Sunday, January 21, 2018

'Believe the victim': The Transformation of Justice.' The Wrongful convictions Blog draws an important white paper - published by 'The Center of Prosecutorial integrity' - to our attention: "Each of the four codes of ethics cited above emphasize that a law enforcement professional must remain neutral in the search for truth. A leading criminal justice textbook likewise reinforces the vital importance of neutrality: "Investigators do not determine the suspects to be guilty; they remain objective in their investigation The investigator seeks the truth, not simply the suspect's guilt. It is therefore alarming that the neutrality central to these ethical codes has become eroded over the last decade in favor of the insistence that the investigator initiate an investigation by believing anyone who claims to have to have been a victim of sexual assault or harassment. This movement to assume the truth of such allegations is infiltrating the criminal justice system and institutions of higher education."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "This movement to assume the truth of such allegations is infiltrating the criminal justice system and institutions of higher education."

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am grateful to the Wrongful Convictions  Blog for bringing to our attention a 'white paper' published by 'The Center for prosecutorial integrity, which seeks an end to "the use of biased 'Believe the Victim' investigative methods in sexual assault and domestic violence cases...This white paper  focuses on how automatically believing a complainant often leads to injustice. The Wrongful Convictions Blog post - posted by Mark Godsey on January 19, 2018 -  can be read at:
https://wrongfulconvictionsblog.org/2018/01/19/believe-the-victim-the-transformation-of-justice/

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

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WHITE PAPER: "'Believe the victim': The transformation of justice,'" published by "The Center for prosecutorial integrity." (2018):

GIST: (PUBLISHER'S NOTE): Until I read this White Paper I had no idea  how strong and well organized the movement for believing the victim - with its potential impact on the neutrality of  police sexual and domestic assault investigations - was throughout America. One important passage: "Ascertainment of truth is the central challenge of any system that advocates claims of wrongdoing. Each of the four codes of ethics cited above emphasize that a law enforcement professional  must remain neutral in the search for truth. A leading criminal justice textbook likewise reinforces the vital importance of neutrality: "Investigators do not determine the suspects to  be guilty; they remain objective in their investigation The investigator seeks the truth, not simply the suspect's guilt. It is therefore alarming that the neutrality central to these ethical codes has become eroded over the last decade in favor of the insistence that the investigator initiate an investigation by believing anyone who claims to have  to have been a victim of sexual assault or harassment. This movement to assume the truth of such allegations is infiltrating the criminal justice system and institutions of higher education."

The entire white paper can be read at:
http://www.prosecutorintegrity.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Believe-the-Victim-FINAL.pdf 

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Read Emily Yoffe's insightful article - "The bad science  behind campus response  to sexual assault, published on September 8, 2017:  "As debate has begun over whether the rules governing sexual-assault adjudication have gone too far, one subject has received almost no attention, although it has become central to the way that many schools and many activists view sexual assault. In the past few years, the federal government has required that all institutions of higher education train staff on the effects of “neurobiological change” in victims of sexual assault, so that officials are able to conduct “trauma informed” investigations and adjudications. In meeting this federal demand, some schools have come to rely on the work of a small band of self-styled experts in the neurobiology of trauma who claim that sexual violations provoke a disabling, multifaceted physiological response. Being assaulted is traumatic, and no one should expect those who have been assaulted to have perfect recall or behave perfectly rationally, but this argument goes much further. It generally goes like this: People facing sexual assault become terrified, triggering a potent cascade of neurotransmitters and stress hormones. This chemical flood impairs the prefrontal cortex of the brain, impeding victims’ capacity for rational thought, and interferes with their memory. They may have significant trouble recalling their assault or describing it coherently or chronologically. The fear of imminent death may further elicit an extended catatonic state known as “tonic immobility,” rendering them powerless to speak or move—they feel “frozen.” As a result, those adjudicating sexual-assault allegations are told, the absence of verbal or physical resistance, the inability to recall crucial parts of an alleged assault, a changing story—none of these factors should raise questions or doubt about a claim. Indeed, all of these behaviors can be considered evidence that an assault occurred. “I don’t think I’ve seen a complaint in the past year that didn’t use the word frozen somewhere.” Rebecca Campbell, a professor of psychology at Michigan State University, has taught the science of trauma to law-enforcement officials and Title IX administrators. In 2015, she gave a keynote talk at the Association of Title IX Administrators’ annual conference, about how the neurobiology of trauma could be used in their investigations. A highly influential presentation she gave in 2012 at the National Institute of Justice, “The Neurobiology of Sexual Assault,” has been used as part of some schools’ Title IX–personnel training. In her 2012 talk, Campbell acknowledged that she is not a neuroscientist, but rather is translating others’ work. (Campbell’s own scholarly work has involved community-based research into how contact with the legal and medical systems affects assault victims’ psychological and physical health, and research into the use of rape kits.) She asserted that the damaged memory of a victim can be likened to “tiny Post-it notes” scattered randomly across “the world’s messiest desk.” For a sexual-assault victim to reconstruct what happened requires a sympathetic questioner who will give the victim the time and space to reassemble the Post-its in a coherent order. She assured her audience that the story that emerges will be a true account of the crime: “What we know from the research is that the laying-down of that memory is accurate and the recall of it is accurate.” She briefly recognized that victims who consumed alcohol may have serious memory problems as a result—“their Post-it notes are just blank.” Tonic immobility, she said, is a “mammalian response that is in all of us,” likely affecting close to 50 percent of sexual-assault victims. “Their body freezes on them,” she said, and not just for a moment or two. The victims go into an extended state in which they can’t speak or move, and hence cannot fend off an assailant. As of 2014, Harvard Law’s Title IX training for its disciplinary board included Campbell’s PowerPoint slides. Janet Halley, a professor at Harvard Law School, has written of the intended effect of the training on recipients: “It is 100% aimed to convince them to believe complainants, precisely when they seem unreliable and incoherent.”All of these concepts are presented in information distributed to students on many campuses. The University of Michigan’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center has a webpage for students on the “Neurobiology of Trauma” based largely on Campbell’s lecture. It explains that as a result of the “hormone soup” provoked by an assault, “the survivor cannot move and is rendered immobile by the traumatic event,” and “survivors may have trouble accurately remembering the assault.” Bowdoin College’s Title IX webpage on “The Neurobiology of Sexual Assault,” also based on Campbell’s lecture, tells students that “the flood of hormones can even, and often does, result in a complete shutdown of bodily function, a state referred to as ‘tonic immobility,’ but better described as paralysis” and that victims “also may exhibit fragmented memory recall due to the disorganized encoding that occurred during the incident.” This information sends the message to young people that they are biologically programmed to become helpless during unwanted sexual encounters and to suffer mental impairment afterward. And it may inadvertently encourage them to view consensual late-night, alcohol-fueled encounters that might produce disjointed memories and some regret as something more sinister. Justin Dillon, a Washington, D.C., attorney who defends students across the country accused of Title IX violations, told me that a couple of years ago he had barely heard of this condition, but that its terminology has swiftly made its way into campus adjudications: “I don’t think I’ve seen a complaint in the past year that didn’t use the word frozen somewhere.” Trauma, he says, is used to explain away all inconsistencies in some complainants’ accounts that would otherwise seem to contradict their having been assaulted. Schools do not make public the training materials of those who investigate and adjudicate sexual assault. But through lawsuits, Dillon has obtained some examples, and he says the assertions of the “neurobiology of trauma” that infuse these materials make it almost impossible for the accused to mount a defense. When such assumptions are held by those sitting in judgment, he says, “how do you prove your innocence?”"

