Monday, November 18, 2019

Cristhian Bahena Rivera: Iowa: False confession case. Pre-trial hearing: "A confession by the suspect in the death of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts is not reliable because he was sleep deprived and susceptible to coercion after hours of questioning, a defense expert testified Thursday." Associated Press reports..."Brian Leslie, a consultant with expertise in interrogation techniques, said he reviewed video of the 11-hour interrogation of Cristhian Bahena Rivera that took place in August 2018. He noted that the suspect denied involvement in Tibbett’s disappearance until near the end, around 4 a.m., after he had been falling in and out of sleep. Leslie said Rivera, who had worked his shift at a dairy farm and had been awake for 24 hours, was vulnerable to suggestions that police had strong evidence and would help him if he confessed. “Based on the sleep deprivation aspect and the amount of various techniques that were used, I would in my opinion not take a lot of what was said as credible,” Leslie said. Leslie testified at the end of a two-day hearing on Rivera’s motion to suppress his confession, which his lawyers argue was the product of an improper interrogation."


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: This 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   are to widely used interrogation methods  such as  the notorious ‘Reid Technique.’"

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog:

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

PASSAGE ONE OF THE DAY: "A confession by the suspect in the death of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts is not reliable because he was sleep deprived and susceptible to coercion after hours of questioning, a defense expert testified Thursday. Brian Leslie, a consultant with expertise in interrogation techniques, said he reviewed video of the 11-hour interrogation of Cristhian Bahena Rivera that took place in August 2018. He noted that the suspect denied involvement in Tibbett’s disappearance until near the end, around 4 a.m., after he had been falling in and out of sleep. Leslie said Rivera, who had worked his shift at a dairy farm and had been awake for 24 hours, was vulnerable to suggestions that police had strong evidence and would help him if he confessed. “Based on the sleep deprivation aspect and the amount of various techniques that were used, I would in my opinion not take a lot of what was said as credible,” Leslie said. Leslie testified at the end of a two-day hearing on Rivera’s motion to suppress his confession, which his lawyers argue was the product of an improper interrogation. Judge Joel Yates said he would take the matter under advisement and rule “as quickly as I can.”

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

PASSAGE TWO OF THE DAY: "An autopsy found Tibbetts died from sharp force injuries. No murder weapon has been found. Prosecutor Scott Brown blasted Leslie, the defense expert, for failing to consider evidence that corroborated Rivera’s confession. Brown noted that Rivera was able to lead officers after the interrogation several miles to the cornfield where her body was found. He noted that DNA testing proved blood found in the trunk of Rivera’s car came from Tibbetts. Leslie said it was unusual that a deputy who drove with Rivera to the cornfield didn’t turn on the camera in his car Multiple officers testified that Rivera asked that he be taken to his home so he could orient himself before he directed them down several roads to the field where the body was found underneath leaves. Police questioned Rivera after tying him to a car that was seen on surveillance video circling Tibbetts while she ran. They took him in for questioning on Aug. 20, 2018. Police argue that Rivera voluntarily agreed to be interviewed. After six hours, they put an immigration detainer on him after the discovery of blood in his car. An officer gave him an incomplete Miranda warning before questioning resumed for hours. Prosecutors concede that some of his statements are likely inadmissible due to the botched warning. But they argued that evidence related to the body should be admissible, claiming it would have been found eventually. Defense lawyers argued that the entire 11-hour interrogation was tainted. Two of Rivera’s relatives testified Thursday that they were denied access to him when he was being questioned."

-----------------------------------------------------------------
 
STORY: "Defense expert: Iowa murder suspect's confession unreliable," by Associated Press, published on November 14, 2019.

