Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Odelia and Nerissa Quewezance: Saskatchewan: Wrongful confession (and much more) case; Major (Welcome) Development: The sisters have been released on bail (after spending 30 years in custody ) while the case is under ministerial review," APTN News (Reporter Danielle Paradis) reports.."James Lockyer, a Toronto-based lawyer with Innocence Canada, who is representing the sisters said that this was a big step, but there was still more work ahead. “The purpose of this is to get [the sisters’] convictions quashed so that their names are clear,” said Lockyer. The Innocence Canada lawyer also said he has experienced a lack of cooperation from the Crown prosecutors office who have refused to provide the evidence that they have against the sisters from the second-degree murder conviction. The sisters are the first Indigenous women to apply for a ministerial review, said Lockyer."


BACKGROUND: (From a previous post of this Blog): "Nicole Porter, advocate for Indigenous Rights and wrongfully convicted said Saskatchewan’s racist system rushed for a conviction in the 90’s. She said the sisters were Indigenous and rural Saskatchewan racism was against them. “These girls were downright mistreated by our system. During the police interrogation and even after their sentencing, being Indigenous was a factor held against them.” Porter said the mistreatment started from day one. A justice of the peace had issued remand warrants ordering that the sisters be remanded to Pine Grove Correctional Centre for women but instead they were held for five days by Saskatchewan RCMP and interrogated. Porter said no recordings of those interrogations were saved and the interrogations went against the remand warrant. “Authorities at the time directly disobeyed and continued to interrogate them.” Porter said there is no physical evidence against the sisters and pointed out that during their trial in the 90’s, the jury didn’t include one Indigenous person. “Because of the systemic racism, they were out for a pound of flesh and they got their conviction."


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PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "On June 2, 2022, federal Justice Minister David announced that there may have been a miscarriage of justice in the sisters’ case. “On behalf of the Minister of Justice, I am writing to advise you that it has been determined there may be a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred in this matter,” wrote a Department of Justice lawyer to Lockyer." That review could take eight months to complete."

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STORY: "Saskatchewan judge releases Saulteaux sisters on bail while minister reviews murder case, by Reporters Danielle Paradis, published by APTN News, on March 27,  2023. (Danielle Paradis is a M├ętis writer, journalist, editor, educator, and podcaster who lives in Treaty 6 (Edmonton, Alberta). She has written for both local and international audiences. You can read (or hear) her work at Canadaland, Chatelaine, Toronto Star (Edmonton), Gig City, BUSTLE, Canadian True Crime Podcast, The Sprawl and now APTN News. She  covers politics, arts and culture, and Indigenous Issues.)


https://www.aptnnews.ca/national-news/saskatchewan-judge-releases-saulteaux-sisters-on-bail-while-minister-reviews-murder-case/


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue/resource. 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;

SEE BREAKDOWN OF SOME OF THE ON-GOING INTERNATIONAL CASES (OUTSIDE OF THE CONTINENTAL USA) THAT I AM FOLLOWING ON THIS BLOG, AT THE LINK BELOW: HL:


https://www.blogger.com/blog/post/edit/120008354894645705/4704913685758792985


FINAL WORD: (Applicable to all of our wrongful conviction cases): "Whenever there is a wrongful conviction, it exposes errors in our criminal legal system, and we hope that this case — and lessons from it — can prevent future injustices."


Lawyer Radha Natarajan:


Executive Director: New England Innocence Project;

—————————————————————————————————


FINAL, FINAL WORD: "Since its inception, the Innocence Project has pushed the criminal legal system to confront and correct the laws and policies that cause and contribute to wrongful convictions. They never shied away from the hard cases — the ones involving eyewitness identifications, confessions, and bite marks. Instead, in the course of presenting scientific evidence of innocence, they've exposed the unreliability of evidence that was, for centuries, deemed untouchable." So true!


Christina Swarns: Executive Director: The Innocence Project;


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YET ANOTHER FINAL WORD:


David Hammond, one of Broadwater’s attorneys who sought his exoneration, told the Syracuse Post-Standard, “Sprinkle some junk science onto a faulty identification, and it’s the perfect recipe for a wrongful conviction.”


https://deadline.com/2021/11/alice-sebold-lucky-rape-conviction-overturned-anthony-broadwater-1234880143/


