Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Rodricus Crawford: Louisiana; Publisher's View: (Editorial); His Caddo Parish prosecutors got it wrong, terribly wrong, won't admit it, and are pursuing a malicious 'alternative truth.'...Harold Levy. Publisher. The Charles Smith Blog.


PUBLISHER'S VIEW: (EDITORIAL);

Reporter Gary Hines says distinctly in a KTBS story:  "The Caddo district attorney's office earlier this month dropped charges, based in large part on medical evidence showing Crawford's son died of an illness, not trauma-- as claimed by Caddo Coroner Dr. Todd Thoma and his forensic pathologist." KSLA  investigative reporter  Domonique Benn dug deeper into the flawed medical investigation that led to the murder charge, Rodricus's conviction, and more than three hellish years on death row for him and his family. "According to the autopsy conducted by the Caddo Parish Coroner's Office, Roderius Lott died of smothering. However, defense attorneys for the child's father say the Coroner's office ignored critical evidence that the child died of natural causes. "This was not a homicide, this child died of pneumonia and sepsis and Dr. Traylor was dead wrong," Kappel says. Dr. Traylor was the pathologist who ruled the baby's death a homicide. When asked to comment on the autopsy, Traylor would only point to his findings submitted to the court as evidence during the trial. In the autopsy report, Dr. Traylor cited a small cut under the baby's top lip as evidence of smothering. Defense attorneys say the injury came from a fall and was not evidence of a homicide.  They say Roderius fell down in the bathroom and cut his lip the day before he died and that the real cause of the child's death was his failing health. It's evidence they say is backed up by tissue and blood samples. "He missed the fact that this child had brain swelling, which indicated he did not die of smothering," says Kappel. "He didn't perform testing on the bruising on the child which could have pinpointed the moment those bruises occurred instead of assuming that Mr. Crawford inflicted those injuries."  Kappel adds that Dr. Traylor testified that the little boy had pneumonia, but that it was not serious enough to kill him. When questioned on the stand about the bacteria found during the autopsy, Kappel says Traylor testified that the results would have indicated sepsis if they were accurate but also said that his needle could have been contaminated.  "So based on his testimony either this child died of sepsis and this was not a murder or his autopsy was contaminated.  Either way, we can't have any confidence in this verdict," concludes Kappel. Nine other doctors around the country agreed that Roderius Lott died from sepsis." Instead of acknowledging that they got it wrong, terribly wrong, The Caddo Parish  District Attorneys Office constructed an alternate truth - something in vogue in America these days - that the State could somehow have convicted Rodricus  and even members of his family of criminally negligent homicide. As per the press release: "Rodricus Crawford was a chronic and heavy abuser of marijuana. This fact was well known to his family members as well as the fact the child had experienced multiple respiratory infections in his brief life. Crawford was provided a suction device to clear the child's sinuses/nasal passages. Bruising of the lips as noted in the autopsy could possibly be ascribed to use of this device while he was in a drug-induced impaired state. Also, the fact that Crawford could have rolled onto the child in a drug intoxicated state and suffocated the child is a reasonable possibility the State had to consider. These reasonable possibilities all point to a criminally negligent homicide."  'Criminally negligent homicide'? That is utterly outrageous! If you want to talk negligence talk about   pathologist Dr. James Traylor, who  Rodricus' lawyers alleged in The Supreme Court of Louisiana had  made a diagnosis of homicide before he did the tests that determined that Rodricus' son had pneumonia  and tested positive for sepsis, and who didn't bother to age the bruising that he said he found on the lips. The perverse suggestion that Rodricus and his family could have avoided all this if they had taken  Roderius to the hospital to check out Roderius' cold. It's perverse because most parents have to make the decision as to whether they should take a sick child to hospital from time to time. Most of the time it works out, The child gets better. In a few cases, sadly this one, the child does not. And that makes Roderius and his family criminally negligent! Blaming Rodricus and his family for the disease that took his son is utterly cruel. It  is  also perverse because on the appeal, the prosecutor took the position that Roderius didn't show signs of  illness that indicate sepsis. (On appeal, they didn't want Roderius to appear ill. On withdrawal of the murder charge they did. Give me a break.) A last point:  When asked by a reporter about Rodricus Crawford seeking restitution, District Attorney James Stewart is quoted as saying: “the only truly innocent party is the deceased infant. It seems sinful to try and profit from this tragic loss.” This is rubbish. Roderius is sadly dead because of a killer disease. The only innocent party is Rodricus. When his murder conviction was vacated by The Supreme Court of Louisiana  and ordered a new trial he returned to his status of presumed innocent. Rodricus deserves compassion for the loss of his son, and help to readjust after a  horrible experience in Louisiana's criminal justice system, including more than three years on death Row in the notorious Angola prison  known as 'the farm' which threatened to be his last address.

Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.

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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/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

Rodricus Crawford: Louisiana; His case has begun to play a role in the U.S. death penalty debate and was recently cited, along with that of the late Glenn Ford, by former Caddo Parish prosecutor Marty Stroud - now, haunted by previous mistakes, in his personal campaign to eliminate the death penalty in America..."The committee also heard about the high number of reversals of death penalty cases. Two-- discussed as cases where the wrongfully accused might have been executed-- both occurred in Caddo Parish. One was Rodricus Crawford of Shreveport, whose death sentence was overturned by the Louisiana Supreme Court. The Caddo district attorney's office earlier this month dropped charges, based in large part on medical evidence showing Crawford's son died of an illness, not trauma-- as claimed by Caddo Coroner Dr. Todd Thoma and his forensic pathologist."..."The committee also heard about the high number of reversals of death penalty cases. Two-- discussed as cases where the wrongfully accused might have been executed-- both occurred in Caddo Parish. One was Rodricus Crawford of Shreveport, whose death sentence was overturned by the Louisiana Supreme Court. The Caddo district attorney's office earlier this month dropped charges, based in large part on medical evidence showing Crawford's son died of an illness, not trauma-- as claimed by Caddo Coroner Dr. Todd Thoma and his forensic pathologist."


STORY: "Former Caddo prosecutor in favor of eliminating death penalty,"  by reporter Gary Hines, published by KTBS 0n April 25, 2017.

