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
usually believe expert witnesses. Unfortunately, juries rarely
the expert testimony they hear, and don't know what weight -- if any --
give to terms like "consistent with" and "matching" and "virtually
The lawyers and the judge rarely understand the science that is
by these experts, either. Our criminal justice system is
and often dog-eat-dog. When the expert falls short of the minimum
of the profession, or worse, is an outright fraud, it can spell
for the wrongly accused.
We add links to updates with the original news articles reporting
and/or prosecutor misconduct, so be sure to
scroll down to check for "new news".
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Follow the link on the main page, or click on the one here:
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.
"Bad" cold DNA hits are far more common than
thought. Because of errors in the databases, a DNA match
probability reported as 1 in a billion turned out, when corrected, to
be 1 in 3. The problem is especially acute when old, degraded DNA
from unsolved cases is used.
Closed, proprietary software can put you in prison
or even on
death row. And in most U.S. jurisdictions you still wouldn’t have the
right to inspect it. The reliability of proprietary
software producing a DNA match, for example, cannot be challenged.
publication from The
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.
that in 60 percent of those wrongful conviction cases,
forensic analysts gave invalid testimony that overstated the evidence."
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
labs are underfunded, understaffed, and have no effective oversight.
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
techniques in fingerprinting, hair and bite-mark analysis, and firearms
identification produce Unreliable Results.
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.
Investigation of Death Investigation
Steven Chaney became the twenty-sixth person in Texas to be wrongly
convicted or indicted based on bite mark evidence. The two dental
experts who testified against him have also testified in numerous other
cases—and they’ve been wrong before. Bite marks cannot be
U.S. Circuit. Since
the onset of DNA testing in the 1990s, we’ve been slowly learning that
our criminal justice system frequently comes up short when it comes to
keeping junk science and quack experts out of the courtroom. From bite
mark matching to hair and fiber analysis
to “shaken baby syndrome,” the courts have done a poor job of demanding
that experts be qualified and credible, theories be grounded in
science, and statements of certainty be verified with statistical
sampling before allowing such expertise to be heard by a jury.
And while the criminal justice system can’t seem to keep bad science
out of its courtrooms during trial, once someone has been convicted,
the same system then puts a premium on the “finality” of a guilty
verdict. The innocent are trapped by junk science that is
repeatedly upheld by the courts in the name of "finality." Final Injustice.
NBC News examines the junk science that put David Gavitt behind bars
for 26 years, for crimes that never happened. Trial by Fire.
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
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.
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.
the polygraph works.
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
else will they find?
(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
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
prosecutors have acknowledged errors in the
"scientific" evidence that helped send a Washington man to prison for
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
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
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
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
science paving the way to Death Row.
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
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?
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
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?
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
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
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.
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
landlady, who told police Scott was the last person at the residence
and the only one who could have committed the murders. The
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.
8/14/09--Salem, Oregon prosecutors have decided not to
try to defend bullet lead analysis in Scott Cannon's case. They
stipulated to reversal of his conviction. Scott Cannon to get
UPDATE: 12/18/09--Prosecutors have dropped all charges against
Cannon, admitting that the State destroyed the evidence in the
Note: The State does not say what this evidence was, since the
there was in the first place has been discredited, and a reasonable
person must suspect the authorities are lying to save face.
Cannon is Free.
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
it a bit late?
TEXAS ARSON CASES UNDER SCRUTINY
men charged with crimes that never happened. Five men's lives
Two men freed. One man executed. Two innocent men still
This doesn't just happen in Texas. It happens everywhere.
happen to anyone. It can happen to YOU.
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
Why? Blake not only found DNA in the Anthony Caravella case, but
tests cleared Caravella of rape and murder charges. In 2001, the
Broward County Sheriff's crime lab "couldn't find" any DNA
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,
Sampson and Matt Livers, Madison Hobley,
and Kenneth Hudson,
to name just a few. Fabricating a Win for
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 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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Layton, a toxicologist who did lab work on criminal evidence in
thousands of cases, has admitted to fraud, forgery and
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
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
gave testimony overstating the evidence.
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
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.
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
Error Rate in Ballistics.
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
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
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.
and South Dakota -- So Far. Saami
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
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.
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
Colin's home, said to be from young Alma, weren't even from the same
science, irrevocable results.
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
He was looking for a break for himself by making up lies to frame
others, and it backfired. Emerson was charged with the murder,
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
who appears to be what he has said all along that he is -- innocent of
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
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
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
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.