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Kathleen Folbigg: Australia: Her release would make the Chamberlain case ‘pale into insignificance,’ Legal Affairs Reporter Michaela Whitbourne reports in the Sydney Morning Herald..."Anna-Maria Arabia, chief executive of the academy, said the Folbigg case pointed to a need “to reconsider how science is considered in the legal system, and how we deal particularly with advances in science that are rapid”. Some fellows of the academy have already backed calls for Folbigg’s immediate release from prison, including Professor Carola Garcia de Vinuesa, an immunologist and geneticist who gave evidence about a novel genetic variant Folbigg shared with her two daughters. It was not found in her sons. The inquiry heard the variant, discovered after Folbigg’s 2003 trial, may cause cardiac arrhythmias – irregular heart rhythms – and sudden unexpected death. If Bathurst finds reasonable doubt about Folbigg’s convictions, “it will make the Lindy Chamberlain case pale into insignificance”, Arabia said. Chamberlain was convicted in October 1982 of murdering her infant daughter Azaria and spent three years in prison. She was pardoned in 1987 after a royal commission examined new evidence. “I don’t think Folbigg has yet captured the public imagination in the same way, but if she’s released this year it’s 20 years [since her conviction],” Arabia said."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "The jury in Lindy Chamberlain’s trial over the 1980 death of her nine-week-old daughter Azaria, who disappeared during a camping trip at Uluru, heard evidence suggesting arterial blood was found in the Chamberlains’ car. A royal commission concluded in 1987 the substance was “sound deadening material” commonly found in cars. Chamberlain, who had been jailed for murder in 1982, was released in 1986 after Azaria’s jacket – a key piece of evidence – was found at Uluru. The royal commission subsequently concluded that a trial judge hearing the same evidence as was before the royal commission “would have been obliged to direct the jury to acquit” Lindy and her then-husband Michael, who had been convicted as an accessory. The Chamberlains were pardoned in 1987 and their convictions quashed in 1988. They received $1.3 million in compensation in 1992. A fourth inquest in 2012 reached the same finding as the first: Azaria had died “as the result of being attacked and taken by a dingo”.

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STORY: "Folbigg release would make Chamberlain case ‘pale into insignificance,’ by Reporter Michaela Whitbourne, published by The Sydney Morning Herald, on March 13, 2023.

SUB-HEADING: "Kathleen Folbigg case: Australia needs body to examine alleged miscarriages of justice."

GIST: "A finding of reasonable doubt about Kathleen Folbigg’s convictions over the deaths of her four children would make the Lindy Chamberlain case “pale into insignificance”, says the head of a scientific body involved in the inquiry into the convictions.


Led by former NSW chief justice Tom Bathurst, KC, the inquiry concluded hearing evidence last month and will receive written submissions from affected parties such as Folbigg, the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions and others within weeks. He will hear closing submissions in Sydney on April 26.


The Australian Academy of Science, a not-for-profit organisation of top scientists, sought and was granted leave to appear at the inquiry to make submissions on issues including appropriate experts to give evidence. It will not suggest to Bathurst what findings he should make.


Anna-Maria Arabia, chief executive of the academy, said the Folbigg case pointed to a need “to reconsider how science is considered in the legal system, and how we deal particularly with advances in science that are rapid”.


Some fellows of the academy have already backed calls for Folbigg’s immediate release from prison, including Professor Carola Garcia de Vinuesa, an immunologist and geneticist who gave evidence about a novel genetic variant Folbigg shared with her two daughters. It was not found in her sons.


The inquiry heard the variant, discovered after Folbigg’s 2003 trial, may cause cardiac arrhythmias – irregular heart rhythms – and sudden unexpected death.


If Bathurst finds reasonable doubt about Folbigg’s convictions, “it will make the Lindy Chamberlain case pale into insignificance”, Arabia said.


Chamberlain was convicted in October 1982 of murdering her infant daughter Azaria and spent three years in prison. She was pardoned in 1987 after a royal commission examined new evidence.


“I don’t think Folbigg has yet captured the public imagination in the same way, but if she’s released this year it’s 20 years [since her conviction],” Arabia said.


Folbigg, 55, is serving a minimum 25-year prison sentence after being convicted in 2003 of the murder of three of her children, Patrick, Sarah, and Laura, and the manslaughter of her first child, Caleb. Each died suddenly between 1989 and 1999, aged between 19 days and 19 months.

  • No expert before the inquiry has ruled out the possibility the genetic variant caused the deaths of Sarah or Laura Folbigg, but they were divided about whether it was likely.


Some expert evidence was heard about potential natural causes of death for Caleb and Patrick.


The inquiry also heard for the first time psychological and psychiatric evidence about the interpretation of Folbigg’s diaries – a key plank of the prosecution’s circumstantial case. No expert concluded the diaries contained clear admissions of criminal guilt.


Potential recommendations

If Bathurst finds reasonable doubt, he may refer the case to the Court of Criminal Appeal to consider quashing Folbigg’s convictions. Previous cases suggest he also has the power to recommend a pardon, which could expedite her release from prison.


A new review body

Arabia said the case presented a compelling argument for NSW and other jurisdictions to set up independent post-conviction review bodies to investigate potential miscarriages of justice, modelled on the UK Criminal Cases Review Commission.


The CCRC investigates criminal cases post appeals. It may refer a case for a fresh appeal where new evidence has emerged. New Zealand established a CCRC in 2020 and Canada is set to follow suit.


“This is exactly what’s happened with the Folbigg case, where … there’s new genetic evidence and information that needs to be brought before the courts,” Arabia said.


Folbigg’s childhood friend Tracy Chapman said that “sometimes the system doesn’t work, and we need mechanisms like the Criminal Cases Review Commission” to examine cases at arm’s length.


Chapman believed the establishment of such a body would be the legacy of the Folbigg case.


“We don’t want this struggle for nothing. It’s not an overthrow [of the system]; it’s an improvement. Both of us feel very passionate about it,” Chapman said.


Diaries, DNA and reasonable doubt: Did Kathleen Folbigg kill her children?

Under the NSW system, people who believe they have been wrongly convicted but have lost appeals may petition the Governor for a review or pardon, or apply to the Supreme Court for an inquiry.


The Governor acts on advice from the Attorney-General and may direct an inquiry be set up, as occurred in the Folbigg case following a May 2021 petition for a pardon. Signatories to the petition included the then-president of the Academy of Science, Professor John Shine.