GIST: "A confession by the suspect in the death of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts is not reliable because he was sleep deprived and susceptible to coercion after hours of questioning, a defense expert testified Thursday. Brian Leslie, a consultant with expertise in interrogation techniques, said he reviewed video of the 11-hour interrogation of Cristhian Bahena Rivera that took place in August 2018. He noted that the suspect denied involvement in Tibbett’s disappearance until near the end, around 4 a.m., after he had been falling in and out of sleep. Leslie said Rivera, who had worked his shift at a dairy farm and had been awake for 24 hours, was vulnerable to suggestions that police had strong evidence and would help him if he confessed. “Based on the sleep deprivation aspect and the amount of various techniques that were used, I would in my opinion not take a lot of what was said as credible,” Leslie said. Leslie testified at the end of a two-day hearing on Rivera’s motion to suppress his confession, which his lawyers argue was the product of an improper interrogation. Judge Joel Yates said he would take the matter under advisement and rule “as quickly as I can.” Rivera, 25, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Tibbetts, who disappeared while out running in Brooklyn, Iowa, in July 2018. Rivera, a Mexican national who was living illegally in the United States, is scheduled to stand trial in February and faces life in prison if convicted. His lawyers declined to call Rivera to testify after Yates ruled that he should be cross-examined about his claim that he didn’t understand certain legal rights and was scared to invoke others. At the end of the interrogation, Rivera told police he followed Tibbetts while she was running. Rivera didn’t describe how she was killed, claiming that he “blacked out,” but he said he bloody body in his trunk. An autopsy found Tibbetts died from sharp force injuries. No murder weapon has been found. Prosecutor Scott Brown blasted Leslie, the defense expert, for failing to consider evidence that corroborated Rivera’s confession. Brown noted that Rivera was able to lead officers after the interrogation several miles to the cornfield where her body was found. He noted that DNA testing proved blood found in the trunk of Rivera’s car came from Tibbetts. Leslie said it was unusual that a deputy who drove with Rivera to the cornfield didn’t turn on the camera in his car Multiple officers testified that Rivera asked that he be taken to his home so he could orient himself before he directed them down several roads to the field where the body was found underneath leaves. Police questioned Rivera after tying him to a car that was seen on surveillance video circling Tibbetts while she ran. They took him in for questioning on Aug. 20, 2018. Police argue that Rivera voluntarily agreed to be interviewed. After six hours, they put an immigration detainer on him after the discovery of blood in his car. An officer gave him an incomplete Miranda warning before questioning resumed for hours. Prosecutors concede that some of his statements are likely inadmissible due to the botched warning. But they argued that evidence related to the body should be admissible, claiming it would have been found eventually. Defense lawyers argued that the entire 11-hour interrogation was tainted. Two of Rivera’s relatives testified Thursday that they were denied access to him when he was being questioned. His aunt, Alejandra Cervantes Valle, said an officer at the sheriff’s office advised her that he wouldn’t need an attorney."

The entire story can be read at: 
https://www.daytondailynews.com/news/national/defense-expert-iowa-murder-suspect-confession-unreliable/akd8WMxgAtGsaSJz9OGQfM/

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic"  section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com.  Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Marshall Project: (Birthday greetings); Editor's Note: This week is the Fifth birthday of this superb web- site which is one of the finest sources of analysis of America's criminal justice system, pushes for enlightened reform, and source of many important stories involving forensic matters of interest to the readers of our Blog. (Sign up at the link below to register for their outstanding daily release).


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: "Happy  Fifth Birthday to the Marshall Project  and the fine writers,  editors and support staff  who produce it. In the words of founder Neil Barsky:  "I founded The Marshall Project five years ago to address two urgent needs: first, I believed our criminal justice system, and the mass incarceration it spawned, was a national disgrace. At the same time, I was mindful that there were already thousands of committed individuals fighting for reform in the courts and on the streets. What we needed was a national conversation that would prompt people to understand the urgency of criminal justice reform in the courts and on the streets." Readers will find much more than a conversation in the Marshall Project's posts. You will also be treated to  tough, perceptive,  challenging,  informative journalism on the most criminal justice issues of the day. Bravo.  Check out The Marshall Project at: themarshallproject.org

Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog.

The entire post can be read at:
https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=wm#inbox/FMfcgxwGBmqTVgFMQlXBHPKlNkdxcRQV

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic"  section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com.  Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Rodney Reed: Death Row: Texas: Innocence Project calls for continuing action by supporters during the indefinate stay of execution now that Texas's highest court has ordered the claims of Brady violations, false testimony and actual innocence in Mr. Reed’s case back to the trial court... "This opportunity (the indefinate stay of execution) will allow for proper consideration of the powerful and mounting new evidence of Mr. Reed’s innocence." (Links to decsions of Texas's Parole Board and Appeal Court decisions provided at link below).

