Saturday, February 24, 2018

Scott Peterson: Mark Godsey, author of 'Blind Injustice; askss, "Is Scott Peterson Innocent?" as he explores human lie detection and demeanour evidence...". I mean, as high-profile murder trials go, this one seemed even easier to crack than O.J. But A and E's new docuseries The Murder of Laci Peterson, which is based on newly discovered evidence revealed in recent court filings, makes you seriously question that assumption."...". But regardless of whether or not the docuseries convinces you that Peterson is innocent, it presents a fascinating case study of the human frailties—the psychological flaws—that often cause criminal investigations to go awry."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "In recent years, the innocence movement has exposed more than 2,000 wrongful convictions in America, with the number growing at a rate of about three per week. And if we’ve learned anything from this movement, it’s that, contrary to popular belief, humans are really bad—really, really bad—at determining when someone else is telling the truth or lying. Despite what our intuition tells us, demeanor evidence just doesn’t mean that much and can’t be taken to the bank. And that’s been proven not just by the thousands of innocents who were wrongfully convicted after the police or jury disbelieved them and thought their demeanor indicated guilt, but by clinical studies as well."

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COMMENTARY: "Is Scott Peterson Innocent? Part One: Human Lie detection and demeanour  evidence," by "Blind Injustice' author Mark Godsey, published by  Psychology Today on January 18, 2018. (Mark Godsey,J.D., a professor of law at the University of Cincinnati, was also a federal prosecutor in New York City before co-founding of the Ohio Innocence Project.)

GIST: "Back in 2004, when Scott Peterson’s trial was the courtroom media circus du jour, I was completely convinced—like just about everyone else—that Scott Peterson was stone cold guilty of murdering his pregnant wife Laci and their unborn son Connor. I mean, as high-profile murder trials go, this one seemed even easier to crack than O.J. But A and E's new docuseries The Murder of Laci Peterson, which is based on newly discovered evidence revealed in recent court filings, makes you seriously question that assumption. Even accounting for whether or not the show’s creators had an agenda to make Peterson look innocent, the new evidence—the actual evidence—now being considered by a federal court in California should cause any open-minded person to question the evidence that originally convicted him.  And I’m not just reacting to the provocative reexamination of evidence presented in the docuseries, I also read the court filings. The new evidence makes a persuasive case that numerous witnesses saw Laci alive and walking the family dog—after Scott Peterson had left home for the day to stop at work and then fish in the San Francisco Bay (which, if true, totally undermines the state’s case against him). The evidence also suggests that Laci, upon returning from her walk, confronted shady characters burglarizing the house across the street from the Peterson’s home and that this incident started a chain of events that most likely led to her murder.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But regardless of whether or not the docuseries convinces you that Peterson is innocent, it presents a fascinating case study of the human frailties—the psychological flaws—that often cause criminal investigations to go awry.  I recently wrote about these psychological traps in my new book Blind Injustice:  A Former Prosecutor Exposes the Psychology and Politics of Wrongful Convictions. In the book, I focus on my own cases from my years as a prosecutor, and then more recently as an innocence lawyer with the Ohio Innocence Project (which has now freed 25 innocent people who served 471 years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit). In the book, I also apply principles of psychology to the police investigation depicted in the Netflix docuseries Making a Murderer. I wish The Murder of Laci Peterson had been released when I was still writing Blind Injustice, because it really highlights some of these psychological issues better than any other TV show or movie in recent memory. First, Scott Peterson was convicted primarily because of what we call “demeanor evidence.” Peterson undeniably appeared “aloof” and “unemotional” if not cocky when caught on camera by the paparazzi during the investigation and then at his trial. This caused America’s most famous prosecutor-journalist, Nancy Grace, to preach on an almost nightly basis that Peterson was “lying” and “hiding something” and therefore guilty. And the jurors said after the trial that Peterson’s remorseless demeanor was perhaps the most critical factor that caused them to convict him and send him to death row. In recent years, the innocence movement has exposed more than 2,000 wrongful convictions in America, with the number growing at a rate of about three per week. And if we’ve learned anything from this movement, it’s that, contrary to popular belief, humans are really bad—really, really bad—at determining when someone else is telling the truth or lying. Despite what our intuition tells us, demeanor evidence just doesn’t mean that much and can’t be taken to the bank. And that’s been proven not just by the thousands of innocents who were wrongfully convicted after the police or jury disbelieved them and thought their demeanor indicated guilt, but by clinical studies as well. As I highlight in Blind Injustice, study after study shows that we are about 54 percent accurate at divining the truth from watching someone’s demeanor.  Barely better than a coin flip. And cops fare no better. Things we have been told are indicative of dishonesty and guilt, such as appearing aloof or unemotional, or failing to make eye-contact, are actually not good barometers. Our collective psyches are embedded with the belief that humans are good lie detectors. But in reality, it’s just folklore—outdated pop psychology. Indeed, there is case after case where defendants were convicted for reasons similar to Peterson—they appeared “too unemotional” or “far too aloof”—but later were conclusively proven innocent. I detail many of these cases in Blind Injustice, such as Michael Morton of Texas, who spent 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife before DNA testing conclusively proved him innocent. Not only did Morton appear unemotional, if not cocky like Peterson, but he continued sleeping in the couple’s bed where she was murdered, including the first night after she had been bludgeoned to death on that very mattress. He also did other strange things, like mowing down all of his wife’s beloved flowers the morning of her funeral. These acts seemed callous and, along with his aloof demeanor, convinced the police, the public, and his jury that he was clearly guilty. Morton’s case is eerily similar to Peterson’s, except that Peterson does not have the good fortune of DNA evidence to test years later. And then there are the cases where everyone ganged up on the innocent person because his or her grief was so palpable that it was labeled as “over the top” and “staged.” With something as subjective as demeanor evidence, it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t. There are other innocent explanations for unemotional reactions as well. Some people who lose loved ones may simply not be as upset about it as one might expect. Perhaps feeling for a spouse had faded, so the sudden loss was confusing and caused an aloof, emotionless outward appearance. While insensitive, an aloof reaction in these circumstances doesn’t equate with guilt. Everyone reacts differently to tragic situations. Fortunately, very few of us have experienced the trauma of having a loved one murdered. Some people appear aloof or emotionless because they are in shock or denial. Some people freak out. The assumption that there is an “appropriate” or “normal” way to act in an unfamiliar traumatic situation, and that those who do not respond that way are likely guilty, is simply bad psychology and bad law. Regardless of whether or not Peterson is, in fact, innocent or guilty, it is clear that everyone—the police, the public, the media, and ultimately the jury—gave way too much weight to his demeanor. While demeanor evidence can’t be ignored, it should be used with caution and given proper weight in light of modern understandings of psychology. Otherwise, it’s the tail wagging the dog. As Peterson attorney Mark Geragos says in The Murder of Laci Peterson, “There is no playbook for grief.” In follow-up stories, I’ll continue my discussion of The Murder of Laci Peterson with respect to the psychological phenomena of police tunnel vision (Part 2) and confirmation bias in the forensic sciences (Part 3)."