Scientific evidence has played a key role in high-profile inquiries into convictions in Australia.


The Chamberlain case

The jury in Lindy Chamberlain’s trial over the 1980 death of her nine-week-old daughter Azaria, who disappeared during a camping trip at Uluru, heard evidence suggesting arterial blood was found in the Chamberlains’ car. A royal commission concluded in 1987 the substance was “sound deadening material” commonly found in cars.


Chamberlain, who had been jailed for murder in 1982, was released in 1986 after Azaria’s jacket – a key piece of evidence – was found at Uluru.


The royal commission subsequently concluded that a trial judge hearing the same evidence as was before the royal commission “would have been obliged to direct the jury to acquit” Lindy and her then-husband Michael, who had been convicted as an accessory.


The Chamberlains were pardoned in 1987 and their convictions quashed in 1988. They received $1.3 million in compensation in 1992. A fourth inquest in 2012 reached the same finding as the first: Azaria had died “as the result of being attacked and taken by a dingo”.


Douglas Rendell

Douglas Harry Rendell, convicted in 1980 of the shooting murder of his partner Yvonne Kendall, was pardoned in July 1989 after an inquiry concluded his conviction was unsafe.


The inquiry heard Rendell’s trial had not heard crucial ballistics evidence, available at the time, that a rifle produced by Rendell’s partner was capable of discharging accidentally, as he maintained had occurred.


“The withholding of that information may well have affected the outcome of the trial,” the inquiry found. He received an ex-gratia payment of $100,000 from the NSW government.



Alexander McLeod-Lindsay

Alexander McLeod-Lindsay spent nine years in prison after being convicted in 1965 of the attempted murder of his then-wife, Pamela, who was found bashed in their home. She did not accuse him of the attack.


Expert evidence about bloodstains on McLeod-Lindsay’s jacket, allegedly showing “impact spatter”, was central to the prosecution case. A second inquiry in 1991 heard evidence the blood was clotted and may have transferred onto his jacket when he tried to help his wife.


He was pardoned in 1992 and his conviction was formally quashed in 1994. He received $700,000 in compensation."


The entire story can be read at: 


https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/folbigg-release-would-make-chamberlain-case-pale-into-insignificance-20230307-p5cpya.html

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue/resource. 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;

SEE BREAKDOWN OF SOME OF THE ON-GOING INTERNATIONAL CASES (OUTSIDE OF THE CONTINENTAL USA) THAT I AM FOLLOWING ON THIS BLOG, AT THE LINK BELOW: HL:


https://www.blogger.com/blog/post/edit/120008354894645705/4704913685758792985


FINAL WORD: (Applicable to all of our wrongful conviction cases): "Whenever there is a wrongful conviction, it exposes errors in our criminal legal system, and we hope that this case — and lessons from it — can prevent future injustices."


Lawyer Radha Natarajan:


Executive Director: New England Innocence Project;

—————————————————————————————————


FINAL, FINAL WORD: "Since its inception, the Innocence Project has pushed the criminal legal system to confront and correct the laws and policies that cause and contribute to wrongful convictions. They never shied away from the hard cases — the ones involving eyewitness identifications, confessions, and bite marks. Instead, in the course of presenting scientific evidence of innocence, they've exposed the unreliability of evidence that was, for centuries, deemed untouchable." So true!


Christina Swarns: Executive Director: The Innocence Project;


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YET ANOTHER FINAL WORD:


David Hammond, one of Broadwater’s attorneys who sought his exoneration, told the Syracuse Post-Standard, “Sprinkle some junk science onto a faulty identification, and it’s the perfect recipe for a wrongful conviction.”


https://deadline.com/2021/11/alice-sebold-lucky-rape-conviction-overturned-anthony-broadwater-1234880143/


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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Adnan Syed: (Serial podcast subject): Major (Unwelcome) Development: Bulletin: A court has reinstated his conviction and sentence, WBAL (Digital Media Manager Tommy Ng) report...(Link to opinion and timeline provided)..."A Baltimore City judge in September 2022 ruled to vacate Syed's conviction, and the Lee family filed an appeal over how it was treated. The Lee family filed the appeal, saying it was not given enough notice to have a strong enough voice in the process to vacate the conviction against Syed. But before that appeal could be heard, the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office dropped the charges against Syed entirely, saying DNA evidence cleared him. That led to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals denying the Lee family's appeal before a hearing on it was held."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "The opinion calls for a new, "legally complaint and transparent" hearing on the motion to vacate where the Lee family is given notice of the hearing that is sufficient to allow him to attend in person. According to the opinion, the state's action to drop charges was done purposefully to prevent the Hai Min Lee's brother, Young Lee, from obtaining a ruling on appeal regarding whether his rights as a victim's representative were violated."

STORY: "Adnan Syed's murder conviction, sentence reinstated per court opinion," by Digital Media Manager Tommy Ng,  published by WBAL, on March 28, 2023;

SUB-HEADING: "Opinion says prosecutors violated Young Lee's right to notice of and right to attend hearing to vacate charges."

Adnan Syed's original murder conviction and sentence have been reinstated on the basis that the state violated the victim's family's right to attend the hearing on the motion to vacate, according to a Maryland court opinion posted Tuesday



The opinion calls for a new, "legally complaint and transparent" hearing on the motion to vacate where the Lee family is given notice of the hearing that is sufficient to allow him to attend in person.