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/09/the-bad-science-behind-campus-response-to-sexual-assault/539211/

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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."

Jerry Sandusky: From The Crime Report: "Did ‘Repressed Memory’ Falsely Convict Jerry Sandusky?" Megan Hadley interviews journalist/author Mark Prendergast. (Prendergast is author of, "The Most Hated Man in America: Jerry Sandusky and the Rush to Judgment.")..."TCR: In your book, you cite repressed memory therapists, police officers, and alleged victims as reasons why Jerry Sandusky was falsely accused. So who is to blame? Pendergrast: They are all to blame. It started with a 15-year-old, Aaron Fisher, who didn’t want to spend so much time with Sandusky anymore. The pattern that I basically uncovered was that Jerry Sandusky would try to be a mentor to troubled young men who were in the Second Mile program and many of them at 14 or 15 started to pull away from him. He was concerned they would get into drugs and bad habits, and from the young men’s point of view, it was like rebelling against a parent. Aaron told his mother one weekend that Sandusky made him feel weird and he asked his mother about websites for sex offenders. His mother then decided this would be a meal ticket, according to the neighbor who lived next door to them in a public housing project. So Fisher was sent to (Clinton County psychologist Dr.) Mike Gillum, who was absolutely sure from the beginning that Sandusky was an evil molester. Although Gillum denies he practiced repressed memory therapy, that is clearly what he did. He believed that Aaron didn’t remember the abuse, and he needed to be educated about how the brain could “dissociate” or “repress” memories, which of course is pseudoscience. Gillum was sure Sandusky fit the profile of a terrible pedophile, and he told Aaron fisher that repeatedly, until he believed him. It seems fairly clear that without Mike Gillum going after Fisher, none of these abuse allegations would have happened. I blame Mike Gillum. But I also blame greed. I think from the very beginning Fisher and his mother thought there might be a lot of money in this."


INTERVIEW:  "Did ‘Repressed Memory’ Falsely Convict Jerry Sandusky? Journalist/author Mark Prendergast is interviewed by  Crime Report writer Megan Hadley. Published by The Crime Report on January 3, 2018.



GIST: "In 2012, former Penn State defensive football coach Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of 45 counts of sexual abuse of young boys. He is now serving a 30-60 year sentence in Pennsylvania’s SCI Somerset prison. But in a recent book, journalist Mark Pendergrast claims that a closer look at the evidence presented at trial shows Sandusky is likely innocent. Pendergrast argues, in The Most Hated Man in America: Jerry Sandusky and the Rush to Judgment, that the charges were largely the result of efforts by aggressive police investigators and recovered memory therapists who encouraged boys to “remember” molestations that may not have occurred. Pendergrast published his original arguments in The Crime Report in 2016. In a conversation with TCR writer Megan Hadley, he discusses how his earlier work on the “repressed memory” phenomenon led him to investigate the Sandusky case, why he believes “greed” and media frenzy helped to distort the facts, and how the “rush to judgment” may similarly have ensnared others who have been wrongly accused of campus sex abuse."

The Crime Report: Where did your interest in the Jerry Sandusky scandal begin?
Mark Pendergrast: In 2013, I got an email from a woman who read my book about repressed memories, and she wanted to know if I had paid any attention to the Jerry Sandusky case. She said that it involved repressed memory therapy. At the time I didn’t know anything about the Sandusky case beyond what I had seen on TV or read in newspapers and magazines. I assumed Sandusky was guilty, particularly because of Mike McQueary, a graduate student at Penn State who had seen him abusing a child in the shower. But when I looked into it, I found McQueary didn’t actually see anything; he only heard sounds. Then I got the trial transcripts and really dug into the case. Frankly, I became obsessed with it. I believe it is very likely Sandusky is innocent.

 TCR: In your book you explain how a media frenzy can cause the public to panic. Is that what happened in this case?
Pendergrast: There have been several moral panics throughout history where everyone assumes someone’s guilt and it becomes a mass rush to take action. That clearly did happen in the Sandusky case. The media jumped on the grand jury presentation, and went wild. Within a week Joe Paterno, the longtime coach, had been fired, the president of the college was fired, two other administrators were accused of hiding the abuse, and basically Penn State became the epicenter of a media feeding frenzy.

 TCR: In your book, you cite repressed memory therapists, police officers, and alleged victims as reasons why Jerry Sandusky was falsely accused. So who is to blame?
Pendergrast: They are all to blame. It started with a 15-year-old, Aaron Fisher, who didn’t want to spend so much time with Sandusky anymore. The pattern that I basically uncovered was that Jerry Sandusky would try to be a mentor to troubled young men who were in the Second Mile program and many of them at 14 or 15 started to pull away from him. He was concerned they would get into drugs and bad habits, and from the young men’s point of view, it was like rebelling against a parent. Aaron told his mother one weekend that Sandusky made him feel weird and he asked his mother about websites for sex offenders. His mother then decided this would be a meal ticket, according to the neighbor who lived next door to them in a public housing project. So Fisher was sent to (Clinton County psychologist Dr.) Mike Gillum, who was absolutely sure from the beginning that Sandusky was an evil molester. Although Gillum denies he practiced repressed memory therapy, that is clearly what he did. He believed that Aaron didn’t remember the abuse, and he needed to be educated about how the brain could “dissociate” or “repress” memories, which of course is pseudoscience. Gillum was sure Sandusky fit the profile of a terrible pedophile, and he told Aaron fisher that repeatedly, until he believed him. It seems fairly clear that without Mike Gillum going after Fisher, none of these abuse allegations would have happened. I blame Mike Gillum. But I also blame greed. I think from the very beginning Fisher and his mother thought there might be a lot of money in this.

 TCR: What are your opinions about the Harvey Weinstein and Hollywood sex abuse scandal? Do you believe Weinstein’s victims are lying and seeking attention/ money as you claim Sandusky’s victims were?
Pendergrast: I don’t think so. I read the New Yorker piece and it all struck me as being researched and accurate. I think the Weinstein story is true and I think it unleashed a flood of allegations, most of which seem substantial and reasonable. In the case of Harvey Weinstein, it would appear everyone knew he was doing this for years— unlike Sandusky, where nobody made any accusations until much later, after Aaron Fisher and Mike Gillum got it going in 2008. Weinstein is apparently quite guilty, and many of the other people are too, though not all of them. Garrison Keillor, for instance, didn’t do anything other than hug someone, and his hand went onto her bare back. Still, I think most women have been subjected to unwanted sexual advances at one time or another, almost every woman in America.

TCR: You state “allegations of sexual abuse on college campuses involving sports figures may be particularly susceptible to a rush to judgment.” What other aspects of campus life do you believe are highly susceptible to a rush to judgment’?
Pendergrast: Fraternities. Any allegations involving fraternities are assumed to be true because so many of them are true. In my book, I cited the University of Virginia case, where there was a false allegation reported in Rolling Stone which was widely accepted. Or there were the sexual abuse allegations against the Duke University lacrosse players, that were unfounded. The interesting thing about the Duke lacrosse case, as opposed to Sandusky, is is the way that the media has treated it. Because the case was debunked and thrown out and the players were exonerated, everyone rushed to write books about it. The difference between the Duke Lacrosse case and the Sandusky case was that Sandusky was found guilty and nobody wants to look at any alternative. So far, the appeal process in Pennsylvania has upheld that judgment. Part of the problem in Pennsylvania is that nobody who is elected is going to want to be “soft on pedophiles,” certainly not the “evil” Jerry Sandusky. And the judges in Pennsylvania are all elected, so it is extremely unlikely that any Pennsylvania judge is going to grant a new trial to Sandusky. I am hopeful however, that when it reaches the federal level, he will get a new trial because his current lawyers did an excellent job of presenting the case. So I have not lost all hope. But this man, who I am convinced is innocent, is sitting in solitary confinement in prison, and it is remarkable that he has kept his sanity.

