Friday, December 2, 2016

Timothy Bridges; North Carolina; White Elephant Case? Major Development; Pardoned after serving 25 years for rape based on scientific invalid FBI hair analysis..."Hair analysis has become a source of exonerations since the FBI announced in April 2015 that the problems with training and testimony had created wide-scale problems. Forensic Magazine found that at least four states were auditing all convictions that involved testimony from FBI-trained hair analysts last year."..."Bridges is now suing the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department and three forensic specialists. The lawsuit alleges they hid evidence that might have shown Bridges' innocence, including leads on another suspect who had committed rapes and incentives offered to testifying witnesses."...Seth Augustine; Senior Science Writer; Forensic Magazine;

Image result for "white elephant"

In the years since I started publishing this Blog I have become increasingly disturbed by the 'white elephant' in the room: Sheer, unadulterated, willful   misconduct in the criminal justice system - much  of it involving forensic evidence - committed by lab technicians,  pathologists, police officers, prosecutors and others.  Think Annie Dookhan; Think Sonia Farak; Think David Kofoed; Think Charles Smith; Think Ken Anderson; Think Gene Morrison.  I have therefore decided to run this image of a white elephant at the top of every applicable post henceforth, to draw our reader's attention to   what I see as a major problem in all too many criminal justice system's - my own included.  Harold Levy; Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;
"Reformers have for years recommended that all forensic labs be independent from law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies' and this is a key reform promoted by The Justice Project (2008). But fixing these problems is only half the answer' because half of the wrongful convictions attributed to misleading forensic evidence involved deliberate forensic fraud' evidence tampering' and/or perjury.
From "The Elephant in the Crime Lab," by co-authored by Sheila Berry and Larry Ytuarte; Forensic Examiner; Spring, 2009;


STORY: "NC (North Carolina) Man Who Served 25 Years for Rape Based on Hair Evidence Pardoned," by Seth Augenstein, Senior Science Writer, published by Forensic Magazine, on December 2, 2016.

See National Registry of Exonerations  entry  on Timothy Bridges at the link below: "On May 15, 1989, 83-year-old Modine Wise was found severely beaten in her home in Charlotte, North Carolina. Wise, who was in failing health and used a wheelchair, gave only a vague description of her attacker.
In March 1990, police charged 23-year-old Timothy Bridges with first-degree rape, assault with a deadly weapon and burglary. In August 1990, Wise died. Bridges went to trial in Mecklenburg County Superior Court in January 1991. A state crime lab analyst who had been trained in microscopic hair analysis by the Federal Bureau of Investigation testified that two hairs found at the scene came from Bridges. The analyst testified that he could make a “strong identification” that the hair at the scene was Bridges’ hair and that there was only a 1 in 1000 chance that two Caucasian people, such as Bridges, would have indistinguishable head hair. The prosecution also called three informants who testified that Bridges had admitted the crime to them during various conversations. The informants denied they received any benefits for their testimony and a police officer also denied any benefits were offered or conferred for the testimony. Although the victim had denied she had been raped, a physician who examined her said she found bruising consistent with rape. Even though there was a rape kit prepared, there was no indication that it was tested at the time. The attorney for Bridges, who maintained his innocence, argued that a bloody palm print found on a wall in the victim’s home—which did not match the victim or Bridges—was left by the perpetrator. On February 2, 1991, the jury convicted Bridges of all charges. He was sentenced to life in prison. In 2013, after three men who had been convicted on the basis of improper FBI testimony about hair analysis were exonerated by DNA, the Innocence Project and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers convinced the FBI to audit cases where FBI agents had testified about or conducted microscopic hair analysis. In 2015, the FBI identified 268 cases where FBI agents linked defendants to crimes through hair analysis and 257 of those cases—96 percent—involved scientifically invalid testimony, such as saying that hairs were a positive match or giving unsupported mathematical odds of a match. Twenty-seven of 29 analysts either gave faulty testimony or submitted erroneous reports. In April 2015, the Washington Post newspaper reported that flawed testimony by either FBI agents or crime lab analysts trained by the FBI likely affected as many as 2,500 cases across the country. Bridges’ case was one of the first to be examined that involved an FBI-trained analyst rather than an actual FBI agent. Lauren Miller at North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services, Inc., had investigated Bridges’ case for years and had been told by Mecklenburg County authorities that any physical evidence in the case no longer existed. In October 2014, Miller filed a motion seeking to vacate Bridges’ conviction. Shortly after that, Innocence Project attorneys Chris Fabricant and Dana Delger joined the case as co-counsel. In October 2015, after reviewing the case, Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray agreed to vacate Bridges’ conviction. At the time, Murray said, “The criminal justice system is constantly evolving with advances in science, and any time the D.A.’s Office is made aware of cases in which inappropriate scientific testimony contributed to a conviction, prosecutors have an obligation to act.” Bridges was released on bond on October 1, 2015. Three days before Bridges was released, the prosecution said that although the hairs and rape kit had been destroyed, a jacket that was found near the victim at the time of the crime had been discovered. The jacket was submitted for DNA testing and semen was identified. A DNA profile from the semen excluded Bridges as the source of the semen. Moreover, a review of the police files revealed that the investigators threatened to bring charges against some of the informants who testified that Bridges confessed to them, and offered to give those informants breaks in their own prosecutions or payments of money in exchange for testimony. None of this evidence was disclosed to Bridges’ defense at his 1991 trial. On February 16, 2016, District Attorney Murray dismissed the charges. In August 2016, Bridges filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Charlotte. In November 2016, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory granted Bridges a pardon based on actual innocence." (By Maurice Possley);

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: Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.