According to the opinion, the state's action to drop charges was done purposefully to prevent the Hai Min Lee's brother, Young Lee, from obtaining a ruling on appeal regarding whether his rights as a victim's representative were violated.


As a result, the opinion states that the court has exceptional circumstances to "temper the state's authority" due to a violation of fundamental fairness where it circumvents the right to appeal.


The opinion states a victim doesn't have a statutory right to be heard at a vacatur hearing, but the court has discretion to permit a victim to address the court at a vacatur hearing regarding the impact of the court's decision on the victim and/or the victim's family.


A Baltimore City judge in September 2022 ruled to vacate Syed's conviction, and the Lee family filed an appeal over how it was treated. The Lee family filed the appeal, saying it was not given enough notice to have a strong enough voice in the process to vacate the conviction against Syed.


But before that appeal could be heard, the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office dropped the charges against Syed entirely, saying DNA evidence cleared him. That led to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals denying the Lee family's appeal before a hearing on it was held."


The entire story can be read at:


https://www.wbaltv.com/article/adnan-syed-murder-conviction-sentence-reinstated/43442507?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Email%20-%20Local%20Breaking%20News&utm_source=64232b61f6d091ca5ff5242f08a6a4ef&brzu=c838168dc7288e7a8617e09d806f21e6cabd8958c3f89186ca123dd43bf5d249&lctg=60bf1961d995e014c7041791

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue/resource. 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;

SEE BREAKDOWN OF SOME OF THE ON-GOING INTERNATIONAL CASES (OUTSIDE OF THE CONTINENTAL USA) THAT I AM FOLLOWING ON THIS BLOG, AT THE LINK BELOW: HL:


https://www.blogger.com/blog/post/edit/120008354894645705/4704913685758792985


FINAL WORD: (Applicable to all of our wrongful conviction cases): "Whenever there is a wrongful conviction, it exposes errors in our criminal legal system, and we hope that this case — and lessons from it — can prevent future injustices."


Lawyer Radha Natarajan:


Executive Director: New England Innocence Project;

—————————————————————————————————


FINAL, FINAL WORD: "Since its inception, the Innocence Project has pushed the criminal legal system to confront and correct the laws and policies that cause and contribute to wrongful convictions. They never shied away from the hard cases — the ones involving eyewitness identifications, confessions, and bite marks. Instead, in the course of presenting scientific evidence of innocence, they've exposed the unreliability of evidence that was, for centuries, deemed untouchable." So true!


Christina Swarns: Executive Director: The Innocence Project;


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YET ANOTHER FINAL WORD:


David Hammond, one of Broadwater’s attorneys who sought his exoneration, told the Syracuse Post-Standard, “Sprinkle some junk science onto a faulty identification, and it’s the perfect recipe for a wrongful conviction.”


https://deadline.com/2021/11/alice-sebold-lucky-rape-conviction-overturned-anthony-broadwater-1234880143/


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Charles McCrory: Alabama: Junk bite-mark 'science.' As investigative reporters Liliana Segura and Jordan Smith report in 'The Intercept,' in this outstanding piece of journalism, his conviction relied on debunked bite-mark Science and raises a very important question: Why Is Charles McRory still locked up?... "Although a famed bite-mark analyst insisted at trial that the mark conclusively linked McCrory to the murder, that same expert has since recanted, saying he would never deliver such testimony today. In the years since McCrory was convicted, bite-mark analysis has been roundly discredited as junk science. Nevertheless, the judge who presided over the evidentiary hearing was unmoved. He ruled against McCrory, keeping him locked up. McCrory is the last known defendant still imprisoned for a conviction almost entirely based on the faulty forensic practice."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "In 2022, The Intercept published a deep-dive investigation into McCrory’s case, detailing his long-standing claim of innocence. But the evidence pointing to his wrongful conviction was not discussed at the parole hearing. Maintaining innocence is rarely a winning strategy in front of parole boards, which expect contrition from the incarcerated people who appear before them. It’s the court system, theoretically at least, that is supposed to consider whether evidence supports a claim of innocence. When a trial judge rejects such a claim, as the Covington County judge did in McCrory’s case, then it falls to appellate courts to determine whether that was the right call. So far that has not helped McCrory either. The courts that have reviewed his conviction have willfully ignored the discredited forensic evidence at the heart of his case, dismissing the bite-mark expert’s recantation and going so far as to craft an entirely new narrative of the crime in order to keep McCrory in prison."

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PASSAGE TWO OF THE DAY: "Bite-mark analysis depends on two assertions: that human dentition is unique and that skin is a suitable substrate to record that uniqueness. Neither is true; research has revealed that human dentition is not unique, and skin, as malleable as it is, is a poor medium for preserving an accurate record of injury. In recent years, the scientific community has repeatedly interrogated bite-mark analysis, deeming it a random and purely subjective practice. To date, more than two dozen people convicted on bite-mark evidence have been exonerated. In 2020, Loudon-Brown and attorney Chris Fabricant of the Innocence Project filed a petition with the court in Andalusia where McCrory was tried, asserting his innocence and asking that his conviction be overturned. They had powerful new evidence: Souviron had recanted his trial testimony. “I no longer believe, as I did at the time of trial, that there is a valid scientific basis for concluding that the injury found on the skin of the victim … could be ‘matched’ or otherwise connected to a specific individual,” he wrote in an affidavit. “I therefore renounce that testimony.” Circuit Judge Lex Short convened an evidentiary hearing the following spring. Two forensic odontologists, Adam Freeman and Cynthia Brzozowski, former true believers in bite-mark evidence, testified about the discipline’s demise and said there was no basis to conclude that the marks on Julie’s arm were made by teeth, let alone McCrory’s teeth."