The entire post can be found at:


https://www.forensicmag.com/news/2018/02/using-mind-reading-criminal-cases-new-analysis-cautions-forensic-frontier-brain?et_cid=6254670&et_rid=979655504&type=headline&et_cid=6254670&et_rid=979655504&linkid=https%3a%2f%2fwww.forensicmag.com%2fnews%2f2018%2f02%2fusing-mind-reading-criminal-cases-new-analysis-cautions-forensic-frontier-brain%3fet_cid%3d6254670%26et_rid%3d%%subscriberid%%%26type%3dheadline

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, February 23, 2018

Susan Neill-Fraser: Australia: On-going "last chance" appeal. Significant Development? (Another twist in this suspicious death at sea case (among many others, including new DNA evidence): Police claim to have two films - said to have come into their posession in the last two weeks - which they say are important, ABC News reports. Adjournment granted. (Neill-Fraser is serving a 23-year jail sentence for the 2009 murder of her partner Bob Chappell onboard their yacht moored off Hobart.)..."The Crown had previously advised the court that they would not be calling any of its own witnesses in the appeal. But today the court heard four new Crown witnesses would be called, in addition to the cross-examining of Detective Shane Sinnitt. Detective Sinnitt was one of the investigators on the original murder investigation, and was also involved in last year's investigation into allegations that three people attempted to pervert the course of justice in relation to the appeal application. It is understood the two recordings were some of the items seized during raids on CJZ productions in Sydney in November last year. It was reported at the time that the seized footage had been for a Seven Network "true crime" series."


STORY: "Sue Neill-Fraser murder appeal: Police reveal new recordings and witnesses, delaying case, by reporter Edith Bevin, published by ABC News on February 21, 2018.
GIST: "The last-chance appeal of convicted killer Sue Neill-Fraser has been adjourned again after revelations police obtained two films that the DPP says are "significant and important evidence".
Neill-Fraser is serving a 23-year jail sentence for the 2009 murder of her partner Bob Chappell onboard their yacht moored off Hobart. She exhausted all other avenues of appeal, and is now relying on new last-chance appeal laws to have her convicted quashed. The application for the new appeal is part heard, and was due to return to court on Friday, but the court heard today the DPP will tender two films that have come into the possession of police. The DPP said the film recordings had only come to light in the past two weeks, but it meant Neill-Fraser's lawyers needed more time to see them and talk to people in them. The application will go back before the court in March. Crown will now call more witnesses; The Crown had previously advised the court that they would not be calling any of its own witnesses in the appeal. But today the court heard four new Crown witnesses would be called, in addition to the cross-examining of Detective Shane Sinnitt. Detective Sinnitt was one of the investigators on the original murder investigation, and was also involved in last year's investigation into allegations that three people attempted to pervert the course of justice in relation to the appeal application. It is understood the two recordings were some of the items seized during raids on CJZ productions in Sydney in November last year. It was reported at the time that the seized footage had been for a Seven Network "true crime" series. It is understood the Crown intends to tender the recordings to the court through Detective Sinnitt during cross-examination. Neill-Fraser team needs time to review films..." The hearing will now be set down for March 8 and 9, when the court will hear evidence from Neill-Fraser's winching expert, and the DPP's four witnesses. It will then be adjourned to a date yet to be set for Detective Sinnitt to give evidence and the recordings to be tendered."

The entire story can be  found at:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-21/police-reveal-recorded-tapes-in-neil-fraser-murder-appeal-case/9471254

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, February 22, 2018

National Commission of Forensic Science: (No big surprise here. HL); Innocence Project disappointed by the Department of Justice's approach to forensic science reform as set out by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in an address to the American Academy of Forensic Science..."While short on details, his remarks renew concerns that the DOJ is backtracking on progress to ensure that forensic disciplines are guided by the best science and that safeguards were enacted to insulate practitioners from law enforcement influence. “We’ve known since 2009 that there are problems with the scientific validity of forensic disciplines used to identify suspects with the exception of DNA evidence. Yet after this administration shut down the National Commission of Forensic Science — the first inclusive and transparent effort to address these fundamental flaws in evidence that is used in countless prosecutions across the nation — there was no mention by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein of how the Department of Justice plans to address this core validity problem,” said Chris Fabricant, director of Strategic Litigation at the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law."


 QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The initial attempt by the DOJ to develop uniform language fell far short of meeting the standards for science. Although we support efforts to develop uniform language, we do not know if the DOJ’s efforts have adequately addressed the significant and critical concerns previously raised by independent statisticians and scientists, and we won’t know this without having the opportunity to review the revised language.”

Glinda Cooper, director of Science and Research for the Innocence Project.

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PASSAGE OF THE DAY:  "In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences issued a groundbreaking report warning that, with the exception of DNA evidence, none of the forensic practices that are used by law enforcement to identify a suspect from crime scene evidence have been scientifically validated.  These include firearms and spent ammunition, tool marks, shoe prints and bite marks. The NAS report called on an independent federal agency to conduct the research to validate those disciplines that could be scientifically validated.  It’s been nearly a decade since the NAS report, and the only effort to engage stakeholders outside of DOJ – creation of the National Commission on Forensic Science – was shuttered in early 2017 by Attorney General Sessions."

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STORY: "Innocence Project responds to remarks by Deputy Attorney General before The American Academy of Forensic Science, posted by The Innocence Project on February 21, 2018.

GIST: "Today Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Rod Rosenstein gave a plenary address at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences where he outlined plans that the Department of Justice (DOJ) would be implementing regarding forensic sciences.  While short on details, his remarks renew concerns that the DOJ is backtracking on progress to ensure that forensic disciplines are guided by the best science and that safeguards were enacted to insulate practitioners from law enforcement influence. “We’ve known since 2009 that there are problems with the scientific validity of forensic disciplines used to identify suspects with the exception of DNA evidence.  Yet after this administration shut down the National Commission of Forensic Science — the first inclusive and transparent effort to address these fundamental flaws in evidence that is used in countless prosecutions across the nation — there was no mention by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein of how the Department of Justice plans to address this core validity problem,” said Chris Fabricant, director of Strategic Litigation at the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law. In his remarks, DAG Rosenstein announced that DOJ was implementing uniform language for analysts to use when testifying or providing reports on latent fingerprint analysis. While he stated that the final document was informed by comments of experts outside of DOJ, this process was not described. “The initial attempt by the DOJ to develop uniform language fell far short of meeting the standards for science,” said Glinda Cooper, director of Science and Research for the Innocence Project.  “Although we support efforts to develop uniform language, we do not know if the DOJ’s efforts have adequately addressed the significant and critical concerns previously raised by independent statisticians and scientists, and we won’t know this without having the opportunity to review the revised language.” The need to implement uniform language for analysts arose after it was discovered that FBI agents provided erroneous statements or reports in more than 90 percent of cases reviewed where an analyst identified a suspect through microscopic hair analysis.  These were the preliminary findings from a review of FBI cases involving microscopic hair analysis initiated after three men were wrongly convicted and wrongly spent decades in prison based at least in part on erroneous FBI testimony. After these errors came to light, the DOJ agreed that in addition to establishing uniform language for all the forensic disciplines practiced by the DOJ, it would go back and review the prior testimony from a subset of the cases involving these disciplines between 2008 and 2012. In his remarks today, DAG Rosenstein seemed to back away from the previous commitment to review these past cases, only calling for a testimony monitoring program moving forward. In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences issued a groundbreaking report warning that, with the exception of DNA evidence, none of the forensic practices that are used by law enforcement to identify a suspect from crime scene evidence have been scientifically validated.  These include firearms and spent ammunition, tool marks, shoe prints and bite marks. The NAS report called on an independent federal agency to conduct the research to validate those disciplines that could be scientifically validated.  It’s been nearly a decade since the NAS report, and the only effort to engage stakeholders outside of DOJ – creation of the National Commission on Forensic Science – was shuttered in early 2017 by Attorney General Sessions."

