Friday, October 16, 2015

Benny Starks; Santae Tribble; George Perrot; Timothy Scott Bridges; Commentator Joshua Tepfer in the Chicago-Sun Times; "No one should be in prison based on debunked science."

COMMENTARY: "No one should be in prison based on debunked science," by Joshua Tepfer, published on October 14, 2015, by the Chicago-Sun.  (Joshua Tepfer is an attorney with the Exoneration Project and a Lecturer-in-Law at the University of Chicago Law School.)
GIST;  "In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences questioned the reliability of many “scientific” tests routinely used in criminal investigations and prosecutions. In its 300-page report, the academy said many of the tests, such as hair microscopy or bite mark analysis, had not “been exposed to stringent scientific scrutiny” and that “faulty forensic science” has “contributed to the wrongful conviction of innocent persons.” Illinois needs to re-examine all cases in which possibly innocent individuals remain incarcerated on the basis of debunked science. The academy’s report, which followed four years of study by a blue-ribbon committee, spurred some jurisdictions and law enforcement agencies elsewhere across the country into action. The U.S. Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation, for example, have admitted that examiners gave flawed testimony regarding hair comparison analysis in almost all trials over a two-decade period before 2000, and a review of thousands of long-ago closed criminal trials was launched.In some cases, the review has led to exonerations, such as that of Santae Tribble, from DNA testing of the hairs previously “matched” to the convicted defendant. Evidentiary hearings are starting to be held in other cases, including for George Perrot in Massachusetts, where the hairs or DNA testing are not available. In some instances, as in the Charlotte, N.C., case of Timothy Scott Bridges, prosecutors are foregoing evidentiary hearings altogether and agreeing to new trials where the flawed hair testimony was introduced. Here in Illinois, however, very little has happened. At least publicly, there has been no widespread examination, audit, or response to the federal government’s groundbreaking report that exposed systemic flaws in the “science” used in our courtrooms. There is, however, absolutely no question that faulty science has been used in Illinois cases. Take, for example, Bennie Starks, who was wrongfully convicted in Lake County on the basis of bite mark testimony that a federal judge recently called nothing more than “‘experts’ peddling junk science to credulous judges and jurors.” And individual Illinois State Police forensic analysts have, in the past, been criticized for providing misleading testimony that has led to wrongful convictions. Indeed, the National Registry of Exonerations identifies 30 Illinois cases where “false or misleading forensic evidence” contributed to the wrongful conviction. Instead of dealing with these problems on a case-by-case basis, criminal justice leaders in Illinois need to put a system in place that will allow a wholesale re-examination of cases where individuals remain incarcerated on the basis of debunked science...This is a problem in the criminal justice system that was identified many years ago yet never addressed. Those of us working in the Illinois criminal justice system need to come together to begin to address it.
The entire commentary can be found at:

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