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STORY: "His Conviction Relied on Debunked Bite-Mark Science. Why Is He Still Locked Up?, by Reporters Liliana Segura and Jordan Smith, published by 'The Intercept,"  on March 12, 2023. ("Liliana Segura is an award-winning investigative journalist covering the U.S. criminal justice system, with a longtime focus on harsh sentencing, the death penalty, and wrongful convictions. She was previously an associate editor at the Nation Magazine, where she edited a number of award-winning stories and earned a 2014 Media for a Just Society Award for her writing on prison profiteering. While at The Intercept, Segura has received the Texas Gavel Award in 2016 and the 2017 Innocence Network Journalism Award for her investigations into convictions in Arizona and Ohio. In 2019 she was honored in the Abolitionist category of the Frederick Douglass 200, a recognition given by the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives and the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University......Jordan Smith is a state and national award-winning investigative journalist based in Austin, Texas. She has covered criminal justice for more than 20 years and, during that time, has developed a reputation as a resourceful and dogged reporter with a talent for analyzing complex social and legal issues. She is regarded as one of the best investigative reporters in Texas. A longtime staff writer for the Austin Chronicle, her work has also appeared in The Nation, the Crime Report, and Salon, among other places.")

SUB-HEADING: "Alabama is determined to keep Charles McCrory in prison even though the evidence against him has fallen apart."


GIST: "ON A RAINY MORNING in early February, Chad McCrory rose to speak at the headquarters of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles in Montgomery. Wearing a dark suit, a paisley tie, and a white visitor sticker over his breast pocket, he unfolded a piece of yellow notebook paper and placed it on the podium. A small digital timer sat in front of him, set for two minutes. This was all the time he had to explain to the board why, nearly four decades after his mother was murdered, Chad wanted her supposed killer — his 64-year-old father, Charles — to come home.


“Julie Bonds McCrory was my mother,” Chad said. “She was taken from me from a very early age. I’m 40 years old now.” Chad had no memory of the murder or his father’s 1985 trial. The crime had traumatized the tight-knit community of Andalusia, where Chad still lives, turning neighbors against Charles McCrory as soon as he became a suspect. But as long as Chad could remember, his father had insisted he was innocent — and most of his family believed him.


“I was raised by my grandparents,” Chad continued. “My dad’s parents. They loved my mom like their own child.” Although they supported Chad’s relationship with his incarcerated father, “they also encouraged me to make my own decision on supporting him.” As he got older, Chad said, he tried to keep an open mind about family members who believed McCrory was guilty. He spent hours talking to his maternal uncle, Barry Bonds, who consistently opposed his father’s release. Yet Chad said he was grateful for their time together. “I learned a lot of things about my mom growing up.” He could never get her back. But he hoped to reunite with his father before he died behind bars.


Chad’s wife and other family members watched the proceeding with a mix of attentiveness and resignation. “They’ve pretty much made up their minds,” Charles McCrory’s younger sister, Laura Grissett, said before the hearing began. “It feels just like a waste of time.” Although the board chair, former Birmingham prosecutor Leigh Gwathney, smiled encouragingly as Chad spoke, they knew better than to feel hopeful. The hearing had begun with a tense exchange between Gwathney and McCrory’s lawyer, Mark Loudon-Brown of the Southern Center for Human Rights, who reiterated a point he’d emphasized in McCrory’s parole application: that prosecutors in Covington County — the same office that convicted his client — had made clear that they no longer considered McCrory a threat to public safety.


“In April of 2021, the district attorney made Mr. McCrory an offer to time served that would have allowed him to leave court that very day and go home unsupervised,” Loudon-Brown said during his own two-minute presentation. The offer, which McCrory rejected because it came with the requirement that he admit to killing his wife, was made on the eve of an evidentiary hearing that would debunk the single most important piece of evidence that sent McCrory to prison for life: a supposed bite mark found on his wife’s body.


Although a famed bite-mark analyst insisted at trial that the mark conclusively linked McCrory to the murder, that same expert has since recanted, saying he would never deliver such testimony today. In the years since McCrory was convicted, bite-mark analysis has been roundly discredited as junk science. Nevertheless, the judge who presided over the evidentiary hearing was unmoved. He ruled against McCrory, keeping him locked up. McCrory is the last known defendant still imprisoned for a conviction almost entirely based on the faulty forensic practice.


Regardless of his client’s innocence claim, Loudon-Brown said, the offer from prosecutors reflected a belief that McCrory had been “sufficiently punished, that his release would be consistent with the safety of the community … and that his exemplary prison record justifies his release.” Gwathney bristled at this characterization. “Did the district attorney make those statements regarding his reasoning?” she asked pointedly. Wasn’t it possible he had different reasons for offering such a deal? Loudon-Brown conceded there were likely a number of reasons. But the offer still showed a willingness to free McCrory — the very question now before the parole board.