The entire post can be read at the link below;

https://www.innocenceproject.org/innocence-project-responds-remarks-deputy-attorney-general-american-academy-forensic-sciences/
  
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.

William Amor: Illinois. Arson 'science.' False confession: Major Development: (A very welcome development. HL); He has been acquitted on retrial for murder, arson in mother-in-law’s 1995 death..." On Sept. 17, 1997, Amor was convicted of murder and aggravated arson for the fire that caused Miceli’s death, according to the statement. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison. Brennan vacated Amor’s conviction in April 2017 after his attorneys claimed he was convicted based upon a confession which was proven false and arson findings that are no longer scientifically reliable, the Innocence Project said. His confession was the basis for fire investigators to change their mind in 1995 to change their initial finding of an “undetermined” cause of the fire to arson."


QUOTE OF THE DAY: “While my office stands by our prosecution and we believe the evidence supported a finding of guilty, we certainly respect the Court’s decision. ” DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said in a statement. “This was a very complicated case originally based on fire science available at the time,” Berlin said. “Since that time, more than twenty years later, fire science has improved dramatically and consequently the evidence presented at this trial has changed from that presented in 1995.”

DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin.

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STORY: "Man acquitted in retrial for murder, arson in mother-in-law’s 1995 death," by reporter Luke Wilusz, published by The Chicago Sun-Times on February 21, 2018.

GIST: "A former Naperville man who spent 22 years in prison for the 1995 death of his mother-in-law was found not guilty in a retrial Wednesday. Following a seven-day bench trial, DuPage County Judge Liam C. Brennan found 61-year-old William Amor not guilty of murder and aggravated arson in connection with the death of Marianne Miceli, according to a statement from the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office.  “This is the end of a nightmare for me,” Amor said in a statement released by the Illinois Innocence Project, which represented him. “I have fought to clear my name for the last 22 years and I am so grateful that I was able to have my day in court for the truth to be heard,” Amor said. “I am looking forward to starting the next phase of my life as a free man, no longer labeled as a murderer, for the first time in a long time.” On the evening of Sept. 10, 1995, Amor and his wife left their Naperville apartment to go to a drive-in movie, according to the Innocence Project. They shared the apartment with Amor’s mother-in-law, Marianne Miceli, and when they returned, they found that a fire had broken out and Miceli had died from smoke inhalation. On Sept. 17, 1997, Amor was convicted of murder and aggravated arson for the fire that caused Miceli’s death, according to the statement. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison. Brennan vacated Amor’s conviction in April 2017 after his attorneys claimed he was convicted based upon a confession which was proven false and arson findings that are no longer scientifically reliable, the Innocence Project said. His confession was the basis for fire investigators to change their mind in 1995 to change their initial finding of an “undetermined” cause of the fire to arson. Amor was released from custody in May 2017 and has remained free on bond during his retrial, according to the Innocence Project. “While my office stands by our prosecution and we believe the evidence supported a finding of guilty, we certainly respect the Court’s decision,” DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said in a statement. “This was a very complicated case originally based on fire science available at the time,” Berlin said. “Since that time, more than twenty years later, fire science has improved dramatically and consequently the evidence presented at this trial has changed from that presented in 1995.”

The entire story can be found at:

https://chicago.suntimes.com/news/man-acquitted-in-retrial-for-murder-arson-in-mother-in-laws-1995-death/

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 Giuca: Brooklyn, New York. (A fascinating story of a troublesome murder case that has a big question mark hanging over it, by New York Times Reporter Alan Feuer..."Many murder cases are built on science — fingerprints, ballistics, DNA — but Mr. Giuca’s case was built from the start on something much more tenuous: the shifting stories of a group of privileged young people who were partying with him and Mr. Fisher on the late-night-into-morning when Mr. Fisher died. From the outset, the prosecution’s presentation was a kind of collegiate Rashomon: people lied, changed their statements and often contradicted one another. “This wasn’t really a forensic case,” said Mark Hale, the prosecutor who oversaw the probe by the district attorney’s office. “This was a case of who said what to whom, when.”


STORY: "A murder, a conviction and a never-ending case," by reporter Alan Feuer, published by The New York Times on February 21, 2018.

SUB-HEADING: "Fifteen years after a college student was found shot five times in a quiet Brooklyn neighborhood,  the circumstances of his death remain muddled. And a man convicted in the killing remains in limbo:

PHOTO CAPTION. (The photo captions tell much of the story);"A court recently through out the conviction of John Giuca. The Brooklyn District Attorney has vowed to retry him.

PHOTO CAPTION: "The murder victim Mark Fisher, who was a sophomore at Fairfield University in Connecticut."

PHOTO CAPTION:  "Frustrated at the pace of the investigation into Mark Fisher’s murder, members of the Fisher family hold a vigil on Argyle Road, where his body was found."

PHOTO CAPTION: "Charles J. Hynes, the Brooklyn district attorney at the time of the murder, was facing a difficult re-election and was under pressure to solve the case."

PHOTO CAPTION: "Nancy and Michael Fisher leaving Brooklyn State Supreme Court after the other defendant in the murder case, Antonio Russo, was found guilty."

PHOTO CAPTION: "Mr. Guica at court during the murder trial, with his mother, Doreen Giuliano, and a lawyer, James Kilduff."

PHOTO CAPTION:  "Doreen Giuliano posing as “Dee Quinn,” an alias she used to get close to Jason Allo, who was on the jury at her son’s murder trial."

PHOTO CAPTION: "A decade after Mr. Guica was convicted, John Avitto tearfully recanted what he said was false testimony he gave at the murder trial."

PHOTO CAPTION: "Ms. Giuliano at the recent hearing in Brooklyn after her son’s conviction was thrown out, with the actor Holt McCallany, one of her supporters."
 
GIST: "Just before sunrise, on Oct. 12, 2003, the residents of Argyle Road in Brooklyn were woken by gunfire. Then, as now, such a thing was virtually unheard-of. The quiet street is in Prospect Park South, an architectural enclave of hundred-year-old trees, landmark homes and an urban gentry of lawyers, chefs and jewelry designers.  With its air of Victorian charm, the neighborhood looks nothing like the rest of New York City. It seems like a nice Connecticut suburb, not the heart of Brooklyn. But that morning, as the police arrived on Argyle Road — not coincidentally, in minutes — the worst came to pass: the body of a young man was discovered in a driveway just outside a Queen Anne house toward the end of the block. He was lying facedown on a bloody yellow blanket. In the dawning daylight, it soon became apparent that he had been shot five times. Fifteen years later, the circumstances of how that man, Mark S. Fisher, a 19-year-old college student from New Jersey, wound up dead in the driveway remain the subject of a simmering debate in spite of nearly every fact-finding method the criminal-justice system has at its disposal. There was a two-week trial. There were several state appeals. There was a federal appeal. There were countless legal hearings. There was even an exhaustive inquiry by the Brooklyn district attorney’s office. But all of them have so far failed to silence the stubborn whispers questioning the case that have long been heard in the circles that surround the Brooklyn courts. Earlier this month, an appeals court addressed some of those whispers when it abruptly threw out the conviction of a man found guilty of killing Mr. Fisher, ruling that the prosecutors at his trial withheld evidence from his lawyers and relied on testimony from a witness who had lied in sending him to prison. Just a few days ago, at yet another hearing that raised more questions than it answered, the prosecutors suddenly announced that they were going to challenge the ruling that threw out the conviction, and if that failed they were prepared to retry the man, John Giuca. Many murder cases are built on science — fingerprints, ballistics, DNA — but Mr. Giuca’s case was built from the start on something much more tenuous: the shifting stories of a group of privileged young people who were partying with him and Mr. Fisher on the late-night-into-morning when Mr. Fisher died. From the outset, the prosecution’s presentation was a kind of collegiate Rashomon: people lied, changed their statements and often contradicted one another. “This wasn’t really a forensic case,” said Mark Hale, the prosecutor who oversaw the probe by the district attorney’s office. “This was a case of who said what to whom, when.” (Publishers note: This excellent article on a very troublesome case cannot be reduced. It is a reminder of the curious void which can exist when forensic evidence is lacking. Read on.  HL);

The entire story can be found at:
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/21/nyregion/john-giuca-murder-trial-never-ending.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.