GIST: "A former Caddo Parish prosecutor-- haunted by mistakes he made in the case of a man who spent three decades on Death Row before being exonerated-- was among the witnesses who testified before a Louisiana Senate committee that approved a bill to eliminate capital punishment.... The committee also heard about the high number of reversals of death penalty cases. Two-- discussed as cases where the wrongfully accused might have been executed-- both occurred in Caddo Parish. One was Rodricus Crawford of Shreveport, whose death sentence was overturned by the Louisiana Supreme Court. The Caddo district attorney's office earlier this month dropped charges, based in large part on medical evidence showing Crawford's son died of an illness, not trauma-- as claimed by Caddo Coroner Dr. Todd Thoma and his forensic pathologist. The other was Glenn Ford, who spent 29 years on death row for the murder and robbery of jeweler Isadore Rozeman-- before new evidence led the Caddo district attorney's office to conclude Ford helped plan the robbery and pawn stolen items, but was not the triggerman. Attorney Marty Stroud of Shreveport, who prosecuted Ford, has been haunted by that case, saying he was so concerned about procuring a death sentence-- he developed tunnel vision about other people being involved; then celebrated with friends when he won. Now in private practice, Stroud has since become an advocate for abolishing the death penalty, saying humans cannot handle the power over life and death. "When my time comes, I hope God has more mercy on me than I had for Mr. Ford," Stroud told the committee. "I know I don't deserve it."

The entire story can be found at:

http://www.ktbs.com/story/35244544/former-caddo-prosecutor-in-favor-of-eliminating-death-penalty

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/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

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Attorney General Jeff Session's war on science/forensics: (Part 14): Commentary: Jessica Gabel Cino predicts 'Sessions assault on forensic science will lead to more convictions." Newsweek....".The bottom line from the last decade of forensic research: the criminal justice system has been using guesswork dressed up as science to send people to jail. What can the criminal justice system do about bad science? Forensic science should be a prophylactic that prevents wrongful convictions rather than causing them. The NCFS was the starting point: It embraced the need for more research, accurate testing, consistent standards, judicial acceptance and shifts in forensic laboratory culture that would protect innocent individuals from being convicted in the first place."


COMMENTARY: "Sessions’s Assault on Forensic Science Will Lead to More Unsafe Convictions," by Jessica Gabel Cino, published by Newsweek on April 20, 2017. (Jessica Gabel Cino is associate dean for academic affairs at the Georgia State College of Law.)


GIST: "The Trump administration’s assault on science continues in the early days of his presidency. Recently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the dismantling of the National Commission on Forensic Science (NCFS)—a body dedicated to improving accuracy and reliability in forensic evidence used in criminal cases. Not only is this short-sighted but it short-circuits efforts to address issues involving forensic errors, wrongful convictions and crime lab misconduct. The practical effect of this action is not that states are going to pick up the mantle and bear the burden of creating forensic science standards. Instead, the ensuing stagnation will lock the forensic science community into a silo and allow problems to persist. Putting an end to NCFS ignores example after example of the need for such an entity.........The bottom line from the last decade of forensic research: the criminal justice system has been using guesswork dressed up as science to send people to jail. What can the criminal justice system do about bad science? Forensic science should be a prophylactic that prevents wrongful convictions rather than causing them. The NCFS was the starting point: It embraced the need for more research, accurate testing, consistent standards, judicial acceptance and shifts in forensic laboratory culture that would protect innocent individuals from being convicted in the first place. Forensic science needs to produce reliable results and it needs to be regulated. The fact that different labs performing the same analysis use different standards is not a sign of scientific freedom, it’s a sign of stress points in the criminal justice system. For a system wedded to an unwavering adherence to the need for finality in criminal cases (which makes it nearly impossible to appeal a bad conviction brought about by bad science), there is a shocking lack of consistency and uniformity. It is no wonder that forensic science has been a patchwork quilt of standards and results. For decades, the legal system has pressured forensic science to deliver results in the form of convictions. And we dress forensic results in a cloak of certainty and sell it to a jury. But the progress that has been made since the inception of NCFS underscores that a commitment to change can come from within and can embrace outside input. If forensic science is truly meant to be a science—to seek the truth—then we must accept that it never will reach the certainty that “pursuit of justice” would like to demand. Even with the inherent tension between law and science, NCFS was a sign that the two could work together. Unfortunately, the research and accomplishments that have been achieved in the last few years are in danger of being consumed by this new policy of willful blindness. That blindness will lead to more wrongful convictions. Evidence admissibility is largely dependent on implementing and enforcing comparable standards which should be achieved for the entire forensic process, from crime scene to courtroom. We needed a central body to connect those constituencies together and to oversee reforms in a system that remained fragmented and impervious to change for too long. Without an entity to enable forensic science to prioritize research and then streamline, simplify and accelerate forensic reform, I fear that advancements will languish and we will soon return to our old ways. Rather than lament the death of NCFS, however, I call upon universities and crime labs to partner together in forensic science reform. Reforming forensics is no small task. It will take cooperation from scientists, lawyers, judges and policymakers--but it can be done. As the Buddha said: “There are only two mistakes one can make on the road to truth: not going all the way, and not starting. We started with NCFS, so let’s avoid the mistake of not going all the way."

The entire commentary can be found at:

http://www.newsweek.com/sessionss-assault-forensic-science-will-lead-more-unsafe-convictions-585762

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/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Rodricus Crawford: Louisiana: Bulletin: See his first television interview as a free, exonerated young man who was pretty sure that he was going to die - by Domonique Benn(KSLA) who has been extensively covering his case. Link provided to segments of the videotaped interview: Show to run tomorrow - Wednesday April 26 - at 10.00 PM on KSLA web-site.


