchrist, Ellen Stowe.  And now it turns out the Hairs Did Not Come from the Victim .

Baltimore County, Maryland police are reviewing 480 cases worked by former police chemist Concepcion Bascanot in the wake of DNA tests that exonerated Bernard Webster in 2002.  The DNA tests demonstrate Bascanot lied when she said the rapist and Webster both had type A blood.   Forensic Fraud

What you don't know can destroy your family, send you to prison and even cost your children their lives.  

"Mama/M.A.M.A. " is a groundbreaking film that examines Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, a bizarre form of supposed child abuse in which a mother pretends her child is ill - or actually makes her child sick- in order to get the sympathy and praise of the medical community. The film scrutinizes the scientific research surrounding the allegation and, in so doing, questions the very diagnosis itself.  Visit the companion website.  See the film.  Protect yourselves and your children.  

Scientist Mary Jane Burton was devoted to her work in the Virginia Forensic Science Lab.  She "invented" rape kits and put them together for police use on her own time.  When crime novelist Patricia Cornwell referred to "the lab", she mean Mary Jane Burton.  Mary Jane's habit of preserving a swatch of test material in case files was one of the practices that led to her forced retirement in 1990.  She died in 1999.  Since her death, two innocent men have been cleared of rapes they didn't commit because of the very practice her supervisors disapproved.  Mary Jane Burton's legacy is one of freedom and of hope.

UPDATE:  The legacy goes on.  Two More Men Cleared Thanks to Mary Jane Burton .

UPDATE: 
Only 10% of the first 300 cases ordered reviewed by Gov. Mark Warner have been examined, resulting in 2 more exonerations.  "It's pretty clear there's going to be other exonerations. I can't imagine we got the only two out of all those cases," said Paul B. Ferrara, director of the Virginia Department of Forensic Science.  Virginia Slogs through DNA Tests

In 1999, Alan Yurko of Orlando, FL was convicted of shaking his 10-week-old son to death and sentenced to life without parole.  But the autopsy performed by Dr. Stashio Gore doesn't come close to minimum standard of care --  and Dr. Gore admits to all the Bad Science .

Returning home after an evening out , James Andros, III, a veteran police officer, the son of a police captain, calls 911 to say his young wife is dead. The medical examiner rules the death a homicide — asphyxia by suffocation — and the husband is charged with killing his wife, his childhood sweetheart. Facing a life sentence, he loses his job and his children, and finds himself vilified by neighbors and the news media. Brutal wife killer?  No.  Botched Autopsy.


Paul Gregory House has been on South Carolina's death row since 1985 for the rape and murder of Carolyn Muncey.  DNA evidence  from the semen found on her underclothes has proved that House was not a rapist; rather, it came from her husband. The victim's blood, it has since been shown, was not spattered on House's jeans during the homicide, but later in the crime lab.   Are the courts concerned about such egregious forensic fraud?  Of course not.  Zeal to Execute

Contrary to arguments made by a prosecutor at two trials in 1990, four strands of hair were never "matched" to any of the Harlem teenagers accused of beating and raping a jogger in Central Park, according to a former police scientist.  DNA has since cleared all five defendants, and the actual rapist has confessed.  No Match

The Medical Board of California, which licenses and disciplines physicians, this week filed a formal accusation against Dr. Angelo Ozoa, charging him with failing to perform an adequate examination of a 76-year-old woman who he concluded was a homicide victim.  The 1995 autopsy, which the medical board called an ``extreme departure'' from standard practice, played a central role in the murder trial of her husband. A jury acquitted Nelson Weaver Galbraith, but not until the retired Palo Alto music school owner and insurance salesman had spent more than $300,000 defending himself.  Junk Autopsy

UPDATE:  Nelson Galbraith died in 2002, and his sons took up his lawsuit.  The suit languished in the courts until early 2005, when it was revitalized by an appeals court decision allowing the Galbraiths to subpoena documents and depose witnesses.  It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over

Have you ever wondered how an innocent person could be convicted by DNA evidence?  After all, the accuracy of the technology is nearly perfect, and DNA test results have done more to exonerate the wrongfully convicted than all other types of evidence combined.  But DNA is only as accurate as the lab analyst is skilled and honest.  In Florida, DNA analyst John Fitzpatrick was caught switching DNA samples and changing data.  Yet, not surprisingly, Florida authorities are resisting a full review of his work. 
 