STEPS WHICH CAN BE TAKEN BY SUPPORTERS:

1. Share this news on social media: BREAKING NEWS: Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has granted @innocence client #RodneyReed an indefinite stay of execution, meaning he no longer has an execution date! Thank you to all who called, tweeted and spoke out against the execution of an innocent person: https://bit.ly/33SqaKW
2. Add your name to stay involved in Rodney’s case.
3. Support Rodney’s family. Rodney Reed’s family will continue to need resources to advocate for his innocence. Donate here to help them in their fight.

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

The entire post can be read at:
https://www.innocenceproject.org/texas-court-of-criminal-appeals-has-granted-rodney-reed-an-indefinite-stay-of-execution/

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, November 15, 2019

Rodney Reed: Death Row: Texas: Another Major Development: Fantastic News. HL. "The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has granted Rodney Reed an indefinite stay of execution, meaning he no longer has an execution date. This news came just hours after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously recommended a reprieve of Rodney's execution," The Innocence Project reports.


The  entire Innocence Project release can be read at:
https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=wm#inbox/FMfcgxwGBmqSZZGSKVKzqcxbTWCDFkDs

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;

Rodney Reed: Death Row: Texas: Major ( Very Welcome) Development: Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommends delaying the execution - scheduled for November 20 - for 120 days, subject to Governor Abbott's approval. Per change.org (the petition site): "This is a recommendation only, and the Governor still needs to sign off on it. This is not the same as exoneration--so while this is great news, it is not yet a victory." More to follow as news develops. HL. From today's story in The New York Times: "The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted Friday to recommend that Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas delay the execution of Rodney Reed by 120 days. The case has received intense attention in recent weeks as celebrities and lawmakers have called on the governor to intervene after new evidence surfaced. The execution of Mr. Reed, 51, is scheduled for Wednesday. He was convicted of the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites in Bastrop, Tex. The governor can now either accept or reject the unanimous recommendation of the seven-member parole board."


The entire change.org post can be read at:
https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=wm#inbox/FMfcgxwGBmqSQMmBwbhxqTDkCKgrdkdK

Read New York Times story at the link below:" Reporters Manny Fernandez and The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted Friday to recommend that Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas delay the execution of Rodney Reed by 120 days. The case has received intense attention in recent weeks as celebrities and lawmakers have called on the governor to intervene after new evidence surfaced. The execution of Mr. Reed, 51, is scheduled for Wednesday. He was convicted of the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites in Bastrop, Tex. The governor can now either accept or reject the unanimous recommendation of the seven-member parole board. A spokesman for Mr. Abbott did not respond to requests for comment. “I have tears streaming down my cheeks,” said Andrew MacRae, one of Mr. Reed’s lawyers. “I’m overwhelmed, but not yet ecstatic, because we have to wait for the governor to act. But assuming he approves this, I’m going to call Rodney’s mom, and that will be ecstatic.""

 https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/15/us/rodney-reed-texas-execution.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;

Do no harm: 'Child abuse pediatricians': They come under scrutiny once again by reporters Keri Blakinger and Mike Hixenbaugh in their excellent NBC News/Houston Chronicle series 'Do no harm,' which has been highlighting the plight of parents who’d been accused of child abuse based on mistaken reports by doctors..."The reporting showed that child welfare workers removed some children from homes after receiving reports from state-funded child abuse pediatricians that were later called into question, leading to traumatic family separations and monthslong legal fights." Major Development: The series has prompted a daylong hearing by Texas lawmakers.