FROM  KSLA REPORTER DOMONIQUE BENN'S FACEBOOK SITE:   "He was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to Angola's Death Row. Now he's been cleared.  In his first television interview since being released from Angola's Death Row. Rodricus Crawford sits down with me about his son's death, the fear of execution, and how he had faith in the legal team who helped clear him. Wednesday night at 10." Check out a video showing portions of the exclusive interview at the site below;

https://www.facebook.com/dbennKSLA/

See the entire show tomorrow evening on the KSLA site - at 10.00 PM  (Louisiana time) -  at the link below:

 http://www.ksla.com/

"For informative background, see Domonique Benn's  masterful  (November 22, 2016)  story - on the story behind Rodricus Crawford's successful appeal at the link below:  "According to court testimony, witnesses say it took about 15 minutes for EMTs to arrive at Crawford's home. His attorney, Cecelia Kappel, says the distraught father chased down the ambulance before handing his lifeless son off to EMTs. Video entered into evidence during the trial shows Crawford distraught in the back of a police cruiser moments after his lifeless son was taken away in an ambulance. It would be another hour before he would learn his son was dead/ That would not be the only shock for this grieving father and family. According to the autopsy conducted by the Caddo Parish Coroner's Office, Roderius Lott died of smothering. However, defense attorneys for the child's father say the Coroner's office ignored critical evidence that the child died of natural causes. "This was not a homicide, this child died of pneumonia and sepsis and Dr. Traylor was dead wrong," Kappel says. Dr. Traylor was the pathologist who ruled the baby's death a homicide. When asked to comment on the autopsy, Traylor would only point to his findings submitted to the court as evidence during the trial. In the autopsy report, Dr. Traylor cited a small cut under the baby's top lip as evidence of smothering. Defense attorneys say the injury came from a fall and was not evidence of a homicide.  They say Roderius fell down in the bathroom and cut his lip the day before he died and that the real cause of the child's death was his failing health. It's evidence they say is backed up by tissue and blood samples. "He missed the fact that this child had brain swelling, which indicated he did not die of smothering," says Kappel. "He didn't perform testing on the bruising on the child which could have pinpointed the moment those bruises occurred instead of assuming that Mr. Crawford inflicted those injuries."  Kappel adds that Dr. Traylor testified that the little boy had pneumonia, but that it was not serious enough to kill him. When questioned on the stand about the bacteria found during the autopsy, Kappel says Traylor testified that the results would have indicated sepsis if they were accurate but also said that his needle could have been contaminated.  "So based on his testimony either this child died of sepsis and this was not a murder or his autopsy was contaminated.  Either way, we can't have any confidence in this verdict," concludes Kappel. Nine other doctors around the country agreed that Roderius Lott died from sepsis. It was a game-changer for the defense, giving them the cause for appeal before the Louisiana Supreme Court. The Supreme Court had to consider the questions surrounding the evidence presented at trial to support the conviction that allowed Crawford to be sentenced to death.  In their appeal, defense attorneys argued the cards were stacked against their client from the beginning because of his race, the fact that he was unemployed, and still lived at home with this mother. "He is given a presumption that he is a criminal element based on his race and socioeconomic status," says Kappel. "I think the result would have been very different if he were white. I think the result would have been very different if he was middle-class African American. In this case, he was presumed to be a criminal." Crawford's defense team also argued that prosecuting attorney Dale Cox struck people from the jury based on race. The justices ultimately agreed, vacating Crawford's capital conviction and ordering a new trial."

 http://www.ksla.com/story/33776078/ksla-news-12-investigates-behind-the-appeal-that-led-to-new-trial-for-shreveport-father

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/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

John Jackson: Texas: Cameron Todd Willingham's prosecutor; Major Development: Civil judicial-misconduct trial on grievance filed by Innocence Project; Jury screening is under way. CNHI story is headed: " Prosecutor's trial re-kindles death-row ashes."..."According to the grievance, “... Jackson illegally and unethically made an undisclosed deal” with Willingham’s fellow inmate, Johnny E. Webb, to grant Webb a series of favors in return for testifying that Willingham confessed to the crime. Webb subsequently recanted the testimony of Willingham’s alleged confession to setting the blaze in which his daughters died."


QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s the perfect storm of a case at this time when interest in exonerations is sweeping the country. It’s in the very top of these exoneration cases.”

Houston criminal-defense attorney John Floyd.

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http://www.weatherforddemocrat.com/news/local_news/prosecutor-s-trial-re-kindles-death-row-ashes/article_a437429d-d3b1-59e2-978d-db33037651d9.html

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/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions' war on science/forensics: (Part 13): Important perspective: "Clinical laboratories must meet higher standards to be allowed to diagnose strep throat than forensic labs must meet to put a defendant on death row."...Reporter Pema Levy; Mother Jones..."The message was clear: The era of independent scientific review of forensics is over. Julia Leighton, a commission member and retired public defender, conveyed the disappointed mood of the room when she spoke a few minutes later. "We have to understand the importance of this juncture that we're at, where we're really grappling with, frankly, are we telling the truth as a matter of science to judges and jurors?"


STORY: "Jeff Sessions Wants Courts to Rely Less on Science and More on "Science," by reporter Pema Levy, published by Mother Jones on April 24, 2017. Thanks to Dr. Mike Bowers at CSIDDS (Forensics in Focus) for bringing this story to our attention.