Crime Lab Worker Puts Cases in Doubt FDLE Offers Empty Assurances, No Action
 
Juries in criminal trials are asked to decide if the evidence proves the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. What "reasonable" means always has been open to question, and the question has grown murkier in recent years. Evidence once considered reliable has fallen under strict scrutiny, with results that are less than heartening.  Deciding "On the Evidence"
 
When 13-year-old John Eddie Mitchell was bludgeoned to death on September 12, 1970, investigators and prosecutors in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania spared no effort to convict 14-year-old Steven Crawford -- altered reports, junk science, manipulated and perjured testimony and lost evidence.  Steven Crawford has spent the past 28 years in prison, even though authorities identified Mitchell's killers 25 years ago.  The State has a conviction, and will fight all efforts to reverse it.  One Life Lost ... Another Life Wasted

UPDATE

Prosecutors concede Steven Crawford did not get a fair trial.  Crawford freed on $1 Million bail.  Slaying Retrial Unlikely
 
Summit County, Ohio prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh took a good look at the evidence against Paul and Karen Stanley, charged with capital murder and arson in the fire that claimed their infant son's life.  The evidence was an electrical short caused the fire, and Paul and Karen Stanley were innocent.  Ms. Walsh dismissed the charges against the Stanleys -- and the state's investigators unleashed their fury against her.  One of those experts bases his arson finding on his experience, claiming he has handled 16,000 fire investigations in the past 21 years.  That's just over 2 fire investigations per day, every single day, no time off.  That's not believable -- it's junk -- and he was willing to bet the lives of two innocent people on it. Paul and Karen Stanley
 
For the first time, a federal judge has ruled that fingerprint experts cannot tell juries that two fingerprints are a "match" because the science they rely on does not meet the U.S. Supreme Court's Daubert test. The ruling is a huge victory for the criminal defense bar.  No Match for Daubert

Oops!  Never mind.  U.S. District Judge Louis Pollak reversed his own ruling on fingerprint evidence.  Now FBI fingerprint analysts can declare a "match" in the trial at hand, even though the technology fails to meet important reliability standards.  Judge Reverses Fingerprint Decision

Peter Neufeldt and Barry Scheck, co-founders of the Innocence Project at Benjamin Cardozo School of Law, examine the future of subjective analysis and opinion evidence in the courtroom. Will Fingerprinting Stand Up in Court? 

 
In 1986, Chicago police crime analyst Pamela Fish testified there were no semen stains on the clothing of rape/murder victim Lori Roscetti.  Four men -- Omar Saunders, Marcellius Bradford, Larry Ollins and Calvin Ollins -- were convicted of that crime.  But in 2001, 22 semen stains were found and DNA tests excluded all four men.  Pamela Fish joins the Scientific Fraud Hall of Shame
 
Former Wisconsin Crime Lab fingerprint analyst Jack Patterson decided that dye/laser and immersion tests were a waste of time during basic fingerprint analysis, so he skipped them -- but lied in his reports and said he conducted the tests.  What did he miss?  At Least 29 Suspects
 
In Oklahoma, using junk science to convict a person is "OK" with the courts.   They call it Harmless Error .
   
Dennis Counterman was convicted of arson and murder for a 1988 house fire in which 3 of his children died.  It now turns out that not only is Dennis innocent of murder, but that no crime even occurred.  Death Penalty for Accidental Fire
 
The relevant question isn't whether two fingerprints could ever be exactly alike.  It's whether they can be similar enough to fool the experts.  The unnerving answer is a resounding "yes" and it's destroying the Myth of Fingerprints .
 
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is forming a task force to address "systematic corruption" in forensic labs across the country.  The Lawyers Want Labs Examined .
 
A series of Oklahoma convictions, including 13 death row cases, have been called into question because Joyce Gilchrist, a police chemist, misidentified hairs and testified to results she didn't get.  Anything for a Conviction

Commentary on the Gilchrist Matter


Malcolm Rent Johnson, executed in Oklahoma last year, was placed at the murder scene by the testimony of now-disgraced police chemist Joyce Gilchrist, but a police department memo obtained by The Associated Press says some of the scientific evidence she swore to does not exist.  Executed by Lies

Disgraced Oklahoma City police chemist Joyce Gilchrist doctored trial evidence and may have destroyed hair samples that could have exonerated a man now on death row, according to a confidential police memo obtained by The Associated Press.  Still no charges against Gilchrist, but Curtis McCarty will Die for Her Lies .

