Monday, February 24, 2014

Lana Canen; South Bend Indiana; Innocent woman alleges she spent eight years in prison because a police officer made an erroneous fingerprint analysis; She alleges that Sheriff's Deputy Dennis Chapman, who has not yet filed a defence to the action, touted himself as an expert in fingerprint analysis, but lacked the necessary qualifications, which was not disclosed to the defense. South Bend Tribune.

PUBLISHER'S VIEW:  I will be following this lawsuit with great interest as so many questions are swirling around it? How easy is it for a fingerprint examiner to make a mistake? Aren't there safeguards which allow these errors to be detected before a person is arrested and put through the crap shoot of a trial?  How do we know, if in fact, the fingerprint examiner erred, that he hasn't  erred in other cases? Shouldn't there be a public inquiry into what went wrong, to satisfy the public that such mistakes will not happen again?  Why did it take eight years for Lana Canen to be finally released? Why wouldn't the authorities be horrified by what happened and do their best to  compensate her for the years she has lost, without having to be sued.  To say "we are so,  oh so sorry."   And to think, this is Indiana, the same state that put former police officer David Camm through three trials  on tainted police expert testimony while his family's murderer went free.  Hmmmmmm!  What a hugely troubling, Kafkaesque  case.

Harold Levy. Publisher. The Charles Smith Blog.

STORY: "Freed woman suing Elkhart police,"  by reporter Madeline Buckley, published by the Grand Bend  Tribune on February 19, 2014. (Thanks to the Wrongful Convictions Blog for drawing this case to our attention. HL); 

GIST: "Lana Canen was released from prison wearing the sweats she bought from the commissary. She had one pair of socks and underwear. And that was all.........Now, she is suing the authorities she claims falsely imprisoned her for eight years. The lawsuit -- filed in January in Elkhart County but moved to federal court in South Bend on Tuesday -- revolves around an erroneous fingerprint identification by then-Elkhart County sheriff's Deputy Dennis Chapman, a defendant. Elkhart Police Department Officer Mark Daggy is also named as a defendant for what the suit says was advocating for Chapman's fingerprint analysis expertise. "This all could have been avoided," Canen told The Tribune during a tearful interview on Tuesday. A jury in 2005 convicted Canen and Andrew Royer of murdering Helen Sailor, a 94-year-old Elkhart woman. All three individuals lived in the same apartment complex. Police said at the time they believed Canen and Royer robbed and strangled Sailor. Royer reportedly confessed to police that he killed the woman. But police said they linked Canen to the slaying with a fingerprint at the crime scene Chapman matched to Canen. Canen was sentenced to 55 years in prison. Later, though, Canen won a post-conviction relief hearing after her attorney hired an independent examiner to analyze the print. Subsequently, Chapman said he made a mistake with the analysis. The Indiana State Police lab then excluded Canen as the source of the fingerprint. Elkhart County prosecutors declined to retry her.........The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Canen by attorneys Cara Wieneke and Michael Sutherlin, alleges that Chapman touted himself as an expert in fingerprint analysis, but lacked the necessary qualifications, which was not disclosed to the defense.The complaint says Daggy and Chapman violated Canen's Fourth and 14th Amendment rights. It claims her right to due process was violated, that she was falsely imprisoned and maliciously prosecuted.
"If there had been any other evidence to connect Lana to the murder, they would have retried the case," Sutherlin said. He said the erroneous fingerprint analysis was a matter of willful indifference, going beyond just negligence."....Chapman's attorney, Michael DeBoni, said his client did not intentionally deprive Canen of any rights, though he said he has not had the opportunity to examine the case in depth."

The entire story can be found at:

See also: National Registry of Exonerations account, by Maurice Possley: (Excellent backgrounder. I got angrier and angrier as I read it. HL); "One of the investigating officers believed that Canen had previously burglarized apartments in the building, although there was no proof. Canen was questioned and denied any involvement in the crime. Police then interviewed a neighbor of Canen. The neighbor, who was a heavy drug user, told police that Canen had made incriminating statements, such as “no one was supposed to get hurt.” Canen was arrested on September 3, 2004—almost a year to the day after Royer was charged—and her fingerprints were compared to fingerprints found in the victim’s apartment.Elkhart police asked Dennis Chapman, a detective with the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department, to conduct a comparison of a latent print found on a plastic pill container in Sailor’s apartment with Canen’s fingerprints. Although Chapman had some training in fingerprint classification and the examination of rolled fingerprints, he had no training in conducting latent fingerprint comparisons. After conducting his examination, he concluded the latent print matched Canen’s left little finger. Canen was then charged with murder. Royer and Canen went on trial together in Elkhart County Circuit Court. The primary evidence against Royer was his confession. The principal evidence against Canen was the fingerprint and the neighbor who testified that Canen had made incriminating statements. Chapman testified that he had matched Canen’s fingerprint to the print on the plastic container. Canen testified and denied any involvement in the crime. “I’ve never been in that apartment,” she told the jury. The defense had hired a retired detective to analyze Chapman’s finding, but did not call the detective as a witness after the detective concurred with Chapman’s conclusion. On August 10, 2005, the jury convicted Royer and Canen. They were each sentenced to 55 years in prison. Their convictions were upheld by the Court of Appeals of Indiana.In 2010, Canen filed a pro se post-conviction petition and attorney Cara Schaefer Wieneke was appointed to represent Canen. Wieneke requested that the prosecution provide access to the fingerprint evidence so that it could be evaluated by private expert, but the prosecution objected and her motion was denied.  When Wieneke discovered that the detective hired by Canen’s lawyer was not qualified to do fingerprint analysis and that Canen’s lawyer had not investigated Chapman’s credentials, she again asked for the evidence, but was again rebuffed. So Wieneke then sent the high-resolution photographs of the fingerprints that had been used as evidence at the trial to an independent fingerprint examiner, who concluded that Canen’s fingerprint did not match the print on the pill container. Wieneke then filed an amended post-conviction motion for a new trial on behalf of Canen, contending that Canen’s lawyer had provided an inadequate legal defense and that Canen was innocent.  Wieneke tracked down Canen’s former neighbor who recanted her testimony that Canen had made incriminating statements.  At a deposition prior to the hearing, the woman claimed she couldn’t recall whether Canen made the statements or not. During a deposition of Chapman in September 2011, in preparation for a hearing on the motion, Chapman said he had performed more than 100 fingerprint comparisons and that he had never been wrong. In the summer of 2012, as the hearing date neared, Wieneke sent the prosecution a PowerPoint presentation prepared by her expert. After prosecutors showed the presentation to Chapman, he became concerned and asked to review the original evidence. After reviewing the fingerprints, Chapman concluded that he had made a mistake—the fingerprint on the pill container was not Canen’s after all. At the August 16, 2012 hearing, Chapman said he had changed his opinion because of additional training he had received since he testified against Canen. He admitted he had overstated his fingerprint examination experience during the trial and that he had felt pressure to help the Elkhart police department solve the crime. The prosecution—which previously had objected to Wieneke’s request that the Indiana State Police Crime Lab examine the evidence—decided to send the evidence to the lab. Analysts at the lab confirmed the latent fingerprint was not Canen’s. Wieneke filed a motion for Canen’s immediate release from prison and the prosecution offered to negotiate a plea agreement for time served. On September 28, 2012, after Canen refused to negotiate, the Elkhart County District Attorney’s Office joined in the motion for Canen’s release. On November 2, 2012, the conviction was vacated, the charge was dismissed and Canen was released from prison."


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Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.