ARTICLE: "Inside Case Behind Wrongful Conviction Doc 'Southwest of Salem," by Bridgette Dunlap, published by Rolling Stone, on October 13, 2016.
SUB-HEADING: "How junk forensic science was used in trial of four lesbians known as the "San Antonio Four."
GIST: "In the summer of 1994, 22-year-old Elizabeth Ramirez and her friends Anna Vasquez, Kristie Mayhugh and Cassandra Rivera were accused of raping Ramirez's two young nieces during a week-long stay at her apartment in San Antonio, Texas. The allegations against the women, all of whom were openly gay, were outlandish and constantly changing. The nieces, their father and grandmother told various authorities and two courts that Aunt Liz and her friends had suddenly called the nieces in from playing one day to strip them naked, hold them down and violently penetrate them with a syringe of unidentified liquid, white powder and a tampon. They claimed one of the women had put a weapon to their heads – a knife in one telling, but later a gun, then two guns. All the women were convicted. Ramirez was tried first and sentenced to 37 years, while Vasquez, Mayhugh and Rivera were tried together and each sentenced to 15 years. Now, the documentary Southwest of Salem: the Story of the San Antonio Four, tells the story of those convictions, made on the basis of inexplicable allegations and junk forensic science. The film, which will begin airing on the Discovery ID network on October 15th, explains how it all went down at the tail end of a period of nationwide panic that Satan-worshippers were preying on children at daycare, in an atmosphere that was very homophobic. ....... .A recantation never should have been necessary to see the allegations were false, but child abuse expert Dr. Nancy Kellogg, who frequently testifies for prosecutors, lent them credence by first telling authorities deciding whether to prosecute, and then testifying in both trials, that a mark she observed on the hymen of one of the girls was a scar likely caused by painful penetration. However, as the American Academy of Pediatrics explained in a 2007 report, "torn or injured hymens do not leave scars as a matter of scientific fact." Variations like the ones Dr. Kellogg claimed were evidence of traumatic injury are normal and she has since admitted her testimony was flawed. She suggested her methods were accepted science back then, but other experts say they had been discredited at the time. What had definitely been debunked was the idea that satanic cults were preying on children. Yet Kellogg concluded that the alleged assault might be "satanic related" and shared her suspicions with authorities. Kellogg, who does not appear in the film, continues to be considered an expert in the field. She's on the faculty at the University of Texas, leads a center specializing in assessing children for abuse and, not only trains other medical professionals, but created a computer program for diagnosing abuse that is sold to hospitals. Dr. Kellogg has testified in over 800 abuse cases. And this isn't the only one in which the accuser of someone she helped convict has recanted. It's anyone's guess how many innocent people are in prison thanks to her testimony.........But Dr. Kellogg may not be so unusual. The use of junk forensic science in criminal courts is rampant. Fortunately for the San Antonio Four, Texas is one of few states that has taken steps to address wrongful convictions based on bad scientific evidence. Its 2013 statute, informally known as the "junk science law," allows people to challenge their convictions where there is new or changed scientific evidence, even if they've exhausted their appeals.The film captures the court hearing in which the women challenged their convictions under the new law. The district attorney's office agreed Kellogg's testimony was unsound and the women were entitled to new trials. The judge, who had admitted the testimony when he presided over the original trial of Ramirez's friends, objects to the district attorney characterizing Kellog's testimony as "junk science," claiming it was accepted at the time. The judge ultimately agreed new trials were warranted, but found the women had not proven they were actually innocent. The San Antonio Four need to be exonerated in order to be compensated by the state for the years they spent unjustly imprisoned. But with the case now before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the district attorney's office hasn't weighed in supporting a finding that the women are actually innocent, rather than just entitled to new trials. Homophobia and hysteria didn't deprive these women of their freedom – prosecutors did. The state's reluctance to take responsibility in a case where its failings have been unusually well-documented and publicized suggests locking up the occasional innocent person isn't that big a deal. With that conviction-at-all-costs mentality pervasive among prosecutors in the U.S., we can expect there are many more innocent people in prison than we know."
The entire article can be found at:
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. 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: http://www.thestar.com/topic/
Harold Levy. Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.