PASSAGE OF THE DAY:  "Rep. James Frank, the committee chairman, said the NBC News and Chronicle investigation exposed serious problems and that Tuesday’s hearing was the first step in coming up with solutions “We’re here to learn from past mistakes,” Frank said at the start of the hearing, which also featured testimony from child welfare officials, prosecutors and doctors. Committee members peppered officials with broad questions about the enormous weight given to the opinions of child abuse doctors, and how to weigh child safety against the possibility of an unnecessary removal. The elected officials zeroed in with more targeted questions about the appropriateness of the current legal standards for taking children, the agency’s wildly varying removal rates across the state, and concerns about whether child abuse specialists can accurately evaluate children they didn’t personally examine. Dr. James Lukefahr, a child abuse pediatrician based in San Antonio, testified on behalf of the Texas chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Lukefahr defended the work of child abuse pediatricians, a new and growing medical subspecialty of doctors who work closely with child welfare agencies to identify signs of abuse and protect children from additional harm."

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

STORY: "Parents call for reforms to protect families from mistaken child abuse allegations,"   by Mike Hixenbaugh,  a national investigative reporter for NBC News, based in Houston and Keri Blakinger, Houston Chronicle reporter specializing in criminal justice, co-authors of the  collaborative series "Do no harm."

SUB-HEADING: "Texas lawmakers pledge to “learn from past mistakes” as parents recall the pain of having children taken following disputed doctor reports."


PHOTO CAPTION: "Jason and Lorina Troy temporarily lost custody of their children based on a child abuse pediatrician's finding.
 

AUSTIN, Texas — Lorina Troy’s voice trembled as she told lawmakers about the moment her baby and 4-year-old son were taken away by Child Protective Services. “Are they going to hurt me, Mommy?” Troy said her 4-year-old asked as a worker loaded him into a car. The mother’s emotional testimony came during a daylong hearing called by Texas lawmakers in response to an investigation by NBC News and the Houston Chronicle that highlighted the plight of parents who’d been accused of child abuse based on mistaken reports by doctors. The reporting showed that child welfare workers removed some children from homes after receiving reports from state-funded child abuse pediatricians that were later called into question, leading to traumatic family separations and monthslong legal fights. Troy’s ordeal started in 2015 when her infant son suffered a small, unexplained brain bleed. A child abuse pediatrician at an Austin hospital overlooked an underlying medical condition and said the boy was a victim of shaken baby syndrome. That diagnosis led the state to take both of Troy’s children. The children spent five months in foster care, and Troy’s husband, Jason, was charged criminally before another doctor reviewed the baby’s medical records and found that the excess fluid in the child’s head was actually the result of the undiagnosed neurological condition. “How would you feel if this type of situation were to happen to you?” Troy said to members of the Texas House of Representatives committee that oversees the state’s child welfare system. Rep. James Frank, the committee chairman, said the NBC News and Chronicle investigation exposed serious problems and that Tuesday’s hearing was the first step in coming up with solutions “We’re here to learn from past mistakes,” Frank said at the start of the hearing, which also featured testimony from child welfare officials, prosecutors and doctors. Committee members peppered officials with broad questions about the enormous weight given to the opinions of child abuse doctors, and how to weigh child safety against the possibility of an unnecessary removal. The elected officials zeroed in with more targeted questions about the appropriateness of the current legal standards for taking children, the agency’s wildly varying removal rates across the state, and concerns about whether child abuse specialists can accurately evaluate children they didn’t personally examine. Dr. James Lukefahr, a child abuse pediatrician based in San Antonio, testified on behalf of the Texas chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Lukefahr defended the work of child abuse pediatricians, a new and growing medical subspecialty of doctors who work closely with child welfare agencies to identify signs of abuse and protect children from additional harm. Lukefahr said child abuse pediatricians are also trained to find underlying conditions that can mimic abuse, so they can prevent needless removals. But, he said, nobody is perfect. “Working in this field I’ve seen terrible things, babies with a dozen broken bones, children maliciously burned, teenagers beaten to the edge of their lives,” Lukefahr said. “I’ve also seen mistakes, processes not followed, errors in judgment, and decisions that were based more on emotion than science.” Parents whose stories were detailed in the NBC News and Chronicle series were among those who spoke. Tim Timmerman described the moment when he awoke one night in 2016 and found his 4-month-old son limp in bed next to him. A day after rushing the child to a nearby emergency room, a neurosurgeon at Children’s Memorial Hermann in Houston told the family not to worry: The baby had suffered a minor brain bleed, possibly the result of trauma suffered during childbirth. But soon after, a child abuse pediatrician entered the hospital room and said she disagreed. She believed the baby had been shaken, and her concerns led Child Protective Services to take custody. Later, the doctor reported that the child’s injuries were “certainly inflicted.” Three outside medical experts reviewed the case and concluded the baby suffered from an underlying medical condition, but seven months passed before the Timmermans regained full custody. They spent more than $200,000 to defend themselves, Timmerman told lawmakers, who appeared shocked. “I urge this committee to put yourselves in the shoes of my family or one of the many other families here today,” he said. “Think about how you would feel if your child or grandchild was taken out of your arms with no standard of proof other than the opinion of a single individual.” Ajshay James lost custody of her 2-year-old daughter after doctors at Texas Children’s Hospital accused her of giving the child unneeded medical treatments in 2017. The NBC News and Chronicle investigation found evidence that doctors repeatedly overstated the evidence against her, though the hospital has defended its handling of the case. James choked back tears as she described her ordeal. She told lawmakers that, as far as Child Protective Services was concerned, the opinion of the child abuse pediatricians were all that mattered. “In this process,” James said, “you are guilty until [proven] innocent.” Lukefahr said he and his colleagues are open to finding ways to improve the system, but he warned lawmakers against making changes that could hinder the state’s efforts to protect vulnerable children. “We pediatricians pledge to work diligently to improve the things we can improve,” he said. “But we also ask everyone to remember what can happen when the pendulum swings too far in any one direction.” Frank, the committee chairman, said he intended to call additional hearings in the coming months in order to develop ways to improve the system and protect parents. Some legislators have suggested creating a way for courts, child welfare workers or accused families to request a second medical opinion before the state removes a child from a home. “The vast majority of the time, we’re talking about trying to make sure we prevent every child death,” Frank said. “We understand the tremendous impact of missing it on the other side, but it is a careful balance that we need to have.""