TCR: What role did the police play in the possibly wrongful conviction of Sandusky?
Pendergrast: There is something called confirmation bias that psychologists recognize, in which people conduct interviews with a presumption of guilt, and they only consider “evidence” that supports their hypothesis. They were not the least bit interested in children who said Sandusky was a great guy and he didn’t abuse them. [Officers] made it clear to these young boys they didn’t believe them and they said “if you remember something at 3 in the morning call us.” They would cross-contaminate by saying “many other people said Sandusky has done ‘this and this and this, how about you?’ ” Officers would make the young men feel that they were failing, hiding, or lying if they didn’t say Sandusky had abused them. People who believe Sandusky is guilty will say “young boys are ashamed of having been involved with a man in sexual abuse and will often hide it.” I think there is some truth to that. But it is extremely unlikely that none of these 35 young men who came forward told anyone about it at the time of the alleged abuse. Nobody suspected anything. So the police methodology was terrible and they trawled for victims. It wasn’t a matter of anyone spontaneously coming forward until, finally, after the grand jury presentment was out, people came forward, because it became obvious there was going to be a lot of money involved here. You want to know who is to blame? Penn State is to blame. Penn State was terrified about looking bad, so they assumed guilt and fell all over themselves, giving away millions of dollars to basically anybody without any kind of vetting or investigation.


 TCR: You quote from Mikhail Khorev, a Russian Baptist leader imprisoned for more than three decades in the former Soviet Union, who said, “It was interesting to see what lengths the state officials had gone to prove to themselves that I was a criminal.” Is this what happened in the case of Jerry Sandusky?
Pendergrast: Yes. But we also see that in many cases of DNA exoneration. People whose DNA proves they are innocent. But once the prosecutors and the police decided somebody was guilty, they would ignore any evidence of somebody else being guilty. So the real murderer or rapist went free while they were prosecuting the wrong person. And even when the DNA evidence exonerated [the innocent], the prosecutors and the police refused to admit they were mistaken. It’s hard for somebody to admit they did anything wrong. It is significant that there was no childhood pornography found on Sandusky’s computer or phone. The irony of all this, is that the prosecutors were sending racist, misogynist gross pornography to each other the whole time while investigating Sandusky, who is as pure as snow. He was considered to be something of a saint before the total vilification. But he was a very naive kind of guy. His children referred to it as a Mayberry world he lived in. All of Sandusky’s children (besides the one who went to repressed memory therapy) are sure he is innocent, but won’t say it in public because they are afraid for their own careers and families.


TCR: You say “False confessions are far more common, and easier to elicit, than most people realize.” How so?
Pendergrast: There are entire books about false confessions. The police can legally lie to people. So they can lie and say “Oh, your friend said you did it and they saw you.” Or that their fingerprints were found at the crime scene. Or maybe the police will tell the alleged victims they blacked out or repressed the memory. Many of those cases involve young people who are sleep deprived and frantic, and they will say anything to get out of there. It happens. It happens more frequently than anybody realizes.


TCR: Have you gotten any backlash for writing your book? Perhaps from victims, their families, or advocate groups?
Pendergrast: No, there has not been much backlash, at least not yet. I should note that I could only get one alleged victim to let me interview him, which was quite revealing–he explained all about how he had repressed memories of abuse. None of the other alleged victims would talk to me.

Editor’s Note: (The Crime Report): In a related book, Memory Warp, Pendergrast takes a critical look at the phenomenon of repressed memory. For more information on this and other publications by Pendergrast, he invites readers to check out his website.
The entire interview can be read at:




https://thecrimereport.org/2018/01/03/did-repressed-memory-falsely-convict-jerry-sandusky/

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, January 20, 2018

Barry and Honey Sherman: From the Toronto Star: (Chief Investigative reporter Kevin Donovan)..."The Sherman family’s private investigation into the shocking deaths of billionaire Apotex founder Barry Sherman and his wife Honey is revealing a very different story than the murder-suicide theory that has led headlines to date. A Star investigation reveals the details."..." "It’s double murder, not murder-suicide. Barry and Honey Sherman were killed in what looks like a professional, contract killing. That’s the conclusion of a variety of experts who have been hired by the family to probe the case. Here’s the new information: There are markings on the Shermans’ wrists, an indication that at some point their hands were tied together, though no rope or other ties were found near the bodies. Toxicology tests on their bodies reveal no sign of drugs that would have contributed to their deaths. Men’s leather belts found around their necks were the cause of the “ligature compression” that killed them. A top forensic pathologist who did a second autopsy determined this was a double homicide, barring any new information that surfaces. Meanwhile, the Toronto police would not provide any new information or comment on the findings of the family and maintain their classification of the deaths as “suspicious.”


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: There has been a dramatic clash between the Toronto Police Service's "murder-suicide" theory - and the family's belief that the prominent couple were murdered. The case is of interest to this Blog because the family has taken the unusual step of hiring  of conducting a private investigation of the case through privately retained investigators and pathologists. Indeed, the family arranged for Dr. David Chiasson, formerly the chief forensic pathologist for Ontario,  to conduct  a second autopsy days before the Dec. 21 funeral. One comment for now. The story indicates that "The next stage in the family’s investigation was to conduct a toxicology analysis to see what, if any, drugs were in the bodies of the victims. Police had arranged for samples to be taken and sent to the Centre of Forensic Sciences. The lab work, which takes about two days, was delayed as the lab is perpetually backlogged. It is now complete, but police have not shared the results with the family or the public. Greenspan and his team had samples taken during the second autopsy. The results are negative for any drug that could have caused their death." It is quite disturbing  that the toxicology results were  delayed because "the lab is perpetually backlogged." If this delay from the perpetually backlogged lab is experience in a case of this internationally prominent nature,  what kind of delays are experienced in very day cases - and what impact does this have on the investigations and their quality? I will be following developments closely.

Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog.

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STORY: "Barry and Honey Sherman were murdered, sources say," by Chief Investigative Reporter Kevin Donovan, published by The Toronto Star on January 19, 2018.

SUB-HEADING: "The Sherman family’s private investigation into the shocking deaths of billionaire Apotex founder Barry Sherman and his wife Honey is revealing a very different story than the murder-suicide theory that has led headlines to date. A Star investigation reveals the details."

PHOTO CAPTION: "Sources say the Sherman family's private investigation into the deaths of Barry and Honey Sherman has found that the two were murdered in what looks like a professional contract killing, not a murder-suicide."

PHOTO CAPTION:  "Brian Greenspan, who represents the family of Barry and Honey Sherman, says that former homicide investigators hired as private forensic experts will provide "a second lens" to the police probe into the deaths of the billionaire founder of Apotex and his wife.

PHOTO CAPTION: "Dr. David Chiasson, formerly the chief forensic pathologist for Ontario, was hired to conduct a second autopsy on the bodies of Barry and Honey Sherman."


