Thursday, December 22, 2011

Paul Cortez: (New York). Fight to overturn conviction raises serious forensic concerns - including the fallibility of fingerprint evidence,

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: On November 27, 2005, Catherine Woods, was found stabbed to death in her Upper East Side Manhattan apartment. Paul Cortez was later charged with the crime, tried and convicted. I am grateful to fellow blogger Lynne Blanchard (Justice for Brad Cooper) ) for drawing this case to my attention, because of the disturbing allegations that Cortez was convicted because his lawyers failed to confront the State's vacuous forensic evidence which, in fact, pointed to another individual as the killer. (I am also following developments in the Brad Cooper case and have placed a link to "Justice For Brad Cooper" on the blog). Of particular concern to this blog was the defence lawyer's alleged failure to have torn to shreds what the state had claimed was the discovery of a bloody fingerprint. As the web-site "Free Paul Cortez" notes: "Upon seeing the dark brown staining that was no more and no less the end result of the chemical processing (that was, incidentally, performed three different times and then electronically enhanced via computer before anyone could even see anything resembling a fingerprint), the public was easily fooled by tabloid pictures of what was then touted as a “bloody” fingerprint. Had a fingerprint expert been called, he or she could have easily explained that the fingerprint attributed to Paul was a latent one and the blood spatter from the assault overlaid this latent print in the form of a smear; that it was, in fact, pre-existing. The fact is, there was never any actual “bloody” fingerprint. What the public saw was not a “bloody” print but the dark stain of the chemicals used to make the invisible print visible. The Prosecutors – as well as Paul’s own defense lawyers – continued bandying about the phrase “bloody fingerprint” for no other purpose than to keep that idea firmly planted in the jurors’ imaginations." I have devoted recent posts to a public inquiry in Scotland which illustrated the fallibilty of fingerprint evidence - and the need for the examiner's conclusions to be kept in perspective. (The inquiry was called because of the wrongful prosecution of a detective named Shirley McKie). For this reason, I will be following developments in the Cortez case on this blog - including his efforts to overturn the conviction - with great interest.

The "Free Paul Cortez" blog can be found at:

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:

Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at:

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;;