Gwathney’s posture made clear how she intended to vote. Under her tenure, the number of applicants granted parole has dropped precipitously. In Alabama, parole proceedings are cursory and notoriously stacked against incarcerated people, who are not even allowed to attend their own hearings. Yet in some ways, McCrory was luckier than most. Unlike the man whose case was called before his that morning, he had family members present, a legal advocate, and even the support of a retired Department of Corrections employee, who felt strongly enough to appear before the board in person. Retired after 35 years, she described McCrory as “a very skilled, very talented, and very intelligent person. I had no fears of him whatsoever.”


Chad was still speaking when the timer went off. “This has been the 12th parole board we’ve attended,” he said, urging the board to consider the many certificates his father had earned behind bars. Chad tried to make a final point: The prosecutors who made the plea offer were part of his community too; people he did business with, went to church with. “And I feel like —”

The bailiff stepped forward. “Your time is up,” he said.


Rush to Judgment

In 2022, The Intercept published a deep-dive investigation into McCrory’s case, detailing his long-standing claim of innocence. But the evidence pointing to his wrongful conviction was not discussed at the parole hearing. Maintaining innocence is rarely a winning strategy in front of parole boards, which expect contrition from the incarcerated people who appear before them. It’s the court system, theoretically at least, that is supposed to consider whether evidence supports a claim of innocence. When a trial judge rejects such a claim, as the Covington County judge did in McCrory’s case, then it falls to appellate courts to determine whether that was the right call.


So far that has not helped McCrory either. The courts that have reviewed his conviction have willfully ignored the discredited forensic evidence at the heart of his case, dismissing the bite-mark expert’s recantation and going so far as to craft an entirely new narrative of the crime in order to keep McCrory in prison.


Julie McCrory’s body was found inside the couple’s house on the morning of May 31, 1985. She was lying prone, her head was bashed in, and she’d been repeatedly stabbed in the chest. Chad, then 3 years old, was found unharmed in his crib. The police quickly zeroed in on McCrory as their only suspect: He and Julie were separated, and McCrory had been having an affair with a former co-worker. At trial, the theory seemed to be that he’d savagely murdered Julie to be free from her.


The police investigation was cursory at best. Detectives searched McCrory’s home and car and found nothing to connect him to the bloody crime. Police also found personal items that prosecutors sought to introduce at trial despite their lack of relevance to the crime: a VHS tape and a collection of photos featuring Julie and her husband in kinky scenarios. “There is more than one scene in which the young lady is — what is considered in bondage,” a defense witness testified at a pretrial hearing. The state apparently hoped to show that “bondage sex” could lead to “stronger and stronger acts of violence,” as one prosecutor put it. Although the items were barred by the presiding judge, rumors swirled in the run-up to the trial, and many came to believe that the murder was linked to some kind of sex ring.


According to the state’s star witness, the puncture wounds on Julie’s arm were a perfect match to McCrory’s unique dentition.

Ultimately, the state latched onto a single piece of physical evidence as dispositive of McCrory’s guilt: two small indentations on the back of Julie’s right arm, which they concluded was a bite mark made by McCrory’s allegedly distinctive dentition.


The state rushed the case to trial in October 1985, but there was little else in the way of evidence. McCrory and his father had been the first to discover Julie’s body that morning; they’d gone to check on her after she failed to drop Chad off at his grandparents’ house. Police decided that McCrory was acting strangely when they arrived on the scene. Detective Billy Treadaway testified that McCrory asked him if Julie had been killed by a “lick on the back of her head,” which he found odd since her injuries had not yet been documented. Under cross-examination, Treadaway acknowledged that Julie was found with her head in a pool of blood but insisted, “You couldn’t see the lick on the back of the head. You could just see her head splattered open.”


The most important witness for the state was Dr. Richard Souviron, a forensic dentist who rose to fame after testifying during the trial of serial killer Ted Bundy. Even though Souviron had cautioned prosecutors early on against using the bite mark at McCrory’s trial absent other solid physical evidence, when he got on the stand, he was unequivocal, saying that the two puncture wounds on Julie’s arm were a perfect match to McCrory’s unique dentition — and only .5 percent of people in the world had dentition like McCrory’s.


The next day, the jury found McCrory guilty. He was sentenced to life in prison.



A Star Witness Recants

Bite-mark analysis depends on two assertions: that human dentition is unique and that skin is a suitable substrate to record that uniqueness. Neither is true; research has revealed that human dentition is not unique, and skin, as malleable as it is, is a poor medium for preserving an accurate record of injury. In recent years, the scientific community has repeatedly interrogated bite-mark analysis, deeming it a random and purely subjective practice. To date, more than two dozen people convicted on bite-mark evidence have been exonerated.


In 2020, Loudon-Brown and attorney Chris Fabricant of the Innocence Project filed a petition with the court in Andalusia where McCrory was tried, asserting his innocence and asking that his conviction be overturned. They had powerful new evidence: Souviron had recanted his trial testimony. “I no longer believe, as I did at the time of trial, that there is a valid scientific basis for concluding that the injury found on the skin of the victim … could be ‘matched’ or otherwise connected to a specific individual,” he wrote in an affidavit. “I therefore renounce that testimony.”