Kevin Cooper: California: Will Cooper be executed without granting his request for an investigation with up-to-date DNA testing could show whether someone else committed the crimes — someone who may still be at large? Four California law school deans have asked Gov. Jerry Brown to open an independent investigation into the case of Kevin Cooper, convicted and sentenced to Death Row for the 1983 Chino Hills knife-and-hatchet murder of four people, two of them children..."“Mr. Cooper’s clemency petition does not ask you to pardon him or commute his sentence,” the letter states. “It asks only that you order an independent innocence investigation that includes state-of-the-art DNA and other forensic testing.” Cooper’s supporters have long pointed to what they believe are exonerating issues in the case regarding DNA evidence, inadequate defense at trial, claims about other possible suspects they say were not investigated at the time, and a related cover-up by the investigating San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. They also contend that racism played a role in charging and trying Cooper, who is black."..."The clemency petition was filed in February 2016. During Cooper’s appeals in the early aughts, two DNA tests concluded Cooper was the killer. Cooper since then unsuccessfully sought additional tests on a T-shirt, a speck of blood on a paint chip, and a vial of blood drawn from Cooper after his arrest."


STORY: "California law school Dean asks for new investigation into Kevin Cooper's case," by reporter Richard K. De Atley, published by The Press-Enterprise on February 20, 2018.

GIST:  "Four California law school deans have asked Gov. Jerry Brown to open an independent investigation into the case of Kevin Cooper, convicted and sentenced to Death Row for the 1983 Chino Hills knife-and-hatchet murder of four people, two of them children. The letter is one of several sent to Brown asking him to grant a pending clemency petition from Cooper, which would put his death sentence temporarily on hold during the investigation. The American Bar Association sent Brown a similar letter in March 2016. Others who have written letters to Brown include former California Supreme Court justices Cruz Reynoso and Joseph Grodin and late California Attorney General John Van de Kamp. The bloody June 4, 1983, attack for which Cooper was convicted and sentenced took the lives of Doug and Peggy Ryen; their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica; and neighbor Christopher Hughes, 11, who was staying overnight at the Ryens’ home. The boy was a friend of the Ryens’ 8-year-old son, Joshua, who survived the attack with a slashed throat. Cooper, 60, has exhausted all appeals from his 1985 conviction and sentencing, and he is likely to be one of the first prisoners executed if California resumes the death penalty. He has always claimed he was innocent.
The state last executed a prisoner in 2006, and injunctions against further executions remain standing in state and federal courts over issues of execution method and protocol. The Feb. 14 letter is signed by Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University California School of Law in Berkeley; Michael Waterstone, dean of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles; Lisa A. Kloppenberg, dean of the Santa Clara School of Law; and John Trasvi├▒a, dean of the University of San Francisco School of Law. “Mr. Cooper’s clemency petition does not ask you to pardon him or commute his sentence,” the letter states. “It asks only that you order an independent innocence investigation that includes state-of-the-art DNA and other forensic testing.” Cooper’s supporters have long pointed to what they believe are exonerating issues in the case regarding DNA evidence, inadequate defense at trial, claims about other possible suspects they say were not investigated at the time, and a related cover-up by the investigating San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. They also contend that racism played a role in charging and trying Cooper, who is black. Prosecutors have said Cooper’s advocates ignore a big volume of direct and circumstantial evidence that tie Cooper to the attack. Two days before the slayings, he had escaped from nearby California Institution for Men in Chino. Cooper has admitted hiding in a vacant house near the Ryen home, but he denies killing anyone. “Because the clemency petition is pending, it would be inappropriate to comment at this time,” Christopher Lee, spokesman for District Attorney Mike Ramos, said Tuesday in an email. Gov. Brown’s office declined comment on Tuesday. The clemency petition was filed in February 2016. During Cooper’s appeals in the early aughts, two DNA tests concluded Cooper was the killer. Cooper since then unsuccessfully sought additional tests on a T-shirt, a speck of blood on a paint chip, and a vial of blood drawn from Cooper after his arrest. “An investigation with up-to-date DNA testing could show whether someone else committed the crimes — someone who may still be at large,” the letter says. The letter from the deans points to the case of Craig Coley,  whose sentence Brown commuted in November 2017, after DNA evidence exonerated him of a 1978 double slaying in Simi Valley. He had served nearly 39 years in prison after being sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Brown can order a temporary reprieve to Cooper’s death sentence to complete the investigation."

The entire story can be read at:
https://www.dailybulletin.com/2018/02/20/california-law-school-deans-ask-for-new-investigation-in-kevin-cooper-case/

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.


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Bobby Griffin: Connecticut; false confession case; Jury returns guilty verdict inspite of his claim of coersion..."Griffin testified in his own defense last Thursday, saying Johnson had shot Bradley. Griffin said he ran from the scene and later accepted the rifle from Johnson. As for Griffin’s confession to two police detectives under about 3 1/2 hours of questioning, Griffin said the detectives kept pressuring him until “I thought I had no choice.” The videotape of the interview showed one of the detectives telling Griffin he could “fry” or get “the chair” and so had better cooperate. However, Senior Assistant State’s Attorney John P. Doyle Jr. reminded jurors in his closing argument that detectives had read Griffin his Miranda rights to remain silent and ask for an attorney; he signed the form and agreed to begin answering questions. They had also told him he could stop the questioning at any time."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "The videotape of the interview showed one of the detectives telling Griffin he could “fry” or get “the chair” and so had better cooperate."

STORY: "New Haven man convicted of 2013 killing with assault rifle," by  reporter Randall Beach, published by The New Haven Register on February 20 2018.