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
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,
the scandal-plagued Houston Police Department crime lab was responsible
for sending yet another wrong person to prison. The crime lab
there was no semen on a sheet taken from the rape scene. New
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
DNA tests implicated him. The crime lab has been shut down
of the poor quality of its work, and new DNA tests have excluded
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
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
responsibility for their work. Meanwhile, Josiah Sutton is still
for a pardon. Another
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
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,
he later passed both, and he never took statistics. Interim update on
Houston Police Crime Lab.
DNA tests on evidence from four cases originally processed by the
Police Department's troubled crime lab have found significantly weaker
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
how officials dealt with the problem that shook public confidence in
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
potential culpability for winning convictions with
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
be wrong, according to court transcripts. "They intentionally
said Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, the former head of the DNA lab at the
County Medical Examiner's Office who now often works as a consultant
criminal defense teams. "And in all the cases I've been involved in,
always mislead in favor of a conviction." Houston Democratic
Rep. Harold Dutton says, "We have a name for that in Texas, and
When handled, analyzed and
interpreted correctly, DNA evidence works to exclude
the innocent and convict the guilty. But when the same evidence is
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
crimes. Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld tell the Houston Police crime
lab: End This DNA
"There were two different
problems in the crime lab — scientific incompetence
and corruption," Law Professor David Dow of the University of Houston
"That's a deadly combination. Once you have corruption, there is no
to think that this is limited to DNA cases or cases where there is
scientific evidence of any sort." The
Houston Police Crime
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
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
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.
to conclude no intentional act against the child could be proven.
Why the 5-year
wait to review the baby's medical history?
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
wasn't released. He has spent the past 5 years in the local jail,
awaiting retrial. Because you can bet, the local authorities plan
get another conviction and another death sentence. The Sheriff
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
that they're Willing
to Bet His Life on It.
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
to reach this point? Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood had to
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.
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
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.
of Faulty Diagnoses by Dr. Charles Smith
Toronto, Ontario (Canada)
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.
first to be exonerated was William
who spent 12 years in prison for the rape and murder of his
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.
10/15/07 - Mullins-Johnson
officially found innocent.
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
spent 2 years in jail awaiting trial after Dr. Smith said she stabbed
her 7-year-old daughter, Sharon, to death with scissors. Charges
dropped after it was demonstrated little Sharon was mauled by a pit
1998, Dr. Smith accused Louise and Marco
of suffocating their 4-month-old son, Paulo. Louise served 5
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
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
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
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.
Expert Throws Cases into Turmoil. In
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
credentials, methods and the reliability of his
findings are suspect or controversial.
Down Under. About
60 convicted criminals could have their cases reopened
amid claims the DNA evidence used to incriminate them was
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
Sloppy Work at
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
"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
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
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.
of Report in Scotland. Fresh
doubts over the
accuracy of fingerprint evidence in courts has been raised by new
research showing experts can be easily swayed in their judgements by
. In 1994, Chicago cops used a "reverse lineup" (in which a
is asked to identify his victims), along with threats and physical
to coerce 17-year-old Lafonso Rollins into confessing to the rape of an
woman. He was convicted and sentenced to 75 years prison, but he
freed in 2004 when DNA proved his innocence. He sued.
in his civil suit disclosed that the police crime lab had excluded him
on blood type before Rollins was ever tried. Oops. The
cost the city $9 million.
The Search for Truth
cooking up recipes to turn lead into gold, men in lab coats
look to technology to replace investigation. Junk by any other
is still ... junk.
CIA and FBI
Use of Polygraphs
. In the popular mind, fueled by Hollywood representations,
are lie-detection machines that can peer inside people's heads to
whether they are telling the truth. The scientific reality is far
A recent study concluded, "Its accuracy in distinguishing actual or
security violators from innocent test takers is insufficient to justify
on its use in employee security screening in federal agencies."
CVSA - How to
Coerce False Confessions
. The Computer Voice
Analyzer, or CVSA, purportedly measures FM radio waves produced by
around the larynx. Yet,
experts have consistently found the instrument to be dubious, at
best. "It's complete nonsense," said Richard Leo, a professor of
criminology at the University of California-Irvine who specializes in
interrogations. "It's junk science with a capital J. I think these CVSA
are dangerous, and they are contributing to the process that elicits
Than a Prop'
A Pentagon study obtained by ABC News finds that a new kind of voice
detector used by the U.S. military and American police departments is
better than "flipping a coin" in detecting lies. Until the Pentagon
a halt to its use, the Voice Stress Analyzer was being used by military
intelligence interrogators at Guantanamo Bay and in Iraq.