GIST: "On April 10, a group of lawyers, scientists, judges, crime lab technicians, law enforcement officers, and academics gathered in Washington, DC, for the final quarterly meeting of the National Commission on Forensic Science, a group whose two-year charter expired in late April...The message was clear: The era of independent scientific review of forensics is over. Julia Leighton, a commission member and retired public defender, conveyed the disappointed mood of the room when she spoke a few minutes later. "We have to understand the importance of this juncture that we're at, where we're really grappling with, frankly, are we telling the truth as a matter of science to judges and jurors?" she said. "And that can't be put on hold. It is inconsistent with the Department of Justice's mission to put that on hold." For years, scientists and defense attorneys have fought an uphill battle to bring scientific rigor into a field that, despite its name, is largely devoid of science. Evidence regularly presented in court rooms—such as bite-mark, hair, and lead bullet analysis—that for decades have been employed by prosecutors to convict and even execute defendants are actually incapable of definitively linking an individual to a crime. Other methods, including fingerprint analysis, are less rigorous and more subjective than experts—and popular culture—let on. "Clinical laboratories must meet higher standards to be allowed to diagnose strep throat than forensic labs must meet to put a defendant on death row." But on the witness stand, experts routinely overstate the certainty of their forensic methods.........DNA emerged as a reliable tool in the late 1980s. It has since exonerated tens of thousands of suspects during criminal investigations and more than 349 convicted defendants, according to the Innocence Project. "I think what we've seen with the DNA exonerations," Paul Giannelli, a member of the commission, told Mother Jones at its final meeting, "is that there's a heck of a lot more innocent people in prison than anyone dreamed of.".........In 2009, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bombshell 2009 NAS report. In his opening statement, Sessions, the committee's top ranking Republican at the time, expressed skepticism of the report's findings. "I don't accept the idea that they seem to suggest that fingerprints is not a proven technology," he said. "I don't think we should suggest that those proven scientific principles that we've been using for decades are somehow uncertain." Instead, Sessions' worried that the NAS report would be used by defense attorneys during cross-examination to discredit exerts, leaving prosecutors "to fend off challenges on the most basic issues in a trial."The hearing took place in the shadow of new information about the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, a Texas man who was executed in 2004 after he was found guilty of murdering his three children by setting fire to their home. The principal evidence prosecutors used against Willingham was the findings of two fire investigators who claimed that the conflagration could only have been caused by arson. Yet even before Willingham's execution, the arson evidence against him had been debunked by a premier fire expert, though Texas' clemency process had failed to heed the report. In August 2009, a few weeks before the Senate hearing, a fire scientist hired to review the case issued a blistering report denouncing the original investigators' work as "characteristic of mystics or psychics," not scientists. A few weeks later, The New Yorker published a detailed investigation of the Willingham case. Based on flawed forensic science, an innocent man had been executed. "I don't think we should suggest that those proven scientific principles that we've been using for decades are somehow uncertain," Sessions said. When Sessions had his turn to question the witness panel, he brought up the Willingham case. Sessions read extensively from a piece of commentary submitted to a small Texas newspaper by John Jackson, one of the prosecutors in the Willingham case, who had gone on to become a local judge. In his op-ed, Jackson claimed that despite the flawed forensic evidence, Willingham was guilty, and listed bullet points intended to prove Willingham's guilt. But Jackson's points read like someone in denial of the newfound facts about the case—in fact, the author of The New Yorker piece, David Grann, had already written his own rebuttal to Jackson's list by the time of the Senate hearing. Still, Sessions proceeded to read several misleading facts about the case. "That does not excuse a flawed forensic report," Sessions concluded. "But it looks like there was other evidence in the case indicating guilt." The 2009 investigation into the Willingham case was the work of Texas' own Forensic Science Commission—a state-level version of the national commission that Sessions just closed down. In the last few years, the Texas commission has received increased funding and responsibilities from the state Legislature, becoming a national leader in reviewing the scientific validity of forensic disciplines. It has taken up issues such as hair analysis and problems with DNA testing, and last year it recommended a ban on using bite-mark evidence in the courtroom. Texas, not Washington, is now carrying the torch for forensic reformers. At the final meeting of the National Commission on Forensic Science, the group held a session on wrongful convictions, featuring Keith Harward, who had served 33 years in Virginia for a rape and murder based on bite-mark evidence before being exonerated by DNA evidence. When the panel ended, a few members expressed a sense of helplessness now that the commission was shutting down. John Hollway, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, rose to apologize to Harward for the decades he lost in prison. "Your story brings up the tragedy of putting this commission on hold," said Hollway, who was not a commission member but was involved in subcommittee work. Hollway said he worried that "we will lose time to help the other people like you who are incarcerated improperly or, worse, the people who are still to be incarcerated improperly because we cannot solve these problems yet.""

The entire story can be found at:
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/04/sessions-forensic-science

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/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

Monday, April 24, 2017

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions war on crime/forensics: Part Twelve; "Professor of Chemistry and Forensic and Investigative Science Suzanne Bell asks: 'Now who will push ahead on validating forensic science disciplines?' in 'The Conversation.'..."Forensic science as a field has roots both in medicine and in law enforcement. Some subdisciplines emerged from academia; others followed the science track to enter forensic practice. Still others were developed to assist law enforcement. As the work evolved, it was law enforcement personnel who undertook many of the associated analyses and testimony. Therein lies the source of much of the current controversy and concern. The forensic disciplines that weren’t born in the world of science didn’t from their inception go through the crucible of scientific methodology and review. This does not mean they aren’t useful or valid; however, they must be demonstrated as such. If put forth as scientific, these practices must pass scientific scrutiny in the present day."

COMMENTARY:  "Now who will push ahead on validating forensic science disciplines?' by Prof. Suzanne Bell, published by 'The Conversation' on April 18, 2017.

SUB-HEADING: "When lawyers submit forensic evidence in court, is there legit science to back it up?"

SUB-HEADING:  "Science and the courts may weigh things differently."

DISCLOSURE STATEMENT: "Suzanne Bell receives funding from granting agencies including the National Institute of Justice and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology. The opinions expressed here are her own and not are not meant to represent opinions of any other entity or organization."