GIST: "It’s double murder, not murder-suicide. Barry and Honey Sherman were killed in what looks like a professional, contract killing. That’s the conclusion of a variety of experts who have been hired by the family to probe the case. Here’s the new information: There are markings on the Shermans’ wrists, an indication that at some point their hands were tied together, though no rope or other ties were found near the bodies. Toxicology tests on their bodies reveal no sign of drugs that would have contributed to their deaths. Men’s leather belts found around their necks were the cause of the “ligature compression” that killed them. A top forensic pathologist who did a second autopsy determined this was a double homicide, barring any new information that surfaces. Meanwhile, the Toronto police would not provide any new information or comment on the findings of the family and maintain their classification of the deaths as “suspicious.” People providing information for this story are not identified as they were not authorized to discuss the case.  Barry, born Bernard C. Sherman, was the founder and past CEO of Apotex, a generic drug firm. He is said to have been worth $4.77 billion at time of his death. Honey, his wife of 46 years, was well known for her charitable work and community involvement. Barry was 75. Honey was 70. They were found in their home in North Toronto just before noon on Dec. 15 by a real estate agent. Their house was for sale. The Friday evening of the day the bodies were discovered, a police officer at the scene told reporters that there was no sign of forced entry at the home and as of that day, police were not seeking any suspects. “At this point we are not seeking a suspect,” a Toronto police detective said that night. Saturday morning a story broke in the Toronto Sun that police were working on a theory of murder-suicide. Other media, including the National Post, the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star, confirmed the report that this was the active theory of the police at the time. In each case, the media quoted sources and did not identify an officer who put forward the theory. The murder-suicide theory brought quick outrage from the Sherman’s four children who released a statement saying the theory was wrong. By this time, Toronto homicide investigators were at the scene and they eventually took over the probe from divisional officers. The family hired high profile criminal lawyer Brian Greenspan who in turn brought in private detectives and experts in pathology and crime scenes. An autopsy — the first of two — was carried out on Dec. 16 by a provincial pathologist at the Centre of Forensic Sciences who determined that both Shermans died by “ligature neck compression.” The police said nothing else, still classifying the death as “suspicious.” The family wanted to know more and with the help of Greenspan, went looking to hire a forensic pathologist to do a second autopsy. The family hired Dr. David Chiasson, formerly the chief forensic pathologist for Ontario. Chiasson now does pathology work at the Hospital for Sick Children and is an assistant professor at the University of Toronto. Chiasson conducted a second autopsy days before the Dec. 21 funeral. Present at the autopsy was the team of private detectives, most of them former Toronto homicide investigators, assembled by Greenspan. Chiasson’s conclusion, along with that of the private detectives present, is that it was a double homicide barring any other information that might come from the ongoing probe. Not murder-suicide. The ligature neck compression, sources say, was likely done by two men’s leather belts found at the scene wrapped around the necks of the victims. While earlier media reports suggested they died by hanging, sources say that is incorrect. They were found in a seated position at the side of a pool in a lower level of the house, with their legs facing away from the pool. The belts were around the neck, with the end of the belt through the buckle and pulled tight. The free end of each belt was then looped or tied around a low railing that surrounds the pool. Sources say a working theory of the private team probing the deaths is that the Shermans were strangled by the belts, then the belts were attached to the railing, holding them in a seated position. Sources with intimate knowledge of the Sherman family’s investigation have used words like “professional,” “contract killing,” and “staged homicide” to describe the scene. A key finding discovered in Chiasson’s autopsy were marks on both Barry and Honey Sherman’s wrists, an indication that each person’s wrists were bound together at some point, likely with rope or a plastic strap. An examination of the markings does not clearly determine if the hands were bound in front or behind. Their hands were not bound when the bodies were discovered. The Shermans were wearing winter coats that were pushed back away from the shoulders and down, which would have the effect of immobilizing the arms. No rope or plastic strap was found at the scene and sources have speculated to the Star that when Toronto police examined sewer pipes around the house they were looking for whatever was used as ties. Police also searched the roof of the house and used metal detectors on the property. The next stage in the family’s investigation was to conduct a toxicology analysis to see what, if any, drugs were in the bodies of the victims. Police had arranged for samples to be taken and sent to the Centre of Forensic Sciences. The lab work, which takes about two days, was delayed as the lab is perpetually backlogged. It is now complete, but police have not shared the results with the family or the public. Greenspan and his team had samples taken during the second autopsy. The results are negative for any drug that could have caused their death. As of Friday afternoon, the Toronto police were still examining the interior of the house at Old Colony Rd. Both police and private detectives have canvassed the houses on the street for surveillance video. While several homeowners with cameras that can see parts of the Sherman home in the distance have provided video to both police and the Sherman family detectives, sources have told the Star that nothing has come from a study of the various videos. Toronto police spokesperson Mark Pugash told the Star on Friday that the deaths remain classified as “suspicious.” He said when “we are in a position to release more information we will do so.” While the bodies were discovered on Friday, Dec. 15, it appears the Shermans died between late Wednesday Dec. 13 and Thursday afternoon, Dec. 14. Family sources say the last known cellphone communication (text or audio) from the Sherman couple was Wednesday during the day. Though the family’s investigation team has not been granted access to the home yet, sources say their understanding is that there was no damage to the inside of the home — nothing to suggest this could be a home invasion. In an interview this week, lawyer Greenspan said he and the team he has assembled are trying to provide a “second lens” to look at the case. His team has yet to enter the Sherman home, and while they had been promised entry right after the holidays, it looks like it could be another week before police release the scene. He said the police have made several requests for access to information related to the Shermans and in each case the executor in charge of the Shermans’ affairs has provided “full co-operation.” It is typical in a death investigation for police to serve production orders signed by a judge or justice of the peace (similar to search warrants) on cellphone companies or banks to obtain records showing a person’s whereabouts. If permission is given, by an executor as in this case, those production orders are not required. As to the early theory that it was a murder-suicide, Greenspan said that anyone who knows the couple would find that “unsupportable as a matter of logic.” The Star has attempted, unsuccessfully, to learn who at the Toronto police came up with that theory and whether it still holds water. Greenspan said he does not have a “working theory” as to why the police have not classified the deaths as homicide."

The entire story can be found at:
https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2018/01/19/barry-and-honey-sherman-were-murdered-sources-say.html

Read CBC story 'Barry and Honey Sherman were murdered by multiple killers, private investigators believe: source,' at the link below; "Private investigators believe that the billionaire Toronto couple found dead at their home in December were murdered by multiple killers, a source with direct knowledge of the parallel probe into their mysterious deaths told CBC Toronto. The new information contradicts a widely circulated theory that Barry and Honey Sherman died as a result of a murder-suicide — a notion that is regarded as fiction by those who knew the Shermans well."
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/private-investigators-believe-toronto-billionaires-barry-and-honey-sherman-were-murdered-source-says-1.4496686

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."

Sonja Farak/Annie Dookhan: Massachusetts; Reporter Paul Solotaroff of 'Rolling Stone' take us on a tour through 'And Justice For None: Inside Biggest Law Enforcement Scandal in Massachusetts History."..."Since 2004, when she started pilfering drugs from her longtime place of employment – the Amherst crime lab of the Massachusetts State Police – her addiction to stimulants has galloped away and grabbed the reins of her life. She's a chemist who performs forensic analysis of the street drugs cops bring in, running samples through complex machinery to determine the chemical makeup of each substance. Her findings, based partly on instrument data and partly on her veteran intuition, form the basis for criminal cases brought against people charged with coke and heroin sales in Western Massachusetts. Until recently, Farak has been a standout performer. In less than nine years, she's helped send away between 8,000 and 10,000 defendants. The only thing more prolific than her output is her drug use. Farak's been high since virtually the day she was hired. For years, her drug of choice was liquid methamphetamine; she discovered a big bottle of it in the fridge of her lab. When she polished off the meth oil, Farak switched to cocaine, helping herself to big and small chunks of the seizures cops sent in. It was absurdly easy to do so."