- 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.
Can Crime Labs be Trusted?
GSR -- or BSR?
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
A New Scientist investigation has found
that someone who has never
fired a gun could be contaminated by someone who has, and that
criminal investigators use contradictory standards. What's more,
that are supposedly unique to GSR can be produced in other ways.
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.
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.
more, in 27 percent of the cases forensic scientists gave false or
Probe of DNA Tests
Army is investigating accusations that a civilian forensic examiner at
Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory at Fort Gillem, Ga., falsified
The accusations, if true, would throw into doubt hundreds of criminal
dating back at least 10 years.
as reliable as the humans testing it. Virginia's once highly touted
crime lab has starkly demonstrated this in an error-ridden death-row
was propped up repeatedly by botched DNA studies from the state's
The argument that "C.S.I." and similar shows are actually raising the
of acquittals is a staggering claim, and the remarkable thing is that,
forensically, there is not a shred of evidence to back it up. There is
robust field of research on jury decision-making but no study finding
Microscopic comparison of carpet fibers -- utterly junk science
convicted Wayne Williams of two of the Atlanta child murders that
the city in 1981, and police blamed Williams for 27 other uncharged
The newly ensconced Dekalb County police chief who was never convinced
Wayne Williams' guilt has reopened five of the 1981 "Atlanta Child
Murder" cases. Families of many of the murdered children have
all these years, too. Williams
says he is imprisoned with at least four relatives of his alleged
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.
Pathology A three-member panel
from the state Board of Medical Examiners has so far substantiated 18
stemming from the long-running inquiry into the practice of Dr. Charles
a pathologist who spent three decades performing autopsies throughout
BS Bullet Matching
Eighteen years ago, three Boston-area men were convicted of fatally
a Lynnfield couple in the basement of their Main Street home as their
young children slept upstairs, a brazen crime that sent shock waves
the quiet, prosperous suburb.
Richard Costa, Dennis Daye, and Michael DeNictolis are each serving two
life sentences without the possibility of parole for the 1985 slaying
Robert Paglia and his wife, Patricia, in a robbery at the couple's
But now a retired FBI agent says in an affidavit that a former
gave false and misleading forensic testimony -- deemed crucial to the
case -- at the trial.
More BS Bullet
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
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
as inaccurate and misleading. Nonetheless, FBI Laboratory
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
which was based on comparative bullet lead analysis (CBLA). When
was tried in 2002, CBLA was all the rage at the FBI Lab. By 2005,
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
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
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
Now Jimmy's conviction has been reversed and he has been given a new
The Darke County, Ohio prosecutor has said he is closing the homicide
into the death of 5-year-old Daniel Crow Jr. because a rare genetic
may be the cause of the boy's death, not abuse. It's too late for
rest of the family. Their other children were seized by the state
adopted by other families.
Cook County, Illinois prosecutors have dropped murder charges against
Young, Jr. and Harold Hill, who have spent more than 12 years behind
after DNA test results undermined their confessions and testimony from
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
witness and Macomb County prosecutors. The witness is Dr. Alan
whose bogus bite mark testimony railroaded an innocent man.
This evidence, used for years in thousands of investigations, is not as
as it has often been portrayed in court, or in the television crime
that have made forensics popular.
Across the country it is under increasing scrutiny as defense
prosecutors and police officials evaluate how easily suspects' hands
be contaminated by other items already covered in gunshot residue:
car seats, even police officers themselves.
The Baltimore state's attorney's office said that it has found about
a dozen convictions in cases that may have involved the controversial
of gunshot residue evidence. The preliminary review of shooting
and weapons cases from the past five years came after a Circuit Court
to exclude a two-element particle of gunshot residue evidence from a
He said a particle containing three elements -- lead, barium and
-- is required to meet the scientific community's threshold for
that a substance is gunshot residue.
The Chicago Tribune has found that the same digital technology
has allowed the FBI to speed fingerprint checks so dramatically has
a new risk -- in an already subjective and non-scientific field -- of
In the UK, a
review of nearly 300 cases in which parents were convicted of killing
young children has identified 28 where there was "sufficient cause for
to warrant further consideration", the Attorney General, Lord
has told Parliament.