GIST: "Science and the law are not natural partners. Science seeks to advance our understanding of the natural world. The law is tasked with ensuring public safety and making sure justice is properly served. Over time, science became another tool available to the legal system to pursue those goals. During recent years, though, problems with some aspects of forensic science have come to light. Examples include false convictions based on faulty fire scene and burn pattern analysis and on bite mark analysis, incorrect fingerprint identification and instances of misconduct in forensic labs. Recognizing these shortcoming has led to various efforts to propel forensic science forward, helping us recognize which parts of it are scientifically valid, which parts aren’t and where more research must be done. This month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ended support for the National Commission on Forensic Science (NCFS). This federal advisory board was charged with making recommendations “to enhance the practice and improve the reliability of forensic science.” Sessions didn’t renew the charter of this independent group, instead announcing other steps to be taken within the Department of Justice. DOJ is not a science agency and thus not the ideal place to address core scientific issues. The department is staffed with dedicated public servants and exemplary forensic scientists, but the independence of science (real and perceived) remains a concern. The loss of the NCFS, of which I was a member, disrupts our work to help forensic science come of age and to insure the scientific validity of all its subdisciplines – a desirable outcome for its practitioners, the legal system and all of us who are served by it. A number of practices in forensic science require additional scientific scrutiny and validation. Indeed, any scientific method or practice requires periodic review and update to keep pace with developments in the field......... Forensic science as a field has roots both in medicine and in law enforcement. Some subdisciplines emerged from academia; others followed the science track to enter forensic practice. Still others were developed to assist law enforcement. As the work evolved, it was law enforcement personnel who undertook many of the associated analyses and testimony. Therein lies the source of much of the current controversy and concern. The forensic disciplines that weren’t born in the world of science didn’t from their inception go through the crucible of scientific methodology and review. This does not mean they aren’t useful or valid; however, they must be demonstrated as such. If put forth as scientific, these practices must pass scientific scrutiny in the present day. As an example, fingerprints have been used for identification and legal purposes since the early 1900s. The decision to admit fingerprints to court as evidence in 1911 was made based on the adversarial system and judicial arguments; it didn’t stem from scientific debate and certainly not from 21st-century scientific standards. Scientific scrutiny is an ongoing process, not something done once and settled. This applies to every forensic science practice, from DNA to pattern evidence. Admissibility is not synonymous with scientific validity. Yet this distinction is not always made clear nor clearly understood by those involved with the court system. The validity of using bite marks as identifiers has been debunked. Yet some courts still admit such evidence, and false convictions involving bite marks continue to be reversed, often because of DNA analysis. Without clear statements of the lack of scientific validity, admissibility often falls back on precedent. One of the goals of the National Commission on Forensic Science’s Scientific Inquiry Subcommittee, which I co-chaired, was to encourage and emphasize more work on scientific validation for the forensic disciplines. I don’t know a single forensic scientist true to her roots who has any problem or concern about independent assessment of the validity of her disciplines. This is the essence of being a scientist. We also asked that the National Institutes of Standards and Technology evaluate these questions where needed. Doing so will provide the field with peer-reviewed literature spelling out what’s legitimate and what remains unsupported. We need clear statements of the scope and limits of forensic methods – known and understood by scientists, legal professionals and the public. Finally, we recommended that the term “to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty” no longer be used in reports and testimony. No one knows what that means, and it’s easy to imagine a judge or jury misconstruing such wording. Understanding what forensic disciplines can and can’t do is vital information for any audience. To tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth demands that the strengths and limitations of any procedure and result be made known and understood. Now that Sessions will not renew the NCFS, the progress being made in forensic science will slow, but it will not end. Due to the dedication of many unsung heroes in the forensic science community, progress has been made since the NRC report was published, and momentum has been established. For example, the need for universal accreditation of forensic laboratories at all levels is generally accepted by all parties as vital now, as was clear in multiple presentations at the last meeting of the NCFS. But accreditation is an arduous process that requires time and money, two things most forensic science labs do not have to spare. Without the necessary resources, it can’t happen despite best intentions. NIST has become central to further progress in forensic science. It’s established committees to develop standards for forensic practice; these groups do include independent researchers and academics, so that vital perspective is still being heard. However, there is concern by former commissioners that this enormous effort – by the community and by NIST – is in danger of losing vital funding and support. Ending the NCFS was a blow, but the loss of these committees and the wider participation of NIST and other scientists would be infinitely worse. The 2009 NRC report, along with a 2016 report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, is clear in this regard: the DOJ is not a science agency. Relying exclusively on the DOJ for reform is sort of like allowing admissibility based on precedent. Just because it was done this way in the past does not mean it’s the best way to do it now. We need a science agency – equally and completely free from both defense and prosecutorial pressures – to address the scientific issues in forensic science.

The entire commentary can be found at:

https://theconversation.com/now-who-will-push-ahead-on-validating-forensic-science-disciplines-76198

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/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Annie Dookhan: Massachusetts: Unique perspective: Bloomberg columnist Stephen Carter provides '21,000 reasons why Scalia was right.'..."Melendez-Diaz held that the technician who performed the test had to be produced for cross-examination. Critics were astonished. The cost alone would be prohibitive. And there was no need, they argued: Error or forgery in the laboratory was so unlikely that constantly calling lab techs to testify was a waste of time. There was nothing to be gained. Oops. As the Dookhan case illustrates, Scalia was right. Despite the forensic magic worked on television, there is ample reason to bring the technicians into court and let them be cross-examined. And Dookhan is far from the only example."


COMMENTARY: "21,000 reasons why Scalia was right," by Stephen L. Carter, published by Bloomberg News on April 21, 2017.





The entire commentary can be found at:



https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-04-21/dookhan-case-gives-21-000-reasons-scalia-was-right

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/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions war against science/forensics: (Part Eleven); My first exposure to 'The Daily Banter.' A biting, merciless, sharply written evaluation of Session's agenda by reporter Justin Rosario, under the heading 'Trump's Attorney General Just Told the Police it's OK to Fake Forensic Evidence Again." (Bravo Jeff. HL)..."Here's an unpleasant fact about forensic science: Science only works if you do it right and American law enforcement has developed a nasty habit of doing it wrong. Sometimes the "science" gets botched because they're overworked and understaffed. Sometimes they get it wrong through simple incompetence. And sometimes they get it wrong because they want to."..."Television has created an aura of infallibility around forensic science that has no basis in reality. The police and prosecutors rely on this myth to dazzle juries and secure convictions based on "evidence" they know to be garbage. That's not to say forensic science is worthless, but it only works when rigorous standards are applied. Which is exactly what Jeff Sessions wants to prevent. By getting rid of the nonpartisan oversight commission, Sessions is signalling that prosecutors and police labs will be free to fabricate the hell out of their evidence again. He's literally inviting systemic abuse and, prepare to be shocked, guess who that will impact the most? Law enforcement's favorite punching bag, of course: Minorities. The police already profile, arrest, prosecute and convict minorities far more often than whites; faked forensics will accelerate that trend. And that's the entire point." PS: Warning: Check reflect carefully on Rosario's last line before reading this post. Very carefully. HL);


GIST: "If you were to sit down and create a checklist of how to use American law enforcement to terrorize and tear apart minority communities, you'd be hard pressed to come up with a blueprint that looks substantially different from what Attorney General Jeff Sessions is doing. In addition to reinvigorating the long-debunked "war on drugs" and almost literally telling the cops they can indulge their most racist tendencies without fear of repercussions, Sessions is busy making it easier to put hundreds of thousands of innocent men in jail: Prosecutors applauded the April 10 announcement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the Department of Justice was disbanding the nonpartisan National Commission on Forensic Science and returning forensic science to law enforcement control. In the same statement, Mr. Sessions suspended the department’s review of closed cases for inaccurate or unsupported statements by forensic analysts, which regularly occur in fields as diverse as firearm and handwriting identification, and hair, fiber, shoe, bite mark and tire tread matching, and even fingerprinting analysis. Here's an unpleasant fact about forensic science: Science only works if you do it right and American law enforcement has developed a nasty habit of doing it wrong. Sometimes the "science" gets botched because they're overworked and understaffed. Sometimes they get it wrong through simple incompetence. And sometimes they get it wrong because they want to. The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000. That was not an accident. They knew exactly what they were doing and why they were doing it. Television has created an aura of infallibility around forensic science that has no basis in reality. The police and prosecutors rely on this myth to dazzle juries and secure convictions based on "evidence" they know to be garbage. That's not to say forensic science is worthless, but it only works when rigorous standards are applied. Which is exactly what Jeff Sessions wants to prevent. By getting rid of the nonpartisan oversight commission, Sessions is signalling that prosecutors and police labs will be free to fabricate the hell out of their evidence again. He's literally inviting systemic abuse and, prepare to be shocked, guess who that will impact the most? Law enforcement's favorite punching bag, of course: Minorities. The police already profile, arrest, prosecute and convict minorities far more often than whites; faked forensics will accelerate that trend. And that's the entire point. If I were writing Sessions' checklist of "How to Destroy Brown and Black Lives", these would be the next things on my list..."There are 572 days left to the 2018 elections.  This article kills fascists."