PUBLISHER"S NOTE: After all this time, this is the Annie Dookhan/Sonja Farak story I have been waiting for. It has been well worth the wait.

Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

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

PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "This is the second massive scandal in five months. In August 2012, a chemist named Annie Dookhan was busted for faking tens of thousands of drug tests at her Boston lab, always in favor of the prosecution. Worse, when she was feeling especially helpful, she'd add bogus weight to a borderline sample, pushing the charge from distribution to narco-trafficking. (She seems to have been motivated by scorn for addicts, saying that she wanted to get drug dealers "off the street.") Her crimes had blown the top off the state's justice system. Countless convictions were cast in doubt, inmates jammed court dockets with appeals, and both the state's district attorneys and attorney general's office scrambled to protect their tainted verdicts. It was the worst-ever scandal in the state's war on drugs. If the defendants in Farak's cases were to learn of her crimes, there wouldn't be enough lawyers on the Eastern Seaboard to staunch the run on the courts. Between them, the two chemists had potentially helped wrongfully convict more than 32,000 defendants. But those defendants were never notified of Farak's misconduct. In fact, five years after her arrest on January 19th, 2013, very few of the people she helped to imprison have been told that they're the victims of state crimes. Instead, in the days after Farak was taken in and charged with drug theft and tampering, the attorney general's office embarked on an egregious fraud. It lied to the DAs in Western Massachusetts, gave false information to two Superior Court judges and covered up documents that proved Farak's years-long addiction, blocking every legal bid to view them. Lastly, it contrived to keep thousands of people in jail, even after the evidence came to light. "It was a catastrophic failure by the attorney general's office, and calls into question the idea that prosecutors are beacons of fairness," says Daniel Medwed of Northeastern University, author of Prosecution Complex: America's Race to Convict and Its Impact on the Innocent. "There's no accounting for what they did, and this could just be the tip of the iceberg. Prosecutorial misconduct is rampant in America."

STORY: "And Justice For None: Inside Biggest Law Enforcement Scandal in Massachusetts History," by reporter Paul Sototaroff, published by 'Rolling Stone' on January 3, 2018. (Paul Solotaroff is a former editor at The Village Voice and a journalist whose work has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. He has written for a number of national magazines, including Esquire, GQ, Vogue, and Rolling Stone.)

SUB-HEADING: "How the system covered up tens of thousands of falsified drug tests – and how two teams of crusading lawyers exposed the wrongdoing."


GIST: Sonja Farak is in the grip of a rubbed-raw depression that hasn't responded to medication. It's been like this forever, or at least since girlhood. She attempted suicide in high school and was hospitalized in college, but somehow soldiered through to graduate with high distinction from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute. A bright, curious kid who was passionate about science, she found a job at a state drug lab and settled down with a woman she met in her twenties. But even on her best days, she felt alien and unseen, a ghost floating through her own life. Now, at 35, she's landed in a ditch. Her performance at work has fallen off a cliff, and she walks into nightly conflict at home, where her wife, disabled by a stew of mental ailments, spends her hours surfing the Web in a haze. Farak's arms are pocked with welts from compulsive scratching; she's been thinking a lot about killing herself, and driving rashly enough that she just might do it – if she doesn't have a heart attack first. But none of those things are her chief concern on this chapped winter morning in 2013. No, what's eating Farak today, as she sits in a county courthouse in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts, is that she needs to get high this nanosecond. Since 2004, when she started pilfering drugs from her longtime place of employment – the Amherst crime lab of the Massachusetts State Police – her addiction to stimulants has galloped away and grabbed the reins of her life. She's a chemist who performs forensic analysis of the street drugs cops bring in, running samples through complex machinery to determine the chemical makeup of each substance. Her findings, based partly on instrument data and partly on her veteran intuition, form the basis for criminal cases brought against people charged with coke and heroin sales in Western Massachusetts. Until recently, Farak has been a standout performer. In less than nine years, she's helped send away between 8,000 and 10,000 defendants. The only thing more prolific than her output is her drug use. Farak's been high since virtually the day she was hired. For years, her drug of choice was liquid methamphetamine; she discovered a big bottle of it in the fridge of her lab. When she polished off the meth oil, Farak switched to cocaine, helping herself to big and small chunks of the seizures cops sent in. It was absurdly easy to do so. The Amherst site was decrepit and woefully mismanaged. It performed no routine audits and placed no cameras in the halls; employees had carte blanche access to the drug safe. So rudderless was the lab that Farak smoked crack in the restroom and cooked batches beneath the site's one working fume hood. Legally unfit to drive home at night, she was nonetheless allowed to do sensitive tests on samples she'd smoked or snorted herself. Each time she did so, she committed two crimes: theft of narcotics from a dispensary and possession of a Class B drug. And though she wasn't a cop, she shared a duty with them – to zealously protect each sample she tested as it made its way to court. On the countless occasions when she altered a drug – stealing a couple of grams here, a half pound there – and replaced the missing weight with ersatz powder, she committed a third, and most onerous, felony: tampering with evidence. Meanwhile, Farak's crack jones is burning a hole in her soul. She's been smoking it 10, 12 times a day; the urges, she'll later testify, are "ridiculous." Finally, come lunchtime, she runs out to her car and beams up behind the wheel. She's feeling a lot better when she returns in an hour to take the stand at a drug trial. But as she enters the courtroom, she's stopped by state troopers and taken to a conference room. It seems someone's finally noticed that coke has been wandering off from the Amherst evidence room. A search that morning turned up two torn mailers that contained what was left of the seizures. Those mailers, along with a makeshift crack pipe, were recovered from Farak's desk by state cops. The troopers at the courthouse try to get her talking. Farak will have none of it. She lawyers up and declines to let them search her car; she's arrested and formally charged the next morning. By then, the state's leaders are on wartime footing: This is the second massive scandal in five months. In August 2012, a chemist named Annie Dookhan was busted for faking tens of thousands of drug tests at her Boston lab, always in favor of the prosecution. Worse, when she was feeling especially helpful, she'd add bogus weight to a borderline sample, pushing the charge from distribution to narco-trafficking. (She seems to have been motivated by scorn for addicts, saying that she wanted to get drug dealers "off the street.") Her crimes had blown the top off the state's justice system. Countless convictions were cast in doubt, inmates jammed court dockets with appeals, and both the state's district attorneys and attorney general's office scrambled to protect their tainted verdicts. It was the worst-ever scandal in the state's war on drugs. If the defendants in Farak's cases were to learn of her crimes, there wouldn't be enough lawyers on the Eastern Seaboard to staunch the run on the courts. Between them, the two chemists had potentially helped wrongfully convict more than 32,000 defendants. But those defendants were never notified of Farak's misconduct. In fact, five years after her arrest on January 19th, 2013, very few of the people she helped to imprison have been told that they're the victims of state crimes. Instead, in the days after Farak was taken in and charged with drug theft and tampering, the attorney general's office embarked on an egregious fraud. It lied to the DAs in Western Massachusetts, gave false information to two Superior Court judges and covered up documents that proved Farak's years-long addiction, blocking every legal bid to view them. Lastly, it contrived to keep thousands of people in jail, even after the evidence came to light. "It was a catastrophic failure by the attorney general's office, and calls into question the idea that prosecutors are beacons of fairness," says Daniel Medwed of Northeastern University, author of Prosecution Complex: America's Race to Convict and Its Impact on the Innocent. "There's no accounting for what they did, and this could just be the tip of the iceberg. Prosecutorial misconduct is rampant in America." (This is a long, insightful important, maddening, infuriating read.  I invite our readers to read the entire story - word by word - at the link below):