GIST: "Twelve jurors Tuesday found Bobby Griffin Jr. guilty of murder and three other counts in the shooting death of Nathaniel Bradley five years ago in New Haven. In addition, Superior Court Judge Elpedio N. Vitale found Griffin guilty of criminal possession of a firearm. As a previously convicted felon, Griffin was not allowed to have a weapon. During their closing arguments last Friday, the two prosecutors displayed the assault rifle that was used to shoot Bradley twice in the back during an attempted robbery at the corner of Ella T. Grasso Boulevard and Goffe Terrace the night of Oct. 14, 2013. The rifle was found in Griffin’s attic when police executed a search and seizure warrant. Griffin, 25, of Peck Street, was convicted by the jury of felony murder (causing a death in the course of another crime, such as robbery), murder, attempted first-degree robbery and conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery. Vitale set a tentative sentencing date of May 8 and raised Griffin’s bond from $1 million to $2.5 million. Griffin faces a potential sentence of more than 100 years. During his summation of the prosecution’s case last Friday morning, Assistant State’s Attorney Sean McGuinness cited Nathan L. Johnson’s testimony that Griffin wanted to rob somebody. And so he arranged to have Bradley, 36, of Hamden, come to that Boulevard corner to sell some marijuana. But Johnson said Griffin came out of a nearby alley brandishing the assault rifle, pointed it at Bradley and told him: “Run everything.” This is street talk for “give me everything you’ve got.” Johnson quoted Bradley replying, “You can have everything” and turning to get back into his car. At that point, Griffin shot him twice. Johnson testified he didn’t understand why Griffin had shot Bradley. But McGuinness said in his closing argument that Griffin “had been disrespected” and was so angry he fired at Bradley with the intent of killing him. Defense attorney Wade Luckett had argued the state lacked forensic evidence and had relied on Johnson’s account as well as Griffin’s police statement. Luckett said Johnson was not credible because he had entered into a cooperation agreement with the state. Prosecutors dropped a felony murder charge and Johnson pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree robbery and conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery. He faces a prison sentence of up to 30 years. Griffin testified in his own defense last Thursday, saying Johnson had shot Bradley. Griffin said he ran from the scene and later accepted the rifle from Johnson. As for Griffin’s confession to two police detectives under about 3 1/2 hours of questioning, Griffin said the detectives kept pressuring him until “I thought I had no choice.” The videotape of the interview showed one of the detectives telling Griffin he could “fry” or get “the chair” and so had better cooperate. However, Senior Assistant State’s Attorney John P. Doyle Jr. reminded jurors in his closing argument that detectives had read Griffin his Miranda rights to remain silent and ask for an attorney; he signed the form and agreed to begin answering questions. They had also told him he could stop the questioning at any time."

The entire story can be read at: 
https://www.nhregister.com/news/article/New-Haven-man-convicted-of-2013-killing-with-12627439.php

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."

Technology. Algorythms gone wild? Including some in the courtroom? Buzzfeed article hones in on the man who predicted the 2016 fake news crisis - and says he's now worried about an information apocalypse. (And I'm wondering if criminal justice systems, such as the U.S.. which are relying more and more on algorithms and photo and videotape evidence, are vulnerable to attack. HL)..."Technologies that can be used to enhance and distort what is real are evolving faster than our ability to understand and control or mitigate it. The stakes are high and the possible consequences more disastrous than foreign meddling in an election — an undermining or upending of core civilizational institutions, an "infocalypse.” And Ovadya says that this one is just as plausible as the last one — and worse. Worse because of our ever-expanding computational prowess; worse because of ongoing advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning that can blur the lines between fact and fiction; worse because those things could usher in a future where, as Ovadya observes, anyone could make it “appear as if anything has happened, regardless of whether or not it did.”..."Software currently in development at the chip manufacturer Nvidia can already convincingly generate hyperrealistic photos of objects, people, and even some landscapes by scouring tens of thousands of images. Adobe also recently piloted two projects — Voco and Cloak — the first a "Photoshop for audio," the second a tool that can seamlessly remove objects (and people!) from video in a matter of clicks."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "Already available tools for audio and video manipulation have begun to look like a potential fake news Manhattan Project. In the murky corners of the internet, people have begun using machine learning algorithms and open-source software to easily create pornographic videos that realistically superimpose the faces of celebrities — or anyone for that matter — on the adult actors’ bodies. At institutions like Stanford, technologists have built programs that that combine and mix recorded video footage with real-time face tracking to manipulate video. Similarly, at the University of Washington computer scientists successfully built a program capable of “turning audio clips into a realistic, lip-synced video of the person speaking those words.” As proof of concept, both the teams manipulated broadcast video to make world leaders appear to say things they never actually said. As these tools become democratized and widespread, Ovadya notes that the worst case scenarios could be extremely destabilizing."

STORY:  "Infocalypse:  "He Predicted The 2016 Fake News Crisis. Now He's Worried About An Information apocalypse," by BuzzFeed News reporter Charlie Warzel published by BuzzFeed on February 11, 2018. (Charlie Warzel,  a senior writer for BuzzFeed News, is  based in New York and writes about the intersection of tech and culture.)
SUB-HEADING: “What happens when anyone can make it appear as if anything has happened, regardless of whether or not it did?" technologist Aviv Ovadya warns.