The entire story can be read at:
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/parents-call-reforms-protect-families-mistaken-child-abuse-allegations-n1080926

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, November 14, 2019

Rodney Reed: Death Row: Significant Development: American Bar Association asks that he be spared from execution (scheduled for November 20) to allow for further factfinding in the case...ABA President Judy Perry Martinez - in a powerful letter to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles: "While there is no doubt that Mr. Reed’s attorneys have sought to present evidence of his innocence to the courts on multiple occasions, or that the courts have repeatedly denied his claims, the diligence of Mr. Reed’s defense counsel does not mean that the courts have actually considered all of the evidence of innocence that now exists. For example, no court has heard testimony from the aforementioned witnesses who knew Ms. Stites, but did not know Mr. Reed, and who have come forward affirming the existence of a relationship between Ms. Stites and Mr. Reed. This is particularly troubling because the absence of such testimony in previous proceedings was a determinative factor cited by the courts in denying relief. The courts have also refused to order access to DNA testing that may point to Ms. Stites’ fiancé, rather than Mr. Reed, as the perpetrator of this crime. In short, the courts have not considered or analyzed much of the evidence of innocence that this Board now has before it. The courtroom doors are effectively closed to Mr. Reed due to the procedural bars that prize finality of a conviction over the consideration of late-emerging evidence."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "While it is not the ABA’s role to resolve the fact-intensive questions of guilt in this case, the evidence amassed in the years since trial casts grave doubts on the reliability of Mr. Reed’s conviction. Even as Mr. Reed’s execution date approaches, evidence continues to come to light supporting his innocence. Regrettably, procedural limitations on post-conviction review have prevented the courts from conducting a comprehensive evaluation of this evidence and whether it undermines confidence in his guilt. Each building block of the State’s theory of Mr. Reed’s guilt—including the time of Ms. Stites’ death based on DNA found in her body; the truthfulness of Ms. Stites’ fiancé’s testimony; and the lack of credible proof of a consensual affair between Ms. Stites and Mr. Reed—has now been called into question. The new evidence of innocence includes retractions and affidavits from a barrage of expert and lay witnesses. Both the medical experts employed by Mr. Reed’s defense as well as experts that originally testified for the State at trial now agree that the central scientific testimony presented to the jury in support of Mr. Reed’s guilt—the amount of time DNA can remain in a body—was false. Accepted scientific opinion now supports Mr. Reed’s defense that he and Ms. Stites were having a consensual affair and had been intimate the day before her death.  In addition, the forensic expert who testified at trial about time of death has since recanted his testimony, and new experts who have examined the case have concluded that Ms. Stites was killed during the time period when she was with her fiancé. Other evidence has been developed pointing to her fiancé as an alternate suspect, including threats he made to Ms. Stites on various occasions and possible knowledge of her affair with Mr. Reed. Mr. Reed’s contention that he and Ms. Stites were having a consensual affair has also been bolstered with never-before-heard evidence from several witnesses, including Ms. Stites’ cousin and coworkers."