 

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, January 19, 2018

Flawed Pathology: U.K. Major Development; British government's forensic regulator says, "Falling forensic science standards 'making miscarriages of justice inevitable,' The Guardian... "In her annual report, Gillian Tully highlighted her growing concerns about the failure of some forensic firms used by the police to meet basic quality standards. It means innocent people could be wrongly convicted and offenders escaping justice. The routine outsourcing of criminal forensic work to unaccredited laboratories worries Tully, with some not subject to independent oversight. She told the Guardian that without urgent action there would inevitably be miscarriages of justice, including in cases involving murder, rape and child abuse. “If you’re not finding indecent images of children on someone’s phone when you should be, that’s a miscarriage of justice as much as if someone was wrongly convicted of a crime,” Tully said. The government abolished the Forensic Science Service in 2012, which was the primary provider to the police and courts, resulting in forensic work being transferred to in-house police laboratories and private providers. Conservative ministers wanted to create a market in which independent companies competed for business. But most forces appear to be behind schedule in bringing their own laboratories into line with official standards, the regulator’s latest report shows."




STORY: "Falling forensic science standards 'making miscarriages of justice inevitable," by Hannah Devlin and Vikram Dodd, published  by The Guardian on January 19, 2018,



SUB-HEADING: "Regulator says UK forces failing to meet standards, with routine outsourcing of great concern.




GIST: Police forces are failing to meet the official standards for forensic science, making miscarriages of justice inevitable, the government’s forensic regulator has said. "In her annual report, Gillian Tully highlighted her growing concerns about the failure of some forensic firms used by the police to meet basic quality standards. It means innocent people could be wrongly convicted and offenders escaping justice. The routine outsourcing of criminal forensic work to unaccredited laboratories worries Tully, with some not subject to independent oversight. She told the Guardian that without urgent action there would inevitably be miscarriages of justice, including in cases involving murder, rape and child abuse. “If you’re not finding indecent images of children on someone’s phone when you should be, that’s a miscarriage of justice as much as if someone was wrongly convicted of a crime,” Tully said. The government abolished the Forensic Science Service in 2012, which was the primary provider to the police and courts, resulting in forensic work being transferred to in-house police laboratories and private providers. Conservative ministers wanted to create a market in which independent companies competed for business. But most forces appear to be behind schedule in bringing their own laboratories into line with official standards, the regulator’s latest report shows. Just a few met the October deadline to gain formal accreditation to carry out digital forensic science work. Police are also outsourcing large volumes of digital forensic science casework – the analysis of phones, computers and CCTV – to low-cost private forensic labs without any accreditation or oversight, the report said, describing this as “unacceptable”. “Quality standards are not a nice-to-have extra that, if we have any money left, we’ll do some quality,” said Tully. “Doing something that you can’t necessarily stand behind in court is just inappropriate at every level.” The regulator said she would be examining whether failures to follow correct procedures in digital forensic science could have played a role in a number of high-profile rape cases that collapsed before going to trial. “I have formally requested more information on those recent cases,” she said. She added that formal complaints had been made about the quality of digital forensic science work by some private providers, which she was also investigating. Tully urged the government to give her office statutory powers so that she could ban substandard providers, adding that some police forces did not appear to be committed to complying with official guidelines. “One or two police forces are dragging their heels and certainly not moving on at the rate I would expect,” she said. “I would question whether they are completely committed to gaining the necessary standards.” Tully added: “The more pressure you put on people, the less time they have to spend on their actual work, the more you raise the risk of errors.” In her report Tully said: “Without statutory backing for my role, a number of small and micro-businesses have chosen, for financial reasons, not to move towards gaining accreditation and those that have met the quality standards have not yet been fully rewarded through the contracting process. “Those not moving towards compliance should be in no doubt that their services will gradually receive fewer commissions and their practitioners will face more challenges in court.” There is a criminal investigation into claims that data at the Randox laboratory in Manchester may have been manipulated, causing the biggest recall of samples in British criminal justice history. The National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for forensic science, Chief Constable Debbie Simpson, said: “Chief constables are being forced to make difficult decisions about how they utilise their limited resources, but we remain completely committed to meeting the requirements of accreditation and further improving confidence in the criminal justice system.” A Home Office spokesperson said: “It is for chief constables and police and crime commissioners to decide how best to deploy resources to effectively manage crime and local priorities, including forensic services. However, we are clear that cost savings must not come at the expense of a reduction in quality standards. “We are committed to putting the Forensic Science Regulator on a statutory footing with robust enforcement powers at the earliest opportunity. We are clear that organisations providing forensic services to the criminal justice system need to abide by the regulator’s code of practice.”"


The entire story can be found at:
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jan/19/uk-police-forces-failing-to-meet-forensic-standards-safe-regulator-miscarriages-justice-outsourcing

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.

What does a White Supremacist Department of Justice look like? Writer/Researcher Sean McElwee paints an utterly depressing picture in Vice Magazine..."In just a year, Sessions has worked to relieve police departments of the burden of having to reform, allowing them to commit even more brutality against people of colour. He has worked to re-invigorate the war on drugs and take actions against states legalizing weed. He ended a commission charged with improving forensic science standards and halted a review of closed cases even as these efforts were discovering that faulty forensic evidence was responsible for many wrongful convictions. Sessions has doubled down on civil asset forfeiture, a tyrannical practice used by police departments to systematically strip people of colour of their wealth. He has used his power at the DOJ to attack sanctuary cities and DACA. The cruelty of the DOJ under Sessions knows no bounds."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "Every president leaves their footprint on the party they lead, and Trump’s vision for the Republican Party is to make it more openly white supremacist and authoritarian. While his so-called “populist” initiatives like infrastructure have mostly been left by the wayside, he has been able to use the executive branch to re-shape immigration and criminal justice policy in a way that will set racial justice back decades. And Sessions is the man who is implementing all that."

STORY: "This is What a White Supremacist Department of Justice Looks Like," by reporter Sean McElwee, published by VICE ON Jan. 15, 2018.  (Sean McElwee is a researcher and writer based in New York);

SUB-HEADING:  "Jeff Sessions's tenure as attorney general shows how far to the right the Republican Party has swerved under Trump."   