The entire story can be found at:

http://thedailybanter.com/2017/04/jeff-sessions-hates-justice-loves-mass-incarceration/

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/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

Saturday, April 22, 2017

March For Science: Today in Washington - 600 companion marches planned around the world - Attorney General Jeff Sessions dissolution of the National Commission of Science finds a place in Guardian article on why scientists are alarmed by Pres. Donald Trump's measures. It's headed " Bill Nye the Science Guy on Trump: 'We are in a dangerous place.'...Reporter Oliver Milman...“We are in a dangerous place right now,” Nye told the Guardian. “Science has always been political but we don’t want science to be partisan. Objective truths have become set aside and diminished and lawmakers are acting like a strong belief in something is as valid as careful peer review.” Nye is an honorary co-chair of the March for Science, which will see thousands of scientists and their supporters gather in Washington DC on Saturday. More than 600 companion marches will also occur around the world."..."The Trump administration has proposed cuts to science programs amounting to around $7bn, including cancer research, coastal resiliency work and climate research. This week, Jeff Sessions, the US attorney general, announced the dismantling of the National Commission on Forensic Science, a body that works to improve the accuracy of forensic evidence in criminal cases."


QUOTE OF THE DAY: "We are in a dangerous place right now,” Nye told the Guardian. “Science has always been political but we don’t want science to be partisan. Objective truths have become set aside and diminished and lawmakers are acting like a strong belief in something is as valid as careful peer review.”

BILL NYE: THE SCIENCE GUY;

------------------------------------------


"Bill Nye, the face of science in US popular culture, has attacked Donald Trump’s “dangerous” dismissal of climate change and planned cuts to research ahead of the first March for Science in Washington DC. Nye, an engineer and educator known as “the science guy” through his TV appearances, said scientists should unapologetically throw themselves into the political fray as Trump’s administration seeks to dismantle large areas of scientific endeavor, from cancer research to climate analysis. “We are in a dangerous place right now,” Nye told the Guardian. “Science has always been political but we don’t want science to be partisan. Objective truths have become set aside and diminished and lawmakers are acting like a strong belief in something is as valid as careful peer review.” Nye is an honorary co-chair of the March for Science, which will see thousands of scientists and their supporters gather in Washington DC on Saturday. More than 600 companion marches will also occur around the world. Organizers have said that science is “under attack” and that the march, the first of its kind, will remind politicians and the public of the importance of evidence-based policymaking. Some scientists have, however, voiced concern about getting involved in a political fight with Trump. The Trump administration has proposed cuts to science programs amounting to around $7bn, including cancer research, coastal resiliency work and climate research. This week, Jeff Sessions, the US attorney general, announced the dismantling of the National Commission on Forensic Science, a body that works to improve the accuracy of forensic evidence in criminal cases.. .......“The president changes his mind quite frequently. We want to influence the people who influence him. That’s our goal for the march.”"

The entire article can be found at:

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/apr/22/bill-nye-the-science-guy-donald-trump-march-washington

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/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions war on science/forensics: (Part Ten); Radley Balko's view: Washington Post - "Sessions wants to keep forensics in the Dark Ages"..."The Obama administration finally provided a platform and framework for real scientists to scrutinize the way forensics is used in the courtroom — but then largely ignored their recommendations. The Trump administration now seems intent on eliminating the platform, too. That window for reform is closing, and Sessions seems content to let it slam shut. He’d prefer to keep forensics in the dark."


COMMENTARY: "Jeff Sessions wants to keep forensics in the dark ages," by Radley Balko, published by The Washington Post on April 11, 2017.

SUB-HEADING: "Democracy dies in darkness."