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

PASSAGE TWO OF THE DAY: "While not binding on Governor Abbott, your recommendation provides the possibility for the Governor to act—a crucial opportunity in a case like Mr. Reed’s, where so much evidence has not been evaluated by the courts. This Board can also provide a forum for judging the credibility of new witnesses and evidence. It can hear directly from the individuals who have come forward stating that they knew Mr. Reed and Ms. Stites were having an affair and question the forensic scientists who say that Mr. Reed’s guilt is medically and scientifically impossible."

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

RELEASE: "ABA President Judy Perry Martinez urges Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to spare Rodney Reed from execution," published by The American Bar Association on November 13, 2019.

GIST: "American Bar Association President Judy Perry Martinez sent a letter to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles asking that Rodney Reed, who is scheduled to be executed on November20, be spared from execution to allow for further factfinding in the case. The evidence amassed in the years since Reed’s 1996 trial casts doubts on the reliability of the murder conviction, but rules have precluded that evidence's reviewability in the courts."






THE LETTER: Dear Members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles: The American Bar Association is deeply troubled by Texas’ plans to execute Rodney Reed on November 20, 2019, despite significant evidence of innocence that has not been evaluated by the courts. As President of the ABA, I write today not only to express concern over Mr. Reed’s imminent execution, but also to underscore the critical role that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles plays in ensuring accuracy in capital cases. The courts have indicated that they are unable to weigh much of the new evidence undermining Mr. Reed’s guilt due to procedural restrictions on considering new claims. In a case such as this, where significant evidence of innocence has not been considered because of procedural limitations, a Board recommendation for a grant of executive clemency may be necessary to prevent an irreversible act. The ABA does not take a position on the appropriateness or constitutionality of the death penalty as a general matter. Nevertheless, for more than forty years, the Association has been committed to ensuring that jurisdictions not carry out executions unless safeguards are in place to protect the constitutional rights of the accused and minimize the risk that an innocent person will be executed. Among these essential safeguards is a robust and meaningful clemency review that accounts for the possibility that a prisoner has been wrongfully convicted. Since 1976, 166 death row prisoners have been exonerated in the United States,  including 13 prisoners from Texas.  These exonerations demonstrate not only the real danger that an innocent person may be sentenced to death, but also the importance of checks along the way to identify and correct these errors. The clemency power—enshrined in both the U.S. and Texas constitutions—is often the final chance to catch such mistakes and prevent an injustice that cannot be undone. While it is not the ABA’s role to resolve the fact-intensive questions of guilt in this case, the evidence amassed in the years since trial casts grave doubts on the reliability of Mr. Reed’s conviction. Even as Mr. Reed’s execution date approaches, evidence continues to come to light supporting his innocence. Regrettably, procedural limitations on post-conviction review have prevented the courts from conducting a comprehensive evaluation of this evidence and whether it undermines confidence in his guilt. Each building block of the State’s theory of Mr. Reed’s guilt—including the time of Ms. Stites’ death based on DNA found in her body; the truthfulness of Ms. Stites’ fiancé’s testimony; and the lack of credible proof of a consensual affair between Ms. Stites and Mr. Reed—has now been called into question. The new evidence of innocence includes retractions and affidavits from a barrage of expert and lay witnesses. Both the medical experts employed by Mr. Reed’s defense as well as experts that originally testified for the State at trial now agree that the central scientific testimony presented to the jury in support of Mr. Reed’s guilt—the amount of time DNA can remain in a body—was false. Accepted scientific opinion now supports Mr. Reed’s defense that he and Ms. Stites were having a consensual affair and had been intimate the day before her death.  