QUOTE OF THE DAY: “They (the two odontologists who testified at his trial) were willing to have me murdered by the state of Virginia behind what they said, which in all actuality has no basis in truth. When you present an expert to a jury of people, of course, whatever they say is true because the judge allows it, the prosecutor presents it. It has to be true."
STORY: "One year after release, Keith Harward travels country to point out failures of forensic science, help the wrongly convicted," by reporter Frank Green, published by the Richmond-Times Dispatch on April 14, 2017.
GIST: "Little more than a year ago, Keith Allen Harward was serving life in the warrens of a rural Virginia prison. This week he walked the halls of Congress, a man on a mission. Wrongfully convicted of a 1982 rape and murder by faulty forensic evidence that could have sent him to the electric chair, Harward was exonerated last year by DNA testing and released from the Nottoway Correctional Center on April 8, 2016. In Washington on Monday, he appeared before the National Commission on Forensic Science — as in-your-face proof of the kind of injustice the commission was created to help prevent.........In the past year, Harward has traveled the country on behalf of the Innocence Project and related groups. He speaks out against bite-mark evidence that sent him to prison and other forensic science shortcomings. He says he will continue the effort later this year on his own. The task, however, will not be easy. Hours before he spoke at the commission Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that the group’s charter would not be renewed. Harward, the only exoneree ever to speak to the commission, did so at its last meeting....What happened to Harward at his 1984 and 1986 trials could have happened to anyone. Of the 349 DNA exonerations identified by the Innocence Project, the misapplication of forensic science contributed to 46 percent of the wrongful convictions, second only to mistaken witness/victim identifications. Now 61, Harward was 26 years old and just out of the U.S. Navy when he was charged with beating a Newport News man to death with a crowbar and then raping the man’s wife in a Sept. 14, 1982, nighttime attack. He was convicted largely on the erroneous testimony of two forensic dentists — also called forensic odontologists — who obtained dental molds from Harward they said matched bite wounds left by the assailant on the rape victim. Four other dentists looked at the evidence, and none would dispute the conclusions of the witnesses. Numerous scientific studies since have shown that human flesh is a poor medium to capture bite marks and that comparing teeth with such marks is not valid. The American Board of Forensic Odontology no longer sanctions specific biter identifications in cases like Harward’s. However, the organization says forensic odontologists still can properly decide if comparisons exclude or cannot exclude someone as the biter, or that there was insufficient information to decide one way or the other. Harward, the Innocence Project and others want all bite-mark evidence kept out of courtrooms until there is a scientific basis for it.........In New Orleans in February, he spoke at the annual convention of the American Academy of Forensic Science where he gave notice to attendees of a workshop, some of them forensic odontologists, that if he learns any of them are testifying at a trial anywhere, he will conduct a protest outside the courthouse and do his best to draw media interest.........He will also continue to campaign against bite-mark evidence, which is what brought him to Washington this week for the National Commission on Forensic Science, created in 2013 after a 2009 National Academy of Sciences report that raised questions about the validity of bike-mark comparison and other pattern evidence, such as tool marks. Just before Harward spoke to the commission, Jeff Sessions, the new U.S. attorney general, announced that its charter would not be renewed. Sessions said that in the coming weeks, the department will appoint an in-house forensic adviser to “interface with forensic science stakeholders” and provide guidance to the department leadership. The commission consisted of about 40 scientists, judges, lawyers, prosecutors, forensic laboratory officials and others. Their aim: “to enhance the practice and improve the reliability of forensic science.” Properly used forensic science disciplines are essential law enforcement tools that for decades have led to the conviction of criminals and the exoneration of innocent people. But independent studies and DNA exonerations in recent years have, among other things, discredited assumptions underlying bite-mark analyses, challenged the overstated testimony of hair examiners, and raised questions about other forensic science disciplines. Harward was disappointed with the Justice Department’s decision and told the commission, “I’m sorry to hear that this commission is coming to a halt, because it sounds like y’all could be on my side.” “Why can’t y’all stop it,” he asked the commission about bite-mark evidence. “Why can’t you find a way? It’s just common sense.” He complained about the two odontologists who testified in his trial. “They were willing to have me murdered by the state of Virginia behind what they said, which in all actuality has no basis in truth.” “When you present an expert to a jury of people, of course, whatever they say is true because the judge allows it, the prosecutor presents it. It has to be true,” he said. John Hollway, executive director of the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice, apologized to Harward. What happened to Harward, Hollway said, was “not just a failure of science. That’s a failure of law and the organization of law.” “We as lawyers have an obligation to make sure the scientific testimony ... is authentic and is validated and that is the purpose that I think has gathered everybody here,” he said. “Your story really brings out the tragedy of putting this commission on hold,” he added. Madeline deLone, executive director of the Innocence Project, told the commission that the validity of bite-mark evidence — comparing bite marks in human skin with a suspect’s teeth — has been questioned by every scientific body that has looked at it, but it continues to be admitted in courts. “There’s yet to be a court in the United States that has kept it out,” she said. “We really need a body like this to help the legal system understand that science changes.” Betty Layne DesPortes, a Richmond lawyer and president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, said Tuesday that, “The end of the commission was expected, but it is still a loss. Forensic science should be independent of law enforcement control.”"
The entire story 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/