A further 89 cases of "shaken baby syndrome" will be reconsidered in
light of a judgment from the Court of Appeal expected in 2005, Lord
Three pending prosecutions have already been abandoned "on the grounds
it was not safe to proceed".
what experts say is the first such ruling in the nation, a
Greenup (Kentucky) Circuit Court judge has barred the prosecution from
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
has been working for the Washington State Patrol crime lab since the
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
that Brandon Moon was among "15% of the population" who could have
semen in a 1987 rape. Relying on that overstated testimony, an El
jury convicted Moon and he was sentenced to 75 years in prison.
was another win for junk science.
In 2004, DNA Cleared Brandon Moon
- 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,"
said angrily. "I have been persecuted for 12 years for something I did
do." Four fire cause and origin experts -- Gerald Hurst, John
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
has investigated scores of fires in his career. "It was just a fire."
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
bitten and raped in her room at the Post Park Motel along a grim
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
of a forensic dentist who said he had matched Tankersley's teeth to
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
in America's courts, from the legacy of discredited experts to new DNA
exposing the questionable science behind many other disciplines,
Bite Mark Verdict Faces New Scrutiny
UPDATE: Bobby Lee Tankersley has been granted a new sentencing
Mark Evidence Cited
Should medical experts who give fraudulent testimony be subject to
for unprofessional conduct? The Federation of State Medical
thinks so. FSMB
Los Angeles County officials scrambled to review at least 27 -- and
dozens -- of pending criminal cases to determine whether critical
was tainted or falsified during analysis by the nation's largest
DNA lab. Cellmark found the problems through its own audits, and
the testing protocols were not followed and that the analyst
and changed computer records.
All It Takes is One Bad Apple
Computer Voice Stress Analysis (CVSA) is promoted by police who use it
a reliable lie detector. Even the manufacturer
the National Institute for Truth Verification,
"acknowledges that the CVSA is not capable of lie detection and
cautions its users regarding the proper use of the device." But it
well for getting gullible suspects to confess -- especially when they
are innocent. More
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
The murder charge was based on the autopsy report of
Dr. Charles Harlan of Nashville, a forensic pathologist
is defending his medical license against state charges of misdiagnosing
of death in other cases and destroying evidence in criminal
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
to corpses, in a bid to establish how much of a drug a deceased person
or was given, before their death. That error can result in vastly
The risk of deceptive forensic practices is heightened by the
strong institutional kinship between the technicians who analyze
and the law enforcement agencies that investigate and prosecute
Virtually all crime laboratories have direct affiliations with law
agencies. Locke Bowman and Rob Warden make a strong case for
crime labs in Illinois. Actually, we need independent crime labs
A Remarkable Series from the Chicago
Science Under the Microscope
Say: Show Us the Science
From the Start, a Faulty Science
Falter, Defendants Pay
Touches Even Elite Labs
* * *
dog handler Sandra Anderson dazzled police in
Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Michigan and Panama with the
of her dog, Eagle, to find evidence that eluded everyone else. Of
course Eagle could find it -- Anderson planted the evidence.
pled guilty to federal evidence tampering charges.
How Many Cases did She Taint?
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.
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
UPDATE - 5/12/09: Charges dropped
against former TN death row inmate
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
, writer Simon Cooper exposes a case of corrupted science at
of our justice system -- and the forensic failures that put a man on
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
on testimony of treating physicians -- with no independent
who were seeking to protect themselves from malpractice claims.
conviction was reversed without an evidentiary hearing based on
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
of botching an autopsy that led to a young mother's imprisonment has
come under scrutiny in several other cases in which her conclusions
contested or revised.
Moore attributed infant deaths to shaken baby syndrome at a rate
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
to death, followed her lawyer's advice in 1999 and pled guilty to
to a child. Subsequent review demonstrated that the child died of
causes, and was neither abused nor neglected. Now the Texas
Court of Appeals has thrown out Briggs' conviction based on her
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
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
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
continues to back Dr. Moore, a team player.
Convicted of rape and exonerated after 13 years in prison, Michael
of Cleveland, Ohio sued the city for $10 million. He settled his
for $1.6 million -- and
re-opening of more than 100 cases that included testimony from
the same forensics lab worker who falsely testified in Green's
the Right Thing
"The premise is interesting that scientific evidence is more reliable
other evidence. . . . It would be nice if it were true," said Simon A.
an assistant professor of criminology, law and society at the
of California at Irvine. "In the cases of wrongful conviction that we
about, scientific evidence is a very significant factor."
Gov. Romney believes in the myth of infallible science, and he's
to bet other people's lives on it.
Three separate FBI examiners — Terry Green, Michael Wieners and John T.