In addition, the forensic expert who testified at trial about time of death has since recanted his testimony, and new experts who have examined the case have concluded that Ms. Stites was killed during the time period when she was with her fiancé. Other evidence has been developed pointing to her fiancé as an alternate suspect, including threats he made to Ms. Stites on various occasions and possible knowledge of her affair with Mr. Reed. Mr. Reed’s contention that he and Ms. Stites were having a consensual affair has also been bolstered with never-before-heard evidence from several witnesses, including Ms. Stites’ cousin and coworkers. While there is no doubt that Mr. Reed’s attorneys have sought to present evidence of his innocence to the courts on multiple occasions, or that the courts have repeatedly denied his claims, the diligence of Mr. Reed’s defense counsel does not mean that the courts have actually considered all of the evidence of innocence that now exists.  For example, no court has heard testimony from the aforementioned witnesses who knew Ms. Stites, but did not know Mr. Reed, and who have come forward affirming the existence of a relationship between Ms. Stites and Mr. Reed. This is particularly troubling because the absence of such testimony in previous proceedings was a determinative factor cited by the courts in denying relief.  The courts have also refused to order access to DNA testing that may point to Ms. Stites’ fiancé, rather than Mr. Reed, as the perpetrator of this crime. In short, the courts have not considered or analyzed much of the evidence of innocence that this Board now has before it. The courtroom doors are effectively closed to Mr. Reed due to the procedural bars that prize finality of a conviction over the consideration of late-emerging evidence. These technical obstacles do not exist in clemency, however; unlike the courts, this Board has the power to review all of the evidence on its merits, making your work essential to ensuring fairness and accuracy in our justice system, especially in capital cases. Because the Texas Governor is unable to grant any form of clemency other than a 30-day reprieve from execution without a Board recommendation, your careful consideration of this case is indispensable. While not binding on Governor Abbott, your recommendation provides the possibility for the Governor to act—a crucial opportunity in a case like Mr. Reed’s, where so much evidence has not been evaluated by the courts. This Board can also provide a forum for judging the credibility of new witnesses and evidence. It can hear directly from the individuals who have come forward stating that they knew Mr. Reed and Ms. Stites were having an affair and question the forensic scientists who say that Mr. Reed’s guilt is medically and scientifically impossible. In recognition of the important safeguard function served by the Board, Texas law provides a flexible clemency power that allows you to seek the truth in a case in the way that courts often cannot, particularly in the late stages of a capital case. Like Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court has also recognized the critical role of clemency, particularly in cases involving prisoners who may be innocent. In Herrera v. Collins, the Supreme Court rejected the idea that actual innocence alone could be grounds for relief, finding that “federal habeas courts sit to ensure that individuals are not imprisoned in violation of the Constitution—not to correct errors of fact.”13 Where errors of fact have been made, the Court has placed the burden for addressing those mistakes on clemency decision makers such as yourselves. The Court has singled out clemency as the “fail-safe” in our justice system, promising that “…petitioner is [not] left without a forum to raise his actual innocence claim. For under Texas law, petitioner may file a request for executive clemency. […]. Clemency is deeply rooted in our Anglo-American tradition of law and is the historic remedy for preventing miscarriages of justice where judicial process has been exhausted.” While the evidence supporting Mr. Reed’s innocence may have emerged over many years and in a piecemeal manner that has precluded its reviewability in the courts, the clemency process is specifically empowered—and uniquely positioned—to correct injustice where the courts cannot. In recognition of the singular and weighty responsibility that has been placed on you in a case such this, we urge you to recommend that Mr. Reed be spared from execution to allow for further factfinding in this deeply troubling case. Sincerely, Judy Perry Martinez.



Read the letter here.
https://www.americanbar.org/news/abanews/aba-news-archives/2019/11/aba-president-judy-perry/

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;