GIST: "When Jeff Sessions was a senator on the Senate Judiciary Committee, he was part of hearings to address the National Academy of Sciences report on the use of forensics in America’s courtrooms. The NAS report had been commissioned by Congress after DNA testing had revealed not only that hundreds of people had been wrongly convicted of serious crimes like murder and rape, but also that about half those people had been convicted due in part to or because of forensic testimony that could only have been wrong. Sessions wasn’t buying it. “I don’t think we should suggest that those proven scientific principles that we’ve been using for decades are somehow uncertain and leaving prosecutors having to fend off challenges on the most basic issues in a trial,” he said, rebutting the scientists who had come to precisely that conclusion in their report. The “scientific” and “proven” parts were precisely what the report found lacking in too many forensic disciplines. Sessions either didn’t read it — he has a record of criticizing reports without reading them — or simply dismissed it. When witnesses noted that there was no scientific research to support the field of handwriting analysis, Sessions remarked, “Well, I’ve seen them testify and I’ve seen blow-ups of the handwriting, and it’s pretty impressive.” Who are you going to believe, a team of scientists, or Jeff Sessions’s sense of wonder?"...Judging by his public record, Sessions believes the criminal-justice system’s primary job is to fill up prisons. You need only look at his enthusiasm for the drug war, his efforts to block sentencing reform or, well, just about anything he has said on the topic over the course of his career. And as we’ve seen with his statements on policing, he’s also no fan of federal oversight. It shouldn’t be surprising why he seems so irked by reforms that would undermine both views. [Consent decrees have a mixed record of success, but Sessions’s plan to end them is still worrisome] During his time in the Senate, Sessions’s main concern when it comes to forensics has been that the field suffered from a lack of funding, which he worried causes backlogs and over-burdened crime labs — all of which makes it more difficult to put people behind bars. “So, tens of thousands of people, I suggest, are not being promptly tried,” he said at the 2009 hearing on the NAS report. “While they’re out on bail or un-indicted, they’re committing crimes this very moment. A lot of that is because we’ve not invested enough in our forensic sciences so that we can get accurate and prompt reports.” For Sessions, the federal government’s only real responsibility in the area of forensics is to provide the resources and training necessary to help local cops and prosecutors put people in prison. Any oversight or quality control is meddling. The FBI’s own history shows why he’s wrong. Over the past several years we’ve learned that the agency — whose crime lab is considered one of the most prestigious in the world — faked an entire field of forensic science. Not once, but twice. But when law enforcement clashes with science, Sessions sides with law enforcement. And this really gets to the  heart of the ongoing problem with forensics. Most fields of forensics were invented and developed by police agencies, not in scientific labs. In fact, for most of the 20th century, the scientific community largely steered clear of the criminal-justice system. Science and law are two entirely different fields. They’re driven by different goals, different processes, and different values. Science is the gradual accumulation of knowledge through trial, error and corroboration. The criminal-justice system tries to get at truth through an adversarial process, after which it prioritizes preserving jury verdicts. But prosecutors also learned early on that jurors like expertise, and so a demand emerged for expert witnesses. Unfortunately, no one was making sure the expertise on offer was legitimate. And so we got an entire profession of experts who were willing to say things that actual scientists wouldn’t. Juries crave certainty. They swoon for expert witnesses who can wow them with technology. Real scientists don’t speak in certainties. They talk about margins of error, which means jurors find real science less convincing. Our adversarial system may be the best system available for assessing evidence, but it’s hostile to good science. That’s why it’s important that experts willing to tell juries un-scientific things be barred from the courtroom. It’s why we need judges to consult with real scientists when making such decisions. And it’s why we need prosecutors honest enough to resist the temptation to seal convictions with charlatanism masquerading as expertise. But the system also makes all of those things difficult, so it wasn’t until the 1990s and DNA testing — technology developed by scientists, not law enforcement — that we began to see just how wrong forensic analysis could be. There were particular problems within the highly subjective disciplines known as “pattern matching” — fields like hair and fiber analysis and bite-mark matching. Even then, it took another couple of decades before the scientific community began to rigorously apply the scientific method to the claims and methods of forensic analysts. Once they did get involved, in report after report — including that 2009 NAS report, reports from the Texas Forensic Science Commission, and the President’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology (PCAST) report last fall — the “science” in”forensic science” has been found to be somewhere between insufficient and nonexistent.
And yet instead of a sense of humility at the profound implications of these reports, law enforcement officials and prosecutors like Sessions have retreated to the battle lines that defined much of the last century. They’ve attacked the scientists as biased, or made bizarre arguments that forensics should be judged on principles other than scientific principles. (Before we give the Obama administration too much praise, it’s worth pointing out that after PCAST issued its damning report on forensics last year, Obama’s own attorney general Loretta Lynch immediately dismissed it.) [When Obama wouldn’t fight for science] In only the past decade or so, we have finally managed to nudge forensic analysis at least partly out from its dark ages. While the courts haven’t paid much attention yet, these committees and their reports were the first steps toward subjecting forensics to principles like peer review, blind testing, statistical analysis and the more modern concepts grounded in those principles, like sequential unmasking. Sessions is poised to eradicate that progress. It’s hard to overstate the urgency here. As I’ve written before, DNA testing was a wake-up call. It is not a panacea. In the small pool of cases for which DNA testing is dispositive of guilt, the technology revealed serious problems with our criminal-justice system, and forensic evidence was one of the most significant. But the window of opportunity to correct the mistakes exposed by DNA testing will remain open only as long as DNA exonerations are fresh enough in the minds of the public to sustain support for reform. Soon we’ll have exhausted the pool of cases that are old enough to have been decided before DNA testing would have been done early in the investigation, but recent enough that the DNA sample is still available and hasn’t degraded. If the Jeff Sessionses of the world can put off reforms until those cases are exhausted, it becomes much easier to argue that the problems DNA testing exposed are mere relics of the past — that we needn’t worry about all of this anymore. And if we don’t fix the problems DNA testing has exposed, they’ll continue to plague all the other cases for which DNA testing isn’t useful. There will be few new exonerations to argue otherwise, and in the meantime, there will always be a grisly murder or brutal rape in the news to demagogue about the danger of “tying the hands” of police and prosecutors — a tactic Sessions deploys with ease. Only this time, there might be no new technology to let us know that we’re making mistakes. We’ll continue on, blind to the problems we failed to fix. The Obama administration finally provided a platform and framework for real scientists to scrutinize the way forensics is used in the courtroom — but then largely ignored their recommendations. The Trump administration now seems intent on eliminating the platform, too. That window for reform is closing, and Sessions seems content to let it slam shut. He’d prefer to keep forensics in the dark."

The entire commentary can be found at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2017/04/11/jeff-sessions-wants-to-keep-forensics-in-the-dark-ages/?utm_term=.f42e55a74df5

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/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

Friday, April 21, 2017

Ledell Lee. Rest in Peace: Bulletin: Arkansas Innocence Project responds to his precipitous execution in which DNA testing may well have shown that he was innocent...."In a dissenting opinion denying Lee a stay issued today, Arkansas Supreme Court Judge Josephine Linker Hart made a powerful argument for why DNA testing was in the interest of justice. Justice Hart characterized Lee’s claim for DNA testing of hairs the state claimed linked Lee to the crime as a “modest request,” noting that the hair evidence had been used against him at trial and “tilted in the State’s favor a very weak case based entirely on circumstantial evidence.” Judge Hart also emphasized the unfairness and arbitrariness of the Arkansas court’s grant of a stay to Stacey Johnson for DNA testing while denying one to Lee, adding, “I am at a loss to explain this Court’s dissimilar treatment of similarly situated litigants.” Judge Hart concluded by stating, “The court’s error in denying the motion for stay will not be capable of correction.”