GIST: "This article is part of a weeklong series looking back at the first year of Donald Trump's presidency. To judge Donald Trump’s presidency, we should ask what he’s done that a generic Republican president wouldn’t have. A Marco Rubio, a Jeb Bush, or a Ted Cruz would have almost certainly pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords, supported a massive expansion of the defense budget, undermined the Iran nuclear deal, and signed into law a massive corporate tax cut. All of them would have tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act. However, it’s unlikely that any other Republican president would have installed Jeff Sessions as attorney general, a decision that will reshape policy and politics over the next decade. It’s hard to overstate just how radical Sessions’s appointment was. As a senator from Alabama he was firmly on the right-wing fringe of the Republican Party, not just an opponent of illegal immigration but a supporter of reductions to legal immigration, which has been at least mildly taboo in the pre-Trump GOP. Every president leaves their footprint on the party they lead, and Trump’s vision for the Republican Party is to make it more openly white supremacist and authoritarian. While his so-called “populist” initiatives like infrastructure have mostly been left by the wayside, he has been able to use the executive branch to re-shape immigration and criminal justice policy in a way that will set racial justice back decades. And Sessions is the man who is implementing all that. In just a year, Sessions has worked to relieve police departments of the burden of having to reform, allowing them to commit even more brutality against people of colour. He has worked to re-invigorate the war on drugs and take actions against states legalizing weed. He ended a commission charged with improving forensic science standards and halted a review of closed cases even as these efforts were discovering that faulty forensic evidence was responsible for many wrongful convictions. Sessions has doubled down on civil asset forfeiture, a tyrannical practice used by police departments to systematically strip people of colour of their wealth. He has used his power at the DOJ to attack sanctuary cities and DACA. The cruelty of the DOJ under Sessions knows no bounds: In one case it is attempting to reveal a minor's abortion to a family member who threatened to beat her if she obtained an abortion.  Another core policy goal for Sessions is to weaken the voting power of people of color. During his tenure, he has shifted the DOJ’s position on voter ID laws and voter purges, signaling a renewed commitment in the GOP to maintain electoral power by undermining democracy. Finally, Sessions has taken a hammer to the First Amendment, targeting anti-racist organizing as “black identity extremists” while letting white nationalists off the hook. He made the comments criticizing “political correctness” on campus in a campus venue from which students were barred from attending while condemning” NFL players protesting racial inequality. The Sessions DOJ spent nearly a year trying to imprison a woman for a brief chuckle during his confirmation hearing. It bears repeating that these sorts of policies represent a shift in how Republican officials conduct themselves. Though Republicans have always dog-whistled on race and pursued policies that brutalized people of colour, they also attempted to court voters of colour, at least at times. George W. Bush discussed microaggressions at the 2000 Republican National Convention and tried to push forward on immigration reform. In the past, the party’s rising stars (like Rubio) saw immigration reform as the future, but now senators like Tom Cotton openly discuss their desire to limit legal immigration and present legislation—endorsed by Trump—to do so. Sessions once praised the Immigration Act of 1924, a law that also won kudos from Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf. The changes are visible in other areas as well. Openly white supremacist congressman Steve King had been denied a chairmanship by Republican leadership since 2011. But in 2017 he was named chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice. In 2002, Senator Trent Lott was forced to step down as majority leader after talking favourably about Strom Thurmond’s segregationist 1948 presidential campaign. Yet in 2018, the Republican House majority whip is a man who once reportedly said he was “David Duke without the baggage” and spoke at a white supremacist gathering (it is plausible he will be speaker of the House by the end of the year).
Lifelong party hack and generic Republican Ed Gillespie ran a blood-and-soil white supremacist campaign in light-blue Virginia (which failed) and Kim Guadagno ran ads in deep-blue New Jersey that make Willie Horton look tame (that failed too). In Florida, Trump ally Ron Desantis is increasingly consolidating support for a bid for governor—in a state one of the largest immigrant populations in the country. In Arizona, Martha McSally launched her bid by defending Trump’s “shithole” comments. And if campus Republican groups are any indication, the next generation of Republican talent will include a disturbing number of neo-Nazis. The social changes unleashed by Trump have been immense. His name is now a slur hurled at young people of colour. Immigrant communities are increasingly terrified and are not reporting crimes to the police. Newly unleashed immigration enforcement authorities are acting in an increasingly authoritarian manner, with the acting ICE director telling Fox News he wanted to imprison politicians he disagrees with. White supremacist and neo-Nazi groups are re-invigorated and openly organizing, and killed nine Americans in 2017. The good news is that the Republican Party’s embrace of white nationalism will come at an electoral cost. Young voters are more liberal on issues of racial justice, and independents are moving in that direction as well. But another impact is that heightening the racism in the GOP will send a stronger signal to people of colour that the party doesn’t welcome them. If people of colour begin to see their interests as tied up with their identity, they will become more liberal. Among Latinos with a high sense of “linked fate” (believing that things that happen to other Latinos affect them personally “a lot” or “some”), 14 percent supported Trump in an analysis I did of the two-party vote share. Among Latinos with a low sense of linked fate (believing that things that happen to other Latinos affect them “not very much” or “not at all”), 38 percent supported Trump.  The effect of linked fate overwhelms class politics, which is important when it comes to Latinos. According to ANES data, among Latino voters who make less than $60,000 a year, 15 percent supported Trump, but among Latinos making $60,000 or more a year, 32 percent supported Trump. However, the chart below (also using ANES data) shows that high-identity Latinos don’t become more conservative at higher incomes, whereas among low-identity Latinos, high income is associated with more support for Trump. Political science research suggests that more strict immigration laws increases a sense of linked fate among Latinos. And data from political scientist Brian Schaffner shows that levels of linked fate among Latinos increased dramatically after Trump’s election. So even as Trump turns the Republican Party into a more explicit and crude vehicle for white identity politics—with Sessions as his right-hand man—the country may turn away from these politics. That, at least, is the hope."

The entire story can be found at:
https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/qvwx93/white-supremacist-justice-department-trumpweek

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.



Kevin Cooper: California: A powerful commentary from Death Row..."Real justice for me, my family, friends and supporters is my release from this hell and/or a new trial so the whole truth can be exposed to the world, detailing what the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and district attorney have done to me from 1983 through today, from planting, destroying and tampering with evidence that could have proved my innocence before and after my trial to continuing to fight against the advanced DNA tests that could prove my innocence and point to the real killers. Real justice for the families of the victims in this case is finding and prosecuting the real killers. Real justice is having Gov. Jerry Brown grant me an innocence hearing before the state executes an innocent man—me."


COMMENTARY FROM DEATH ROW: "2018: Year of the executioner?" by Kevin Cooper. Published by Truthdig on Jan.1, 2018.