Massey — identified a fingerprint linked to the Madrid train bombing as
of Oregon attorney Brandon Mayfield. Even when Spanish
disagreed, the FBI stood by their conclusion of a "100 percent positive
They gave Mayfield the "Richard Jewell/Wen Ho Lee" treatment -- smear
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
calls for additional research and investigation of fingerprinting.
experts are permitted to testify about "100 percent positive" matches
to claim in court an error rate for the technique of zero, they have
incentive to support any research. No matter how accurate fingerprint
turns out to be, it cannot be as perfect as they claim.
The Achilles' Heel of Fingerprints
Commentary: The pseudoscience of fingerprint identification lacks
standards. It is subjective, based on "because-I-said-so"
The result is that the government can profess certainty and be
The fingerprint identification controversy is coming before the highest
in Massachusetts. The Supreme Judicial Court is scheduled to hear
on September 7, 2005 about whether to quash key fingerprint evidence in
case of Terry L. Patterson, who is being retried in the 1993 slaying of
In addition, Patterson's lawyer in the case, John H. Cunha Jr., wants
SJC to do what no other state supreme court has done: bar fingerprint
from being presented in all criminal trials until it is subjected to
scientific scrutiny and proven reliable.
A single fingerprint found at the scene of a
crime is such powerful
that it's almost an automatic conviction. Fingerprints never lie:
have been told that for more than a century.
But a criminologist at the University of California, Irvine, has
22 cases, most involving violent crimes, in which fingerprint evidence
out to be dead wrong, usually discovered after defendants had served
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
Stewart testified that Bocanovic's worksheet notation to sell Martha's
Imclone stock "at 60" was written in a different ink than the other
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.
would think only the most qualified police officers would be assigned
this task. In Boston, just the opposite was true. For years
Police Identification Unit was a dumping ground for cops unfit for
of Misfit Cops
A WGBH Forum
Network Lecture -
McNally, professor, psychology, Harvard
professor, Northeastern School of Journalism
horrific experiences indelibly fixed in a victim's memory? Or does the
mind protect itself by banishing traumatic memories from consciousness?
victims remember trauma is the most controversial issue in psychology
spilling out of consulting rooms and laboratories to capture headlines,
families, provoke legislative change, and influence criminal trials and
suits. A clinician and laboratory researcher, Richard McNally
the ready acceptance of a notion he says goes beyond common sense. He
that traumatic experiences are indeed unforgettable and the evidence
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
indefinitely after being labeled a sexually violent predator.
After maintaining his innocence for nearly two decades, James Rodriguez
he would have to say he committed the crimes that put him in prison and
in Atascadero State Hospital. The
doctors believed him. And then the case fell apart.
molestations never happened. How many other innocents have to
Lie Their Way to Freedom
|A Harris County,
says faulty physical exams performed by
a former nurse may have resulted in wrongful conviction of some
in child sex abuse cases. 170
Evidence for Shaken Baby Syndrome
theory of shaken baby syndrome rests on core assumptions: shaking is
intentional and violent; the injury an infant receives from shaking is
severe; and subdural andretinal bleeding is the result of criminal
unless proved otherwise. Retinal haemorrhage is one of the
used, and many doctors consider retinal haemorrhage with specific
pathognomonic of shaking. However, in the March 27, 2004 issue of the
Medical Journal, Patrick Lantz et al examine that premise and
that it "cannot be supported by objective scientific evidence."
the British Medical Journal
Case Report and Editorial (pdf files - use Adobe Acrobat Reader)
|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
crime lab strike force, observed,
"If crime labs were in the private sector, they'd all be shut down.
would not tolerate this kind of functioning."
More Flawed Labs
|In 2001 at
prisoner Philip Workman's clemency hearing, Shelby Co., TN Medical
O. C. Smith testified that his microscopic analysis showed that
bullet was the one that felled a police officer in 1981. Clemency
denied. Soon after, Smith was found outside his office, chained
a stairwell, wrapped in barbed wire with a bomb hanging around his
He told officers that an attacker had thrown a caustic substance in his
Now the forensic pathologist has been indicted, charged with staging
and extremely dangerous "abduction". Can we talk
scientific report released February 10, 2004 revealed serious flaws in
FBI testimony involving evidence on the chemical composition of bullets
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
said William Thompson, professor of law and criminology at UC
recently, FBI examiners misleadingly expressed high confidence or even
certainty that crime scene lead fragments did or did not come from the
box” of other ammunition in evidence.