Circuit Judge Lex Short convened an evidentiary hearing the following spring. Two forensic odontologists, Adam Freeman and Cynthia Brzozowski, former true believers in bite-mark evidence, testified about the discipline’s demise and said there was no basis to conclude that the marks on Julie’s arm were made by teeth, let alone McCrory’s teeth.


More than two dozen people convicted on bite-mark evidence have been exonerated.

Covington County Chief Assistant District Attorney Grace Jeter did not call any experts to rebut Freeman and Brzozowski, but she dismissed Souviron’s recantation, suggesting that there was a difference between bite-mark analysis and “teeth-mark” analysis, and that Souviron had engaged in the latter. She told the judge that even without Souviron, the jurors could have taken the molds of McCrory’s teeth and photos of Julie’s injuries and made the comparison on their own.


Jurors aren’t “allowed to engage in their own junk science,” Loudon-Brown responded.

Short issued a brief ruling in February 2022, which parroted Jeter’s arguments and denied McCrory relief. The judge ignored Souviron’s recantation, found that Freeman and Brzozowski offered little more than a difference of opinion — what’s known as impeachment evidence — and agreed that jurors could have decided for themselves that the injury to Julie’s arm was inflicted by McCrory. Even without Souviron’s testimony, Short concluded, there was enough circumstantial evidence tying McCrory to the murder, such as his comment about the “lick” on Julie’s head, to uphold the jury’s verdict.


McCrory’s lawyers contested the ruling before the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Souviron’s opinion wasn’t merely challenged by other dentists, they noted, but wholly recanted. The discredited bite-mark analysis was the only evidence tying McCrory to the murder; without it, there was nothing to sustain his conviction.


The lawyers argued that police had failed to consider evidence that pointed away from McCrory, including hairs found clutched in Julie’s hand. And while there was physical evidence from the crime scene that could have been tested for DNA, it was subsequently destroyed by the state. Today, all that remains in the evidence room at the courthouse is the dental mold of McCrory’s teeth.


Willful Ignorance

In its reply to the appeals court, the state, now represented by the attorney general’s office, amplified Short’s conclusions. It ignored Souviron’s recantation (save for a single reference to it as “alleged”) and leaned into the argument that McCrory’s challenge to his conviction was nothing more than a dispute over differing expert opinions amid the “shifting science” of bite-mark analysis.


The state also relied on a creative recasting of the facts.


In her brief, Assistant Attorney General Kristi O. Wilkerson dismissed the allegation that the cops had failed to pursue evidence of an alternate suspect and spun circumstantial elements of the case, like the fact of McCrory’s affair, into an elaborate narrative that bore little resemblance to the testimony offered at trial. McCrory was “passionately in love” with the woman he’d had an affair with, desperate to sever ties with Julie, and turned to murder as the only way out. Julie’s death, she wrote, would solve all McCrory’s problems.


Wilkerson’s brief tried to make it appear that the case against McCrory was about everything but the alleged bite mark — a position that the trial prosecutor does not share. In an interview with Loudon-Brown after the 2021 evidentiary hearing, the prosecutor said the bite mark was “key” to the state’s case and “clearly” the basis of McCrory’s conviction.



“Her decision not to recuse jeopardized the partiality of the entire court.”

The state’s reframing of the issue apparently sat just fine with the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, which denied McCrory’s appeal in December. The opinion was mostly cribbed from the court’s denial of McCrory’s first appeal back in 1986 and quoted extensively from Short’s ruling. It, too, failed to acknowledge Souviron’s recantation and suggested that while there might be issues with bite-mark analysis, the same could not be said of “teeth-mark analysis.”

McCrory’s lawyers asked the court to reconsider its position. 


“This court erroneously split hairs regarding a pseudo-distinction between ‘bite marks’ and ‘teeth marks,’ wrongly concluding that Mr. McCrory’s petition is based on mere impeachment evidence that would not have changed the result of his trial,” they wrote. “An unrebutted and unimpeached recantation of critical expert testimony is not merely impeachment evidence — the evidence no longer exists.”


And there was a second problem: One of the appeals court judges, Elizabeth Kellum, had previously worked at the attorney general’s office and argued against McCrory’s 1986 appeal. “Judge Kellum signed the state’s brief in Mr. McCrory’s original appeal,” his lawyers wrote. 



“This creates an appearance of impropriety that, under the canons of judicial ethics, mandates recusal. Her decision not to recuse jeopardized the partiality of the entire court and violated Mr. McCrory’s constitutional rights.”


The court agreed to rehear the case, but instead of actually doing so, it merely removed Kellum’s name and reissued its previous opinion.


“When Judge Kellum was an assistant attorney general, she advocated for the state, against Mr. McCrory,” Loudon-Brown wrote in a statement to The Intercept. “Her involvement as a judge hearing Mr. McCrory’s case after she litigated against him cannot be squared with the constitutional requirement that judges be impartial and objective decision makers.”

Loudon-Brown said that McCrory’s team will again ask the court to reconsider his case. If it declines, they will appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court.



Who Speaks for the Dead?

Outside the building where McCrory’s parole hearing took place, signs directed visitors to one of two doors. There was the “Victim Waiting Room” and the “Offender Waiting Room.” People like Chad — the victim’s son, who also supported his father — were assigned to the latter category.


