Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Elizabeth Ramirez; Kristie Mayhough, Anna Vasquez and Cassandra Rivera: (Aftermath 2); Mark Godsey (Wrongful Convictions Blog) says in the Huffington Post that the release of the San Antonio Four puts Texas on the "cutting edge of efforts to free the innocent." He references Texas' unique new "junk science writ" which allows inmates to overturn their convictions and seek new trials when outdated and/ or unreliable forensics were used by the prosecution to convict them.

GIST: "Today in Texas, four wrongfully convicted women--known as the "San Antonio Four"--had their convictions overturned and were freed. This came about thanks to the latest in a line of innovations Texas lawmakers and the Innocence Project of Texas have devised to help the wrongfully convicted. Often thought of as a rough-and-tumble, "Hang 'Em High" state--and still leading the nation in capital punishment--Texas is surprisingly now a trendsetter for innocence reforms.
The four women exonerated today--Elizabeth Ramirez, Kristie Mayhough, Anna Vasquez, and Cassandra Rivera--were caught up in the infamous line of ritualistic child sex abuse hysteria cases of the 1980s and early 1990s. Many of these cases involved allegations against day care workers, and many experts now believe that most of the convicted were innocent victims of the witch-hunt mentality prevalent in that era.........But as any lawyer involved in the Innocence Movement knows well, victim recantations and passed polygraphs aren't usually enough to spring an innocent person from prison. Judges and prosecutors are loath to admit mistakes, and the system strenuously pushes back against such efforts. In this case, however, a 2013 legal innovation by Texas, the first of its kind in the nation, came to the rescue and finally helped set the record straight. The new law, known locally as the "Junk Science Writ," allows inmates to overturn their convictions and seek new trials when outdated and/or unreliable forensics were used by the prosecution to convict them. Indeed, at the original trial of the San Antonio Four, a pediatrician testified that the victims exhibited physical signs of sexual abuse. This expert testimony provided the prosecution with much needed corroboration of the two girls' stories. Such medical testimony, however, has now been debunked by new understandings in the field of pediatrics. If the two girls had been physically examined using today's standards, the medical testimony would no longer corroborate the allegations of sexual abuse.
Such faulty forensic or medical testimony being used to convict is nothing new, and is not unique to Texas. Innocent people languishing in prison because "junk science" was used against them at trial is such a problem that it is now considered a leading cause of wrongful conviction. The problem is so widespread that it led to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences issuing a scathing report in 2009 calling for widespread reforms in the forensic sciences. In other words, the "CSI hero," as frequently depicted on television, has a long way to go before myth can become reality. In the other 49 states without a Junk Science Writ, freeing an innocent person wrongfully convicted by faulty forensics remains an obstacle."

The entire story can be found at:


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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:

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