UPDATE:  5/12/07 - Judge Frees Curtis McCarty
A judge in Oklahoma City has dismissed murder charges against Curtis McCarty, who was sentenced to death three times in the 1982 slaying of a teenager -- convictions that were based largely on testimony from a police department chemist who was fired for fraud and misconduct in 2001.  Curtis was prosecuted by Oklahoma County DA Robert H. Macy, who sent 73 people to death row, more than any other prosecutor in the U.S.  Macy has publicly said that he believes executing an innocent person is a sacrifice worth making in order to keep the death penalty in the United States.
 
What could be more reliable than fingerprint identification?  But the accuracy of identifications from prints that are often smudged, distorted or fragmentary has never been scientifically tested, and most of the examiners have failed or never taken the main certification test.  For those reasons, Fingerprinting's Reliability Draws Growing Court Challenges .
 
FBI Crime Lab chemist Fred Whitehurst tried without success to get his superiors to do something about fellow lab analyst Michael Malone. The reason nothing happened: "Malone is very popular with the prosecution and (the oversight authority) is reluctant to criticize the FBI," Whitehurst says he was told.  In tacit acknowledgement that some of Whitehurst's criticisms were well-founded, the FBI ordered reforms in the lab. But Whitehurst himself was suspended, escorted from the FBI building and stripped of his gun and gold badge. Good Cop, Bad Cop
 
In 1997, James McCann of Vancouver, Washington was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole on the basis of an earprint that prosecutors claimed was "100% reliable," just like a fingerprint.  It was the only evidence the state had, and the State Court of Appeals overturned McCann's conviction because earprint evidence -- not used by the FBI and rejected by most other states -- is just More Junk Science .
 
Polygraph expert and former police polygrapher Doug Williams tells us that the polygraph and its step-sister, the voice stress test, “are not capable of detecting deception or verifying truthfulness simply because there is no reaction that indicates deception.  The reaction these very crude instruments record is simply nervousness.”  Williams goes on to say that “the polygraph’s  only real purpose is to get a person into the hands of a trained interrogator for questioning without being bothered by an attorney.   It is simply a psychological billy club that will coerce a person into a confession.”Psychologist Michael Brock agrees with Williams, and looks at the Use of Polygraphy in Criminal and Civil Cases
   
It's amazing the magic that can be worked with physical evidence that proves nothing.  Scientific fraud is acceptable if it gets a conviction.  It's a Worst Case Scenario
 
When Experts Lie
The Disturbing Legacy of Fred Zain
A Forensic Scientist's Opinion
Dr. Gerald Hurst
In The Matter of an Investigation
of the West Virginia State Police
Crime Laboratory, Serology Division
AMA Report on Expert Witness Testimony

"Jerry's Girls"

Meet three women with something awful and something wonderful in common.  Each was charged with murder and arson in the death of a loved one.  Two were convicted, and one faced the death penalty.  The charges in each case were based on junk science.  All three were freed through the efforts of Gerald Hurst, Ph.D., a Texas arson and fire expert whose only "agenda" is to bring fact-based science back into the courtroom.
 
Sonia Cacy
Terri Strickland
Sheila Bryan
 
Finding Experts
How do you find experts who are really experts?  How do they get their credentials?  Here's what you need to know before you make decisions that can free -- or condemn -- an innocent person.
 
Digging Up Buried Bones
The systematic failure of Santa Clara County (CA) to control and supervise former coroner Angelo Ozoa put 76 year old Nelson Galbraith through hell when he was prosecuted for first degree murder in the suicide of his wife.  Now Galbraith is suing for $10 million.
 
This May Explain A Lot
New research indicates that incompetent people tend not to know they are incompetent. 
 
The Case of Paul Camiolo
After four years, charges of murder and arson against Paul in the tragic deaths of his parents have been dropped.  The charges were based on pure junk science.  This is a case study in what happens when we develop and form interpretive processes on second hand information and press releases rather than well documented studies.
 
DNA:  Exposing Forensic Fraud
Nightmare:
Another Frame Up
Reviving Charges
Against Zain

Explore This Issue in Depth at

Forensic-Evidence.Com
Scientific Testimony
Knowledge Solutions
Kim Kruglick's Forensics Links
 
Crime Lab
A Guide for Non-Scientists

What Everyone Needs to Know About Forensic Science

by John Houde, B.S., D.A.B.C.


Forensic Science Blog



Profiler Brent Turvey's archive of cases involving alleged, admitted and/or demonstrable forensic fraud (not mistakes, mishaps or misidentifications).
Crime Lab Project

Red Flags Daily

Psych Law Net


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