The hearing room was similarly divided. On the left side, relatives who opposed parole sat alongside lawyers for the state. Also present was a representative of the nonprofit Victims of Crime and Leniency, or VOCAL, which attends all parole hearings and opposes release in every homicide case.


At around 9:30 a.m., Barry Bonds, Chad’s uncle, stood to address the board. “I am here to protest Charles McCrory’s release,” he said. “It’s a very long story, and I can’t get it all in in the time that I have.” As Julie’s youngest brother, Bonds said, he once looked up to McCrory, who was an EMT and auxiliary police officer. “He got me involved in the Andalusia Rescue Squad.” But then he pivoted, invoking the rumors that had swirled around McCrory’s trial. “There was a lot of wife-swapping, a lot of sex stuff going on in the community,” he said, without elaborating.

“The one thing that has stuck in my mind for many years,” Bonds went on, was the statement McCrory made at the scene: “‘Did the blow to the back of her head kill her?’ Only someone that was there would ask that question.” If McCrory would simply confess to the crime, Bonds suggested, he might still be able to “spend eternity in heaven.”


“I am the voice of Julie. … I never had the opportunity to know her.”

The next speaker was VOCAL Director Janette Grantham. Although she said she’d been asked by Julie’s family not to oppose parole for McCrory, she took it upon herself to speak anyway. “I am the voice of Julie,” she said. “I never had the opportunity to know her. But I’m sure if she had the opportunity to be here today, she would tell you she did not want to die.” McCrory had been convicted and sentenced to life by a jury of 12 people, Grantham said, therefore he should remain in prison. This was what his victim deserved. “And she deserves to have her voice heard today.”


There were two prosecutors representing the state. Nayla Contreras, of the attorney general’s office, reminded the board that parole is “a privilege and not a right.” The fact that someone “is doing exceptionally well in prison” does not mean they should be released. McCrory was behind bars because of acts he chose to commit, she said, things he’s never owned up to. “Yes, 40 years is quite a long time to serve in prison. But I would submit to the board this morning that 40 years is a long time to be in a grave as well.”


Finally, there was Nikki Stephens, an assistant district attorney in Covington County. “I’m honored to speak today on behalf of and for Julie McCrory’s family,” she said. She quickly rehashed the evidence the state had presented ad nauseam: McCrory’s “salacious affair”; the brutality of the murder and extent of Julie’s injuries, which she described in graphic detail; and finally, McCrory’s incriminating statement. “And I quote: ‘Was it the lick to the back of the head that killed her?’”



Stephens disputed Loudon-Brown’s characterization of the state’s rationale for offering a plea deal in 2021. The real reason was that the case was at a “particular posture at that point,” she explained. “I don’t know that, if the conviction were overturned, we would be able to retry the case because of witness issues.” Many of the people involved in the investigation were deceased, Stephens explained. She made no mention of the state’s star witness, Souviron, who is very much alive.


After a few minutes of deliberation with the sole other board member in attendance (a former state trooper), Gwathney, the board chair, announced their decision. Parole was denied. “It is also the unanimous decision of the board that parole will be reconsidered in five years,” she said, prompting the bailiffs to see everyone out.


It had stopped raining when Chad and his group got outside. They gathered in a circle while Loudon-Brown explained his team’s next steps. They would keep fighting in the courts, he said. 


A few minutes later, the group was asked to clear the sidewalk leading to the parking lot. Shortly afterward, Bonds emerged from the building flanked by security staff, who escorted him to his car. 


The implication that Bonds needed protection from the rest of the family angered Grissett, McCrory’s sister. In the eyes of the state, Bonds’s opposition to freeing McCrory made him the only victim that counted. “Chad has never been treated as a victim,” she said."


The entire story can be read at: 


https://theintercept.com/2023/03/12/bite-mark-analysis-charles-mccrory-alabama/

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue/resource. 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;

SEE BREAKDOWN OF SOME OF THE ON-GOING INTERNATIONAL CASES (OUTSIDE OF THE CONTINENTAL USA) THAT I AM FOLLOWING ON THIS BLOG, AT THE LINK BELOW: HL:


https://www.blogger.com/blog/post/edit/120008354894645705/4704913685758792985


FINAL WORD: (Applicable to all of our wrongful conviction cases): "Whenever there is a wrongful conviction, it exposes errors in our criminal legal system, and we hope that this case — and lessons from it — can prevent future injustices."


Lawyer Radha Natarajan:


Executive Director: New England Innocence Project;

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FINAL, FINAL WORD: "Since its inception, the Innocence Project has pushed the criminal legal system to confront and correct the laws and policies that cause and contribute to wrongful convictions. They never shied away from the hard cases — the ones involving eyewitness identifications, confessions, and bite marks. Instead, in the course of presenting scientific evidence of innocence, they've exposed the unreliability of evidence that was, for centuries, deemed untouchable." So true!


Christina Swarns: Executive Director: The Innocence Project;


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YET ANOTHER FINAL WORD:


David Hammond, one of Broadwater’s attorneys who sought his exoneration, told the Syracuse Post-Standard, “Sprinkle some junk science onto a faulty identification, and it’s the perfect recipe for a wrongful conviction.”


https://deadline.com/2021/11/alice-sebold-lucky-rape-conviction-overturned-anthony-broadwater-1234880143/


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