GIST: (Truthdig) Editor’s note: Kevin Cooper was convicted of a 1983 quadruple murder and sentenced to death in a trial in which evidence that might have exonerated him was withheld from the defense. His case was scrutinized in a June 19 New York Times column by Nicholas Kristof. Visit savekevincooper.org for more information. "Many years ago, Protestant pastor and poet Martin Niemoller famously wrote of the Nazi era: First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”I, Kevin Cooper, am not a murderer, but I am speaking out against murder, whether at the hands of people or, even worse, at the hands of the government.  As this new year begins, the state of California, because of the voters’ approval of Proposition 66, finds itself closer to resuming executions, or, in the words of death penalty supporters, “justice.” Justice in 2018 is just like justice in yesteryear, especially when it comes to who lives and who dies by the use of capital punishment. In my poor man’s dictionary, the definition of the word “justice” is (1) the administration of what is just (as by assigning merited rewards or punishments; (2) judge; (3) the administration of law; (4) fairness; also: righteousness. The death penalty, as we know it and as it has always been, has been proved to be unfair, unjust and unrighteous—morally and ethically. Consider that between 1973 and 2017, 160 death row inmates have been exonerated nationally, and a 2014 study estimated that 1 out of 25 people on death row across the United States are innocent. From 2000 to 2011, there were an average of five exonerations a year. In 2017, there were four. We know that some innocent people on death row have been executed. This is unjust, unfair and unrighteous. The only thing truth has in common with the definition of the word “justice” in my poor man’s dictionary is “the administration and procedure of law.” Most of us know and understand that from what we see, read and continue to learn about this country and its laws and/or the administration of them and its procedures; none of which, in fact, has anything to do with real justice. Whoever is administering justice, and their version or understanding of justice, is what really matters. For example, Democrats and Republicans, both of whom claim to want to stand for justice, do so according to their own political ideology, which is as different as night and day. This will not change in 2018, just as the ideologies of women and men won’t change when it comes to certain things. As I continue to live in this modern-day plantation against my will, as certain people seek their form of “justice” against me for murders I did not commit, I will not be silent. Here in this inhumane place where loneliness is my best friend and death is my constant companion, I must do what the late civil rights activist Ella Baker taught many of us to do, which is to work for a cause that “is bigger than any organization, bigger than any group of people, and it is the cause of humanity. The cause is the cause that brings us together—the drive of the human spirit for freedom.” In my mind, there can be no bigger cause in 2018 than stopping the resumption of the death penalty in California. This is my cause for justice. This cause for which I fight has been around far too long. It is also a very real part of our collective humanity and freedom, as well as part of our inhumanity and chattel slavery, which certain death penalty supporters refuse to acknowledge. In this country, rich white man’s justice always has been poor black man’s grief. Within this grief has been the unjust use of the death penalty in all of its various forms. So in 2018, this fight, this cause to end capital punishment, must continue, and it will. Whether advocates call it justice, retribution, revenge or even God’s will, it is only being used against its poorest people, especially its minorities. As an innocent man sitting here on San Quentin’s death row, I have learned that “justice” for those who sent me here in 1985 is the same “justice” they seek in 2018, which is my murder at the hands of the state. They don’t care if I am tortured by lethal poison, or that my family will suffer just as theirs has suffered, or that a crime against humanity will be committed—against me by them—or that what they support is honestly against everything their Christian God stands for. They are pained by the brutal torture and execution of Jesus but willingly, often enthusiastically, endorse exacting that same punishment of execution on others today. All they know is that I was convicted of murder—though wrongfully convicted—and now they want to have their red, white and blue poison pumped into my black body until I am no more. Real justice for me, my family, friends and supporters is my release from this hell and/or a new trial so the whole truth can be exposed to the world, detailing what the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and district attorney have done to me from 1983 through today, from planting, destroying and tampering with evidence that could have proved my innocence before and after my trial to continuing to fight against the advanced DNA tests that could prove my innocence and point to the real killers. Real justice for the families of the victims in this case is finding and prosecuting the real killers. Real justice is having Gov. Jerry Brown grant me an innocence hearing before the state executes an innocent man—me. The law enforcement people and prosecutors in my case do not seek justice. They seek closure. They believe my execution would end this case. I believe it wouldn’t. I do want to get out of this prison, but whatever happens to me, as long as I live, I will continue to stand up and speak out against the death penalty in this state and in this country. And if I am executed, an innocent man, I know there will be people left to speak out for me and others like me, condemned to die in this profoundly flawed system of “justice.” "




The entire commentary can be found at:

https://www.truthdig.com/articles/2018-year-executioner/

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.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Technology: High tech prediction of recidivism: Predict recidivism. Study reported by The Forensic Magazine: "COMPAS Software to Predict Recidivism No More Accurate Than Crowdsourcing."..."The final results: the COMPAS software was 65.2 percent accurate, and the crowdsourced humans were 67 percent accurate."..."Julia Dressel, one of the authors of the study, which was part of her undergraduate thesis in computer science, said their work did not justify using the software to make life-altering decisions on those accused of crimes. “Claims that secretive and seemingly sophisticated data tools are more accurate and fair than humans are simply not supported by our research findings,” said Dressel, in a school statement. COMPAS has been used to assess more than 1 million offenders in the United States since the recidivism prediction component debuted in 2000, according to the researchers. Use of the software drew some scrutiny with a 2016 investigation by ProPublica entitled “Machine Bias,” which alleged that racial disparity in prediction showed that black arrestees were over-predicted to re-offend, while white arrestees were under-predicted to re-offend."


QUOTE OF  THE DAY:  “People from a popular online crowdsourcing marketplace—who, it can be reasonably be assumed, have little to no expertise in criminal justice—are as accurate and fair as COMPAS at predicting recidivism.”

Authors of study by Dartmouth University computer scientists.

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STORY:  "COMPAS Software to Predict Recidivism No More Accurate Than Crowdsourcing, Study Says," by Senior Science Writer Seth Augenstein, published by The Forensic Magazine on January 18, 2018.

GIST: "The Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions, or COMPAS, program is a complex piece of software that is intended to predict which people in the criminal justice system are likely to be repeat offenders. The algorithm it uses to generate mathematical predictions are based on a set of 137 aspects of the person’s personal history, their record, and their likely conditions in the future. But the sophisticated computer prognostication system is no more accurate than crowdsourcing non-experts based on just two factors, claims a new study by Dartmouth University computer scientists. “People from a popular online crowdsourcing marketplace—who, it can be reasonably be assumed, have little to no expertise in criminal justice—are as accurate and fair as COMPAS at predicting recidivism,” they write this week in the journal Science Advances. “Although COMPAS uses 137 features to make a prediction, the same predictive accuracy can be achieved with only two features.” The company that makes the software, Northpointe, took issue with several key aspects of the paper, they said in a statement to Forensic Magazine. The tests were run on 1,000 pretrial defendants from Broward County, Florida, who were appearing in court in the years 2013 and 2014. The COMPAS software was used to predict whether they would again be arrested for a misdemeanor or felony in the next two years, they write. At the same time, the subjective test from a group of people was compared against the accuracy of the advanced predictive software program. The participants were recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, a crowdsourced on-demand work marketplace where people do tasks for money. The participants were recruited through a “predicting crime” task where they were told they would be paid $1 for completing the entire task—and would be given $5 for getting more than 65 percent of the predictions right in singling out who would commit crimes in the future, based on a few sentences’ description. (Three questions among 50, which involved a bit of reading comprehension, were thrown in the mix randomly to ensure participants were not just clicking random answers.) The final results: the COMPAS software was 65.2 percent accurate, and the crowdsourced humans were 67 percent accurate. “Although Northpointe does not reveal the details of their COMPAS software, we have shown that their prediction algorithm is equivalent to a simple linear classifier,” they write. “In addition, despite the impressive sound use of 137 features, it would appear that a linear classifier base on only two features—age and total number of previous convictions—is all that is required to yield the same prediction accuracy as COMPAS.” A spokesperson for Northpoint, which now does business as Equivant, said the methodology contains “serious errors.” They intend to request the data and peer review results, they explained. Among the company’s complaints: the 137 inputs are not used in the risk assessment—instead those 137 are needs factors. The risk factors number only six, they said. Another complaint was “limited internal validation"—since the two-question risk scale could have led to “over-fitting” the data to heighten apparent accuracy. Most interestingly, they find the roughly equivalency between the computer and the crowdsourcing accuracy as proof of how the system works, they said. “The findings of ‘virtually equal predictive accuracy’ in this study, instead of being a criticism of the COMPAS assessment, actually adds to the growing number of independent studies that have confirmed that COMPAS achieves good predictability and matches the increasingly accepted AUC standard of 0.70 for well-designed risk assessment tools used in criminal justice.”

https://www.forensicmag.com/news/2018/01/compas-software-predict-recidivism-no-more-accurate-crowdsourcing-study-says?et_cid=6237469&et_rid=979655504&type=cta&et_cid=6237469&et_rid=979655504&linkid=https%3a%2f%2fwww.forensicmag.com%2fnews%2f2018%2f01%2fcompas-software-predict-recidivism-no-more-accurate-crowdsourcing-study-says%3fet_cid%3d6237469%26et_rid%3d%%subscriberid%%%26type%3dcta

 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.