GIST: "In mid-2016, Aviv Ovadya realized there was something fundamentally wrong with the internet — so wrong that he abandoned his work and sounded an alarm. A few weeks before the 2016 election, he presented his concerns to technologists in San Francisco’s Bay Area and warned of an impending crisis of misinformation in a presentation he titled “Infocalypse. The web and the information ecosystem that had developed around it was wildly unhealthy, Ovadya argued. The incentives that governed its biggest platforms were calibrated to reward information that was often misleading and polarizing, or both. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google prioritized clicks, shares, ads, and money over quality of information, and Ovadya couldn’t shake the feeling that it was all building toward something bad — a kind of critical threshold of addictive and toxic misinformation. The presentation was largely ignored by employees from the Big Tech platforms — including a few from Facebook who would later go on to drive the company’s NewsFeed integrity effort.“  At the time, it felt like we were in a car careening out of control and it wasn’t just that everyone was saying, ‘we’ll be fine’ — it’s that they didn't even see the car,” he said. Ovadya saw early what many — including lawmakers, journalists, and Big Tech CEOs — wouldn’t grasp until months later: Our platformed and algorithmically optimized world is vulnerable — to propaganda, to misinformation, to dark targeted advertising from foreign governments — so much so that it threatens to undermine a cornerstone of human discourse: the credibility of fact. But it’s what he sees coming next that will really scare the shit out of you. “Alarmism can be good — you should be alarmist about this stuff,” Ovadya said one January afternoon before calmly outlining a deeply unsettling projection about the next two decades of fake news, artificial intelligence–assisted misinformation campaigns, and propaganda. “We are so screwed it's beyond what most of us can imagine,” he said. “We were utterly screwed a year and a half ago and we're even more screwed now. And depending how far you look into the future it just gets worse.” That future, according to Ovadya, will arrive with a slew of slick, easy-to-use, and eventually seamless technological tools for manipulating perception and falsifying reality, for which terms have already been coined — “reality apathy,” “automated laser phishing,” and "human puppets." Which is why Ovadya, an MIT grad with engineering stints at tech companies like Quora, dropped everything in early 2016 to try to prevent what he saw as a Big Tech–enabled information crisis. “One day something just clicked,” he said of his awakening. It became clear to him that, if somebody were to exploit our attention economy and use the platforms that undergird it to distort the truth, there were no real checks and balances to stop it. “I realized if these systems were going to go out of control, there’d be nothing to reign them in and it was going to get bad, and quick,” he said. Today Ovadya and a cohort of loosely affiliated researchers and academics are anxiously looking ahead — toward a future that is alarmingly dystopian. They’re running war game–style disaster scenarios based on technologies that have begun to pop up and the outcomes are typically disheartening. For Ovadya — now the chief technologist for the University of Michigan’s Center for Social Media Responsibility and a Knight News innovation fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia — the shock and ongoing anxiety over Russian Facebook ads and Twitter bots pales in comparison to the greater threat: Technologies that can be used to enhance and distort what is real are evolving faster than our ability to understand and control or mitigate it. The stakes are high and the possible consequences more disastrous than foreign meddling in an election — an undermining or upending of core civilizational institutions, an "infocalypse.” And Ovadya says that this one is just as plausible as the last one — and worse. Worse because of our ever-expanding computational prowess; worse because of ongoing advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning that can blur the lines between fact and fiction; worse because those things could usher in a future where, as Ovadya observes, anyone could make it “appear as if anything has happened, regardless of whether or not it did.” And much in the way that foreign-sponsored, targeted misinformation campaigns didn't feel like a plausible near-term threat until we realized that it was already happening, Ovadya cautions that fast-developing tools powered by artificial intelligence, machine learning, and augmented reality tech could be hijacked and used by bad actors to imitate humans and wage an information war. And we’re closer than one might think to a potential “Infocalypse.” Already available tools for audio and video manipulation have begun to look like a potential fake news Manhattan Project. In the murky corners of the internet, people have begun using machine learning algorithms and open-source software to easily create pornographic videos that realistically superimpose the faces of celebrities — or anyone for that matter — on the adult actors’ bodies. At institutions like Stanford, technologists have built programs that that combine and mix recorded video footage with real-time face tracking to manipulate video. Similarly, at the University of Washington computer scientists successfully built a program capable of “turning audio clips into a realistic, lip-synced video of the person speaking those words.” As proof of concept, both the teams manipulated broadcast video to make world leaders appear to say things they never actually said. As these tools become democratized and widespread, Ovadya notes that the worst case scenarios could be extremely destabilizing. There’s “diplomacy manipulation,” in which a malicious actor uses advanced technology to “create the belief that an event has occurred” to influence geopolitics. Imagine, for example, a machine-learning algorithm (which analyzes gobs of data in order to teach itself to perform a particular function) fed on hundreds of hours of footage of Donald Trump or North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, which could then spit out a near-perfect — and virtually impossible to distinguish from reality — audio or video clip of the leader declaring nuclear or biological war. “It doesn’t have to be perfect — just good enough to make the enemy think something happened that it provokes a knee-jerk and reckless response of retaliation. Another scenario, which Ovadya dubs “polity simulation,” is a dystopian combination of political botnets and astroturfing, where political movements are manipulated by fake grassroots campaigns. In Ovadya’s envisioning, increasingly believable AI-powered bots will be able to effectively compete with real humans for legislator and regulator attention because it will be too difficult to tell the difference. Building upon previous iterations, where public discourse is manipulated, it may soon be possible to directly jam congressional switchboards with heartfelt, believable algorithmically-generated pleas. Similarly, Senators' inboxes could be flooded with messages from constituents that were cobbled together by machine-learning programs working off stitched-together content culled from text, audio, and social media profiles. Then there’s automated laser phishing, a tactic Ovadya notes security researchers are already whispering about. Essentially, it's using AI to scan things, like our social media presences, and craft false but believable messages from people we know. The game changer, according to Ovadya, is that something like laser phishing would allow bad actors to target anyone and to create a believable imitation of them using publicly available data. “Previously one would have needed to have a human to mimic a voice or come up with an authentic fake conversation — in this version you could just press a button using open source software,” Ovadya said. “That’s where it becomes novel — when anyone can do it because it’s trivial. Then it’s a whole different ball game.” Imagine, he suggests, phishing messages that aren’t just a confusing link you might click, but a personalized message with context. “Not just an email, but an email from a friend that you’ve been anxiously waiting for for a while,” he said. “And because it would be so easy to create things that are fake you'd become overwhelmed. If every bit of spam you receive looked identical to emails from real people you knew, each one with its own motivation trying to convince you of something, you’d just end up saying, ‘okay, I'm going to ignore my inbox.’” That can lead to something Ovadya calls “reality apathy”: Beset by a torrent of constant misinformation, people simply start to give up. Ovadya is quick to remind us that this is common in areas where information is poor and thus assumed to be incorrect. The big difference, Ovadya notes, is the adoption of apathy to a developed society like ours. The outcome, he fears, is not good. “People stop paying attention to news and that fundamental level of informedness required for functional democracy becomes unstable.” Ovadya (and other researchers) see laser phishing as an inevitability. “It’s a threat for sure, but even worse — I don't think there's a solution right now,” he said. “There's internet scale infrastructure stuff that needs to be built to stop this if it starts.” Beyond all this, there are other long-range nightmare scenarios that Ovadya describes as "far-fetched," but they're not so far-fetched that he's willing to rule them out. And they are frightening. "Human puppets," for example — a black market version of a social media marketplace with people instead of bots. “It’s essentially a mature future cross border market for manipulatable humans,” he said. Ovadya’s premonitions are particularly terrifying given the ease with which our democracy has already been manipulated by the most rudimentary, blunt-force misinformation techniques. The scamming, deception, and obfuscation that’s coming is nothing new; it’s just more sophisticated, much harder to detect, and working in tandem with other technological forces that are not only currently unknown but likely unpredictable. For those paying close attention to developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning, none of this feels like much of a stretch. Software currently in development at the chip manufacturer Nvidia can already convincingly generate hyperrealistic photos of objects, people, and even some landscapes by scouring tens of thousands of images. Adobe also recently piloted two projects — Voco and Cloak — the first a "Photoshop for audio," the second a tool that can seamlessly remove objects (and people!) from video in a matter of clicks. In some cases, the technology is so good that it’s startled even its creators. Ian Goodfellow, a Google Brain research scientist who helped code the first “generative adversarial network” (GAN), which is a neural network capable of learning without human supervision, cautioned that AI could set news consumption back roughly 100 years. At an MIT Technology Review conference in November last year, he told an audience that GANs have both “imagination and introspection” and “can tell how well the generator is doing without relying on human feedback.” And that, while the creative possibilities for the machines is boundless, the innovation, when applied to the way we consume information, would likely “clos[e] some of the doors that our generation has been used to having open.” In that light, scenarios like Ovadya’s polity simulation feel genuinely plausible. This summer, more than one million fake bot accounts flooded the FCC’s open comments system to “amplify the call to repeal net neutrality protections.” Researchers concluded that automated comments — some using natural language processing to appear real — obscured legitimate comments, undermining the authenticity of the entire open comments system. Ovadya nods to the FCC example as well as the recent bot-amplified #releasethememo campaign as a blunt version of what's to come. "It can just get so much worse," he said. Arguably, this sort of erosion of authenticity and the integrity of official statements altogether is the most sinister and worrying of these future threats. “Whether it’s AI, peculiar Amazon manipulation hacks, or fake political activism — these technological underpinnings [lead] to the increasing erosion of trust,” computational propaganda researcher Renee DiResta said of the future threat. “It makes it possible to cast aspersions on whether videos — or advocacy for that matter — are real.” DiResta pointed out Donald Trump’s recent denial that it was his voice on the infamous Access Hollywood tape, citing experts who told him it’s possible it was digitally faked. “You don't need to create the fake video for this tech to have a serious impact. You just point to the fact that the tech exists and you can impugn the integrity of the stuff that’s real.” It’s why researchers and technologists like DiResta — who spent years of her spare time advising the Obama administration, and now members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, against disinformation campaigns from trolls — and Ovadya (though they work separately) are beginning to talk more about the looming threats. Last week, the NYC Media Lab, which helps the city’s companies and academics collaborate, announced a plan to bring together technologists and researchers in June to “explore worst case scenarios” for the future of news and tech. The event, which they’ve named Fake News Horror Show, is billed as “a science fair of terrifying propaganda tools — some real and some imagined, but all based on plausible technologies.” “In the next two, three, four years we’re going to have to plan for hobbyist propagandists who can make a fortune by creating highly realistic, photo realistic simulations,” Justin Hendrix, the executive director of NYC Media Lab, told BuzzFeed News. “And should those attempts work, and people come to suspect that there's no underlying reality to media artifacts of any kind, then we're in a really difficult place. It'll only take a couple of big hoaxes to really convince the public that nothing’s real.” Given the early dismissals of the efficacy of misinformation — like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s now-infamous statement that it was "crazy" that fake news on his site played a crucial role in the 2016 election — the first step for researchers like Ovadya is a daunting one: Convince the greater public, as well as lawmakers, university technologists, and tech companies, that a reality-distorting information apocalypse is not only plausible, but close at hand. A senior federal employee explicitly tasked with investigating information warfare told BuzzFeed News that even he's not certain how many government agencies are preparing for scenarios like the ones Ovadya and others describe. “We're less on our back feet than we were a year ago," he said, before noting that that's not nearly good enough. “I think about it from the sense of the enlightenment — which was all about the search for truth,” the employee told BuzzFeed News. “I think what you’re seeing now is an attack on the enlightenment — and enlightenment documents like the Constitution — by adversaries trying to create a post-truth society. And that’s a direct threat to the foundations of our current civilization." That’s a terrifying thought — more so because forecasting this kind of stuff is so tricky. Computational propaganda is far more qualitative than quantitative — a climate scientist can point to explicit data showing rising temperatures, whereas it’s virtually impossible to build a trustworthy prediction model mapping the future impact of yet-to-be-perfected technology. 
 