In cases where a so-called “match” was identified, the results have at
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
A classic, this case
has it all: botched crime scene processing, forensic
fraud by the FBI Lab, reliance on perjured testimony by jailhouse
manipulation of a credulous media to slander the defendant and poison
jury pool, plus inciting hatred and a desire for revenge against the
among the victims' families that is so intense they cannot let it go
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
heart in the operation of the system."
Truth in Justice respectfully disagrees. People looking at this,
nothing else, should be very, very afraid of the operation of the
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
drank a glass of water and dropped his sweatshirt before fleeing.
Officer Gallagher identified Stephan Cowans as the assailant (although
woman whose home was invaded disagreed) and a crime lab technician said
fingerprint on the water glass was Stephan's. Now DNA has trumped
DNA on the hat, the sweatshirt and the water glass are from the same
-- but not from Stephan.
UPDATE: Two days after vowing to retry Stephan Cowans -- calling
fingerprint identification "compelling evidence" -- the Suffolk County
Attorney has admitted the print is not
Stephan Cowans. Conviction
(Why are these "mistakes" always in favor of the prosecution??)
UPDATE: 10/26/07 - Stephan Cowans was
found shot to death in his home.
cases of more than 250 parents convicted of killing their babies are
to be reviewed urgently after a landmark Court of Appeal ruling on
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
prosecuted if the case relied solely on expert evidence that was
by other professionals who believed that the death could have been
by natural, if unexplained, causes. US
Needs Similar Review
The cot death expert at the centre of a series of high profile cases
women accused of killing their babies is to face a professional conduct
Sir Roy Meadow invented "Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome", a theory that
punished grieving parents and destroyed families on both sides of the
His pseudoscience continues to thrive in the US, but in the UK,
are questioning his Fitness
|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
Innocents Did Roadcap Convict?
Other so-called forensic identification
sciences, including microscopic hair
analysis, handwriting identification, bite-mark analysis, ballistics,
even fingerprints have also been under attack in recent years. The
Court, in its 1993
decision, established the “known rate of error” as one of the indicia
reliability. Yet courts continue to admit "ear witness
and juries continue to convict innocent people believing witnesses are
better at voice recognition than research indicates.
The coroner whose career
derailed after he botched Ellen Andros' autopsy - prompting a murder
against her husband, police officer James Andros
, an innocent man - will retire. He has lost his license and
in his bid for reinstatement. But this isn't his first
He couldn't tell a beating death from cardiac arrest, or strangulation
the impact of an air bag. And by the way, this is the guy who
Martha Moxley's autopsy.
California's 2nd Appellate District Court has
Jose Salazar's murder conviction in the death of Adriana
That conviction was based on the testimony of LA Dep. Coroner James
who claimed that "shaken baby" injuries -- in this instance,
bleeding -- could be accurately "timed" and therefore used to identify
assailant. This "theory" has been discredited by medical science.
But what the justices cited in Salazar's case was Ribe's longstanding
of incompetent work and astounding lack of credibility, which the
failed to disclose. The most heartening aspect of this case,
Salazar's retrial on level ground, is that a prosecutor, Dep. DA Dinko
broke the code of silence and disclosed the "intolerable and unethical
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.
you buy a used car from these people? For years we've been buying
|The biggest "stars" converged on
Adams County, PA in 1987 to convict Barry
Laughman of murdering his elderly relative, Edna Laughman. State
--who took $50,000 from author Joseph Wambaugh for information on the
against Jay Smith, framed for a murder he didn't commit--
got Barry, who is retarded, to "confess" by saying "yes" to whatever
suggested. Then crime lab chemist Janice Roadcap came up with the
theory that antibiotics Edna was taking at the time of her death
Barry's blood type from B to A, the killer's blood type. Holtz
have been exposed as frauds. Barry is
|Former Montana State Crime Lab
director Arnold Melnikoff's troubles keep
piling up. Melnikoff's testimony convicted Jimmy Ray Bromgard and
Kordonowy, both of whom have been cleared by DNA. Now the state
identified five more probably innocent people Melnikoff's junk science
put in prison. Bad
|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
evidence. Bragdon has finally been freed, but Malone's misconduct
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
years. But her errors indicate more serious problems.