"The following can be attributed to Innocence Project Senior Staff Attorney Nina Morrison who along with the ACLU represented Ledell Lee in seeking DNA testing prior to his execution this evening: Ledell Lee proclaimed his innocence from the day of his arrest until the night of his execution twenty-four years later.  During that time, hundreds of innocent people have been freed from our nation’s prisons and death rows by DNA evidence. It is hard to understand how the same government that uses DNA to prosecute crimes every day could execute Mr. Lee without allowing him a simple DNA test. Arkansas’s decision to rush through the execution of Mr. Lee just because its supply of lethal drugs are expiring at the end of the month denied him the opportunity to conduct DNA testing that could have proven his innocence. While reasonable people can disagree on whether death is an appropriate form of punishment, no one should be executed when there is a possibility that person is innocent. In a dissenting opinion denying Lee a stay issued today, Arkansas Supreme Court Judge Josephine Linker Hart made a powerful argument for why DNA testing was in the interest of justice. Justice Hart characterized Lee’s claim for DNA testing of hairs the state claimed linked Lee to the crime as a “modest request,” noting that the hair evidence had been used against him at trial and “tilted in the State’s favor a very weak case based entirely on circumstantial evidence.” Judge Hart also emphasized the unfairness and arbitrariness of the Arkansas court’s grant of a stay to Stacey Johnson for DNA testing while denying one to Lee, adding, “I am at a loss to explain this Court’s dissimilar treatment of similarly situated litigants.” Judge Hart concluded by stating, “The court’s error in denying the motion for stay will not be capable of correction.” Additional information about Lee’s case is available here."
https://www.innocenceproject.org/innocence-project-responds-execution-ledell-lee/


Innocence Project sets out how to send condolences to Ledell Lee's family at the link below:  "As scary as it sounds, Arkansas has been racing to execute eight people on death row before the state's supply of lethal injection drug expires at the end of the month.  Ten days ago, we were brought on to do everything possible to stop the execution of two of the eight men, Ledell Lee and Stacey Johnson. Both men had been proclaiming their innocence for more than twenty years, but a lawyer never asked for a court to order DNA testing to prove it. Last night, Mr. Johnson was granted a stay of execution and chance for DNA testing. But the courts denied that same chance to Mr. Lee, and he was executed just before midnight.   Mr. Lee, who suffered from fetal alcohol disorder and intellectual disability, never received the legal representation he deserved in fighting his murder conviction. The judge who tried him concealed having an affair with the assistant prosecutor on the case, whom he later married. And Mr. Lee’s first state post-conviction counsel was so intoxicated during Mr. Lee's court hearing that the prosecution asked for the lawyer to be drug tested after he slurred, stumbled, and made incoherent arguments. We worked around the clock with colleagues from the ACLU to stop the state from executing Mr. Lee and grant him DNA testing to prove a murder he maintained, until the end, he did not commit.  After filing multiple motions to the Arkansas Supreme Court, they decided to rush Mr. Lee's execution last night and deny him the opportunity to conduct DNA testing that could have proven his innocence. Mr. Lee asked for communion as his last meal. We are devastated for the loss of our client Ledell Lee, 51, and infuriated by this act of injustice.Please join us in sending Mr. Lee's family your condolences in this time of great loss. A fund to help the family with funeral expenses has been set up by supporters in Arkansas here (Please specify that your donation is for Mr. Lee). Thank you for your support, Nina Morrison; Senior Staff Attorney."
https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=wm#all/15b92f94185f05f2

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/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

Evin King: Ohio; Bulletin: Major Development; Finally cleared with assistance from Innocence Project - in spite of prosecutor's initial efforts to keep the conviction, and a judge's refusal to grant a new trial..."Prosecutors said advances in DNA testing and understanding forensic evidence have called into question the theory of the crime that prosecutors presented at King's 1995 trial. The Ohio Innocence Project, which is part of the University of Cincinnati College of Law, represented him in multiple appeals. Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley said Tuesday that his office consulted with the medical examiner, who explained that the way DNA evidence was interpreted at the time of King's trial is no longer valid. "After learning of the current analysis of the evidence, I believe that it is my duty to vacate Evin King's conviction," O'Malley said." Reporter Jennifer Auh: WEWS; Associated Press; 19 April, 2017.


"A team at the University of Cincinnati helped free a man Wednesday who claims he was wrongly imprisoned in his girlfriend's slaying 23 years ago.   Court records show Cuyahoga County prosecutors asked that Evin King, 59, be freed while they further investigate his case. Prosecutors said advances in DNA testing and understanding forensic evidence have called into question the theory of the crime that prosecutors presented at King's 1995 trial. The Ohio Innocence Project, which is part of the University of Cincinnati College of Law, represented him in multiple appeals. Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley said Tuesday that his office consulted with the medical examiner, who explained that the way DNA evidence was interpreted at the time of King's trial is no longer valid. "After learning of the current analysis of the evidence, I believe that it is my duty to vacate Evin King's conviction," O'Malley said......... Cleveland.com reports King learned about the development in a phone call from the Innocence Project. "I knew this day would come one day, and I knew I would cry," King said through tears in a video of the call. Speaking of his mother, King said "she's looking down on me." His girlfriend, Crystal Hudson, was found strangled in her closet in 1994. Of the two types of DNA found at the scene, one did not match King and the other could not be tested due to old DNA technology. Prosecutors argued Hudson was with another man before her death, but King killed her. A jury convicted King, and he was sentenced to life in prison with eligibility for parole after 15 years. The Innocence Project took his case and did new testing in 2009. The tests found both types of DNA from the scene matched the same person, whose DNA did not match King's. Even with the new developments, prosecutors fought to keep King's conviction, and a county judge refused to grant a new trial. O'Malley, who took office in January, assigned a new assistant prosecutor to take King's case. The Innocence Project praised his decision to void the conviction."
http://www.wcpo.com/news/state/state-ohio/man-who-claimed-his-innocence-in-1995-murder-is-freed-after-new-dna-analysis

See CSIDDS post "New Ohio exoneration casts worries about Sessions effect at the link below: "I’m just coining a turn to a familiar forensic science phrase, but US Attorney General Session’s cancelling the NCFS  (federal forensic forensics commission) has brought added attention to flawed  police science long advertised as being a legal certainty. It quite clearly has spurred some good discussions defining the  thrashing going on between scientific thinking and prosecutors . Let’s give his legacy a name since the public is beginning to understand that Sessions is mute regarding false convictions, false plea deals and wrongful incarcerations coming out of both ‘his’ federal system of justice and affiliated state prosecuting colleagues. The ‘Sessions Effect’ could stick much like the ‘CSI Effect’ is used as a label about juries expecting solid physical evidence to prove guilt in criminal cases. Prosecutors complain it only exists in about 10% of their cases that actually go to trial. 95% of prosecutions end up in admissions of guilt thorugh plea bargains. There is a twist in ‘effect’ in that Sessions clearly stands for throttling Obama’s and the US Congress decade long movement to thwart the presence of flawed, incompletely tested and outright false forensic reporting by prosecution experts." Dr. Michael Bowers.
 https://csidds.com/2017/04/21/new-ohio-exoneration-casts-worries-about-a-sessions-effect-on-criminal-justice/

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/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;