The entire story can be read 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/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, February 20, 2018

Malcolm Alexander; Louisiana; From our 'Read this and weep department."..."Man Exonerated by DNA Evidence After Serving Nearly 38 Years in Prison for Rape He Didn’t Commit," reporter Kirstin West Savali. The Root...(Why? DNA evidence lost years ago; A terrible flawed identification process; And to make matters even worse, an incompetent defence)..."In February 1980, Alexander had a consensual sexual encounter with a white woman who asked him for money and later accused him of sexual assault. Even though the woman’s charges were unsubstantiated and no charges were ever filed against Alexander, authorities had his photo on file. That’s all they needed. Gretna police showed the antique-store owner Alexander’s picture, and she “tentatively” identified him as her assailant out of hundreds of photos shown to her. Three days later, police placed Alexander in a lineup, and by that time, the store owner was “sure” that he was the man who had attacked her. This was four months after she was attacked in the dark, from behind, at gunpoint. Alexander was the only man in the lineup whose picture had also been in the photo array."


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: In recent posts I have begun to pay more attention to cases which involve false confessions, and cases, like the Alexander case, in which the wrongful prosecution is triggered by a false identification.  I have begun to precede each 'false confession' case with the following note: "The Charles Smith Blog  is interested in false confessions because of the disturbing number of exonerations in the USA, Canada and multiple other jurisdictions throughout the world, where, in the absence of incriminating forensic evidence the conviction is based on self-incrimination – and because of the growing body of  scientific research showing how vulnerable suspects    (especially juveniles)  are to widely used interrogation methods  such as  the notorious ‘Reid Technique.’ The note I will be placing on false identifications will read: Like false confessions, false identifications have been increasingly recognized as a cause of wrongful prosecutions. As the Innocence project has pointed out:'Research has shown that multiple identification procedures can contaminate a witness’s memory, causing a witness to become confused about whether he or she recognizes the person from the event or the earlier procedure, while also making the witness more confident in his or her identification.' (Other research has found  serious flaws in different aspects of the identification process. HL); Some police forces have begun to reform their identification procedures. Others seem content to follow their usual procedures, in spite of the risk involved to the suspect, and the possibility that the person who committed the crime will remain free. Ideally, standards aimed at accurate identifications will be adopted or imposed on all U.S. states and in other jurisdictions  where identification procedures are inadequate. In the meantime, this blog will continue to flag cases in which faulty identifications have led to injustice which come to our attention - injustice which cries out to be rectified and avoided."

Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog; 

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STORY: "Louisiana Man Exonerated by DNA Evidence After Serving Nearly 38 Years in Prison for Rape He Didn’t Commit," by reporter Kirsten West Savali, published by The Root  on February 2, 2018. (Thanks to the Wrongful Convictions Blog for drawing this case to our attention. HL);

GIST: "Malcolm Alexander, who was just 21 years old when he was wrongfully convicted of aggravated rape and sentenced to life in Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola), was released from prison Monday after Jefferson Parish Judge June Darensburg overturned his conviction. Darensburg made her decision after a reinvestigation by the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office determined that Alexander did not have competent and effective counsel during his trial, and that his conviction rested heavily on a flawed, unreliable identification procedure. Her decision also rested on DNA evidence that was thought to be lost long ago. The case:  On Nov. 8, 1979, a black man allegedly entered an antique store on Whitney Avenue in Gretna, La. He allegedly grabbed the owner, a 39-year-old white woman, from behind in the empty store and raped her twice at gunpoint. The victim never clearly saw her attacker’s face. In February 198 0, Alexander had a consensual sexual encounter with a white woman who asked him for money and later accused him of sexual assault. Even though the woman’s charges were unsubstantiated and no charges were ever filed against Alexander, authorities had his photo on file. That’s all they needed. Gretna police showed the antique-store owner Alexander’s picture, and she “tentatively” identified him as her assailant out of hundreds of photos shown to her. Three days later, police placed Alexander in a lineup, and by that time, the store owner was “sure” that he was the man who had attacked her. This was four months after she was attacked in the dark, from behind, at gunpoint. Alexander was the only man in the lineup whose picture had also been in the photo array. According to the Innocence Project: Research has shown that multiple identification procedures can contaminate a witness’s memory, causing a witness to become confused about whether he or she recognizes the person from the event or the earlier procedure, while also making the witness more confident in his or her identification. After a trial that lasted one day—during which Alexander’s attorney, Joseph Tosh, failed to make an opening statement or call any witnesses for the defense, and failed to adequately cross-examine the state’s witnesses about the identification—Alexander was sentenced to life in prison on Dec. 10, 1980. Still, he never stopped insisting that he was innocent. Alexander reached out to the Innocence Project in 1996, and the organization quickly discovered that critical DNA evidence had been destroyed only four years into his sentence. Alexander’s freedom felt like an impossible dream, but in 2013, there was a break in the case. Pubic hair recovered from the antique store where the rape took place was found at the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Crime Lab. The hairs belonged to neither Alexander nor the victim. This fact, along with Alexander’s lack of competent counsel and the flawed identification procedure, was enough for Judge Darensburg to overturn his conviction. “The stakes in this case couldn’t have been higher for Mr. Alexander, who faced a mandatory sentence of life without parole, yet the attorney that he entrusted with his life did next to nothing to defend him,” said Vanessa Potkin, post-conviction litigation director at the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with the Cardozo School of Law. “It is simply unconscionable,” she continued. “Mr. Alexander was just 21 years old when he was convicted after a trial that began and ended all in the same day. We know there are many more innocent people in prison today because their lawyers did not provide effective representation, or did not have the resources to put on an adequate defense. Without effective defense counsel, our system is nothing more than a conviction mill.” Tosh was disbarred in 1999 after he was found to have been negligent in dozens of other cases. Alexander’s family was waiting to greet him when he was released from the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center, including his son, Malcolm Stewart Sr., 40, and his grandson, Malcolm III, 20, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. Malcolm Stewart was 2 years old when his father went away; Malcolm III is almost the same age his grandfather was when he was wrongfully convicted. Alexander told reporters that being free and with his family made him feel “like a newborn baby.” Though his father, Edmund Alexander, died in 2004, there was another special person waiting with arms outstretched for her baby. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for getting my child out of that place,” Alexander’s mother, Maudra Alexander, 82, told attorneys for the Innocence Project. “He’s been there for so long.”