"The FBI peer-review system never caught the Blake errors," says Peter
of the Cardozo Innocence Project. "That tells us that the system is
and at least ineffective." Inside the
Victims of Dr. Joan Wood
a quarter century, the citizens of Florida's Pinellas and Pasco
suffered with an incompetent and corrupt Medical Examiner, Dr. Joan
Some suffered more than others.
| Phoenix police crime lab
technicians blundered nine cases while analyzing
DNA evidence to be used against murder, rape and aggravated assault
Have you noticed how these mistakes never help defendants, only
the prosecution? Miscalculated -- or
|Incredible! You won't
believe the unadulterated garbage prosecutors
put on as expert testimony in arson cases. Unfortunately, judges and
believe it. The
|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
DNA and bullet analysis.
"Defense lawyers are being ambushed and jurors are being misled,"
William Tobin said. "
There is no comprehensive or meaningful data whatsoever to support
More FBI Crime Lab Wrongdoing
|It's not just Houston's police
crime lab that is under fire -- and under
A review of three years' worth of DNA evidence processed by the Fort
Police Department's crime lab is under way after a proficiency test
that a senior forensic scientist did not follow proper procedures and
Lab Subject of Criminal
No one was wrongly convicted or accused of a crime because of flawed
in the Fort Worth police crime lab, a two-year investigation has
The Tarrant County district attorney's office, however, did find
problems in the serology and DNA unit, as well as troubling practices
the lab's chemistry and firearms sections, according to a report
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
psychics and Tarot card readers. In 2000, James Fleming was
with Janine's murder, based on evidence authorities say they obtained
a profiler. Cunningham is now a judge, and he doesn't want to
about the use of psychics to direct the investigation.
Call It Eerie
|In 1987, Broward County, Florida (Miami) Sheriff's detectives
Rivera on death row for the abduction, rape and murder of 11-year-old
Jazvac. A crime lab technician testified 2 hairs found in
van "could be concluded as being" from Staci's head. A jailhouse
-- subsequently found to be a habitual liar -- sewed up the case.
murders in the same area continued -- Linda Kalitan, Terry Gilchrist,
Stowe. And now it turns out the Hairs Did
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
Bernard Webster in 2002. The DNA tests demonstrate Bascanot lied
she said the rapist and Webster both had type A blood.
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
her child is ill - or actually makes her child sick- in order to get
and praise of the medical community.
The film scrutinizes the scientific research surrounding the allegation
in so doing, questions the very diagnosis itself. Visit the
website. See the film. Protect yourselves and your children.
Mary Jane Burton was devoted to her work in the Virginia Forensic
Lab. She "invented" rape kits and put them together for police
on her own time. When crime novelist Patricia Cornwell referred
"the lab", she mean Mary Jane Burton. Mary Jane's habit of
a swatch of test material in case files was one of the practices that
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
Only 10% of the first 300 cases ordered reviewed by Gov. Mark Warner
been examined, resulting in 2 more exonerations.
"It's pretty clear there's going to be other exonerations. I can't
we got the only two out of all those cases," said Paul B. Ferrara,
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
performed by Dr. Stashio Gore doesn't come close to minimum standard of
-- and Dr. Gore admits to all the Bad Science
|Returning home after an
, James Andros, III, a veteran police officer, the son of a police
calls 911 to say his young wife is dead. The medical examiner rules the
a homicide — asphyxia by suffocation — and the husband is charged with
his wife, his childhood sweetheart. Facing a life sentence, he loses
and his children, and finds himself vilified by neighbors and the news
Brutal wife killer? No. Botched
|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
rapist; rather, it came from her husband. The victim's blood, it has
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?
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
and raping a jogger in Central Park, according to a former police
DNA has since cleared all five defendants, and the actual rapist
|The Medical Board of California, which licenses and
this week filed a formal accusation against Dr. Angelo Ozoa, charging
with failing to perform an adequate examination of a 76-year-old woman
he concluded was a homicide victim. The 1995 autopsy, which the
board called an ``extreme departure'' from standard practice, played a
role in the murder trial of her husband. A jury acquitted Nelson Weaver
but not until the retired Palo Alto music school owner and insurance
salesman had spent more than $300,000 defending himself.
UPDATE: Nelson Galbraith died in 2002, and his sons took up his
The suit languished in the courts until early 2005, when it was
by an appeals court decision allowing the Galbraiths to subpoena
and depose witnesses.
It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over
|Have you ever
wondered how an innocent person could be convicted by DNA
After all, the accuracy of the technology is nearly perfect, and DNA
results have done more to exonerate the wrongfully convicted than all
types of evidence combined. But DNA is only as accurate as the
analyst is skilled and honest. In Florida, DNA analyst John
was caught switching DNA samples and changing data. Yet, not
Florida authorities are resisting a full review of his work.
|Juries in criminal trials are asked to decide if the
evidence proves the
defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. What "reasonable" means
has been open to question, and the question has grown murkier in recent
Evidence once considered reliable has fallen under strict scrutiny,
results that are less than heartening.
Deciding "On the Evidence"
|When 13-year-old John Eddie Mitchell was bludgeoned to death
12, 1970, investigators and prosecutors in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania
no effort to convict 14-year-old Steven Crawford -- altered reports,
science, manipulated and perjured testimony and lost evidence.
Crawford has spent the past 28 years in prison, even though authorities
Mitchell's killers 25 years ago. The State has a conviction, and
fight all efforts to reverse it. One Life
... Another Life Wasted
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
arson in the fire that claimed their infant son's life. The
was an electrical short caused the fire, and Paul and Karen Stanley
innocent. Ms. Walsh dismissed the charges against the Stanleys --
the state's investigators unleashed their fury against her. One
those experts bases his arson finding on his experience, claiming he
handled 16,000 fire investigations in the past 21 years. That's
over 2 fire investigations per day, every single day, no time
That's not believable -- it's junk -- and he was willing to bet the
of two innocent people on it. Paul and Karen
|For the first time, a federal judge has ruled that
fingerprint experts cannot
tell juries that two fingerprints are a "match" because the science
rely on does not meet the U.S. Supreme Court's Daubert test.
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
declare a "match" in the trial at hand, even though the technology
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
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.
men -- Omar Saunders, Marcellius Bradford, Larry Ollins and Calvin
-- were convicted of that crime. But in 2001, 22 semen stains
found and DNA tests excluded all four men. Pamela Fish
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
analysis, so he skipped them -- but lied in his reports and said he
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
|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
Dennis innocent of murder, but that no crime even occurred.
Death Penalty for Accidental Fire
question isn't whether two fingerprints could ever be exactly
alike. It's whether they can be similar enough to fool the
The unnerving answer is a resounding "yes" and it's destroying the
Myth of Fingerprints
Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is forming a task force
to address "systematic corruption" in forensic labs across the
The Lawyers Want
|A series of Oklahoma convictions, including 13 death row
cases, have been
called into question because Joyce Gilchrist, a police chemist,
hairs and testified to results she didn't get.
Anything for a Conviction
on the Gilchrist Matter
Johnson, executed in Oklahoma last year, was placed at the murder
scene by the testimony of now-disgraced police chemist Joyce Gilchrist,
a police department memo obtained by The Associated Press says some of
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
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
against Curtis McCarty, who was sentenced to death three times in the
slaying of a teenager -- convictions that were based largely on
from a police department chemist who was fired for fraud and misconduct
in 2001. Curtis was prosecuted by Oklahoma County DA Robert H.
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,
or fragmentary has never been scientifically tested, and most of the
have failed or never taken the main certification test. For those
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
happened: "Malone is very popular with the prosecution and (the
authority) is reluctant to criticize the FBI," Whitehurst says he was
In tacit acknowledgement that some of Whitehurst's criticisms were
the FBI ordered reforms in the lab. But Whitehurst himself was
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
prosecutors claimed was "100% reliable," just like a fingerprint.
was the only evidence the state had, and the State Court of Appeals
McCann's conviction because earprint evidence -- not used by the FBI
rejected by most other states -- is just More
|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
because there is no reaction that indicates deception. The
these very crude instruments record is simply nervousness.”
goes on to say that “the polygraph’s only real purpose is to get
person into the hands of a trained interrogator for questioning without
being bothered by an attorney. It is simply a psychological
that will coerce a person into a confession.”Psychologist Michael Brock
with Williams, and looks at the Use of
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
It's a Worst Case Scenario
women with something awful and something wonderful in common.
was charged with murder and arson in the death of a loved one.
convicted, and one faced the death penalty. The charges in each
were based on junk science. All three were freed through the
of Gerald Hurst, Ph.D., a Texas arson and fire expert whose only
is to bring fact-based science back into the courtroom.
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.
systematic failure of Santa Clara County (CA) to control and supervise
former coroner Angelo Ozoa put 76 year old Nelson Galbraith through
when he was prosecuted for first degree murder in the suicide of his
Now Galbraith is suing for $10 million.
The Case of
four years, charges of murder and arson against Paul in the tragic
deaths of his parents have been dropped. The charges were based
pure junk science. This is a case study in what happens when we
and form interpretive processes on second hand information and press
rather than well documented studies.
This Issue in Depth at