The entire story can be found at: 
https://www.theroot.com/louisiana-man-exonerated-by-dna-evidence-after-serving-1822650927B...

Read the U.S. National Registry of Exonerations entry at the link below: "
At about 11:30 a.m. on November 8, 1979, a black man walked into a newly opened antique store in Gretna, Louisiana. The owner, B.N., a 39-year-old white woman, became suspicious. She attempted to direct him to furniture outside, but as she walked to the front door, he grabbed her from behind and clubbed her in the head with a handgun. He then forced her into a bathroom at the rear of the shop and raped her at gunpoint.  After he raped her, he led her to the telephone, which had been ringing throughout the attack. As he held her in a chokehold and threatened to shoot her, B.N. completed the call without alerting the caller. The attacker then forced her back into the bathroom and raped her again. The attacker ordered her not to move and fled. B.N. used a towel to clean herself and called police. Police found three pubic hairs on the floor of the bathroom and also took the towel into evidence. B.N. said the attacker was black with a medium complexion, in his early 20s, about six feet tall, and 165-170 pounds. She said he was wearing blue jeans, a dark windbreaker, and a navy blue watch cap.  B.N. said that he rode up to the store on a dark orange 10-speed English racing bike. 
Police broadcast the description and 10 minutes later, police stopped a black man with his jeans unzipped riding an orange 10-speed bicycle. The man was brought to the outside of antique store, and B.N. stood inside and viewed him through the front window. She said the man was not her attacker.
B.N. was then taken to a hospital where a rape kit was taken. On November 30, 1979, B.N. saw a man she thought might be her attacker. When police investigated him, they learned he worked at Superior Pontiac, a car dealership. The man's fellow employees said he was a hard worker and was not the type of person to commit a sexual assault. On December 18, 1979, police showed B.N. a photographic lineup, which included the man from Superior Pontiac, but she did not identify anyone as her attacker. In February 1980, police arrested 20-year-old Malcolm Alexander after a woman accused him of sexual assaulting her. Alexander, who is black, told police the sex occurred after he gave the woman money and that it was consensual. Alexander was not charged in that incident, but a detective believed that he fit B.N.’s description of her attacker, even though he was only 5 feet 9 inches tall. On March 24, 1980, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Department Detective O’Neil De Noux Jr. asked B.N. to view another photographic lineup that included Alexander’s photo. De Noux’s report said that B.N. identified Alexander, but that her identification was “tentative.” Three days later, on March 27, B.N. viewed a live lineup that included Alexander. He was the only person who was in both lineups—a procedure considered to be improper and suggestive because a person can subconsciously convert the memory of seeing a person in the first lineup into a memory of that person being the perpetrator. Detective De Noux was not present because he was in court, so Detective Marco Nuzzolillo conducted the lineup.  Nuzzolillo checked off the box “possible” in his report and next to it wrote “tentative.” Three hours after the live lineup, De Noux returned from court and interviewed B.N. privately. When he emerged, he reported that B.N. now said she was more than 98 percent sure that Alexander was her attacker. Alexander was arrested and charged with aggravated rape. He went to trial on November 5, 1980. The entire trial—from selection of the jury until the jury’s announcement that they found Alexander guilty—lasted one day. The entire trial transcript was only 87 pages long, and his lawyer, Joseph Tosh, did virtually nothing to defend him. It wasn’t the first or last time Tosh would fail a client—in 1999 he was disbarred based on more than 50 incidents where he took fees and did little or—frequently—nothing at all and refused to refund the money. Despite the existence of a rape kit and the towel, both of which contained semen, and the three hairs found on the floor where B.N. was raped, no forensic tests were performed. Neither the prosecutor nor the defense requested any testing on the evidence. Even though his report of the March 24, 1980 photographic lineup said that B.N.’s identification of Alexander was “tentative,” De Noux told the jury that B.N. “without hesitation identified the photograph of Malcolm Alexander as the man who perpetrated the rape on her.” Detective Nuzzolillo, who had conducted the March 27, 1980 live lineup and filled out the report marked “possible” and “tentative,” testified simply that B.N. identified Alexander. The prosecution failed to correct the detectives’ testimony or elicit any testimony regarding the police reports listing the identifications as “tentative.” Alexander’s attorney never asked any questions on cross-examination about those descriptions. Years later, attorneys for Alexander would be unable to determine whether the prosecution withheld the reports documenting the identifications as “tentative,” or if Alexander’s attorney had the reports but was so incompetent that he failed to realize their significance. B.N. testified and identified Alexander as her attacker. Again, no mention was made that her identifications had been labeled as “tentative.” Tosh presented no defense witnesses and never investigated whether Alexander, who had a steady job with a contractor at the time of the rape, had a viable alibi. Tosh made no opening statement to the jury and his closing argument took up just four pages of the trial transcript. The jury was sent out to deliberate at 5:20 p.m. By 6:16 p.m.—just 56 minutes later—they had voted to convict Alexander, returned to announce the verdict, and been dismissed. The judge sentenced Alexander to life in prison without parole. Tosh assured Alexander and his family that he would file an appeal, but he never did. When family members ultimately discovered that no appeal had been filed, they sought the help of another lawyer. That lawyer was granted permission to file an appeal although the filing deadline had lapsed. The appeal, however, was denied by the Louisiana Court of Appeal. In 1996, after reading a news article about DNA testing, Alexander asked the Innocence Project in New York for help. However, a search for the physical evidence was unsuccessful—court officials informed the Innocence Project that the evidence had been inadvertently destroyed in 1984 during a mass destruction of several hundred boxes of evidence from closed cases. A deputy clerk attributed the destruction to “human error, which should not have happened.” The Innocence Project closed the case but Alexander forged on. In 2004, after Louisiana enacted a post-conviction DNA testing law, he filed a motion for testing, hoping it would spark further searches for evidence. He also filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus.  In 2013, his efforts were rewarded when the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Department crime laboratory discovered the hairs that were recovered from the bathroom floor where B.N. was raped. The Innocence Project and the prosecution agreed to DNA testing on the hairs in 2015, and testing was performed in 2016. The tests showed that all three came from the same person. Alexander was excluded as the source of the hairs. In 2017, the Innocence Project, joined by Innocence Project New Orleans, filed a motion seeking to vacate Alexander’s conviction, citing the DNA evidence as well as the failure of Alexander’s trial defense attorney to provide an adequate legal defense. “The most reasonable conclusion is that the hairs originate from the man who repeatedly raped B.N. from behind, on the floor in the very location where these hairs were collected,” the petition said.
On January 30, 2017, Alexander’s conviction was vacated. Judge June Berry Darensburg dismissed the charge and ordered Alexander released after spending nearly 38 years in prison. Innocence Project lawyers Barry Scheck and Vanessa Potkin expressed gratitude to the prosecution and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Department.  “The DA’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office were very cooperative in trying to see what happened,” Scheck said. “We’re very appreciative of this.” Orleans Parish District Attorney Paul Connick Jr., said, “After an extensive investigation during the past two and a half years, I agreed with Mr. Alexander's post-conviction attorneys that the defense attorney during the daylong trial 37 years ago provided ineffective representation in violation of his constitutional rights.”
http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/casedetail.aspx?caseid=5274