Monday, May 16, 2022

Terance Calhoun: Detroit, Michigan: "Case closed." Two terrifying words from author Maurice Possley's recent US National Registry of Exonerations account of Terance Calhoun's wrongful convictions after two victims of sexual assaults committed about a month apart identified him, he confessed, pled no contest, and was sentenced to 17 to 32 years in prison."..."Case closed. Except Calhoun was not guilty. His confession was false. And the proof was sitting in a file at the Detroit Police Department where it remained, unnoticed, for more than a decade. Tragically, the evidence of his innocence—a DNA exclusion—was sent to the Detroit Police Department less than three months after Calhoun was sentenced to prison. For reasons that may never be explained, that report was not disclosed to Calhoun’s defense attorney. "...On April 27, 2022, Calhoun was finally exonerated and released from prison as the result of the work of attorneys at the Michigan State Appellate Defender Office (SADO) and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU). At the same time, the CIU said the two crimes were committed by two separate men, one a serial rapist currently facing charges and the other currently in prison for sexual assaults. The DNA report that excluded Calhoun was discovered in 2019 during a years-long project to eliminate a backlog of more than 10,000 untested rape kits. During an audit, the DNA test, dated June 15, 2007 was found. Calhoun had pled no contest on February 21, 2007 to charges of criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping, attempted kidnapping and carrying a firearm in the commission of a felony. On March 28, 2007, Calhoun, who had no prior convictions, was sentenced to prison."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "On October 27, 2006, a 13-year-old girl was attacked less than a half mile away, near Fenkell Avenue and Patton Street. She said she was raped at gunpoint in an alley. She said the rapist used a condom. Police recovered a condom at the scene. Biological material was swabbed from inside and outside of the condom. The evidence was sent to ReliaGene Laboratory for DNA testing. Based on descriptions from the victims, police created a composite sketch which was circulated within the department. At about noon on November 3, Calhoun, who had cognitive deficits, went to a liquor store to buy lottery tickets for his father. A police officer spotted him, believed Calhoun resembled the composite sketch, and took him into custody. About 3 hours later, at 3:15 p.m., Detective Robert Kane reported that Calhoun had given a statement confessing to both crimes—although his hair was not in braids and he did not have a puzzle tattoo. About five hours later, the two victims viewed a photographic lineup, and both identified Calhoun as their attacker."

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

PASSAGE TWO OF THE DAY: "On April 22, 2022, satisfied that Calhoun was factually innocent of both crimes, Mittlestat, Newman and Cooley attorney David Williams, appeared in the courtroom of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Kelly Ramsey with an agreed motion to vacate both convictions and dismiss the cases. Justice, delayed by nearly 15 years, was at last within Calhoun’s grasp.  However, at the last minute, Detective Kane—who had taken Calhoun’s statement back in 2006, showed up and told Judge Ramsey he had “new evidence” of Calhoun’s guilt. Over the protests of Mittlestat and Newman, Ramsey postponed the dismissal until April 27.  Judge Ramsey said Kane met her in her courtroom that morning. He gave a binder and, according to Judge Ramsey, said: “Judge, you’ve got to look at this before you dismiss this case, you have to look at this evidence here.” Judge Ramsey said she referred Kane to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and did not review any of the documents."

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

PASSAGE THREE OF THE DAY; "Mittlestat said in a statement issued after the postponement: “Mr. Calhoun is innocent. DNA testing exonerates him and instead points to a suspected serial rapist. Mr. Calhoun should have been freed today. Instead, because a police officer acting alone with no authority could not face the facts, Mr. Calhoun remains wrongfully incarcerated, which is unconscionable. We have been informed that the information that the officer attempted to present to the judge today is nothing new and has already been thoroughly investigated.” Newman said, “I just want to apologize to Mr. Calhoun and his family who traveled in from out of state to be here today to assist him and to all the defense attorneys because it just happened this morning…I had been diligently trying to deal with this by contacting the Detroit Police Department chief himself because this is so highly inappropriate. It has never happened before. And to me, I just have to say it is absolutely outrageous conduct on behalf of this police officer. On April 27, when the parties convened again, Newman reviewed the entire case and all of the evidence. She again chastised Kane for attempting to derail the case. At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Ramsey signed the order vacating the convictions and dismissing the cases."

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

ENTRY: Terance Callhoun. Detroit, Michigan: Contributing factors: Mistaken witness identity; False confession: DNA evidence contributed to the exoneration.

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

GIST: "In the fall of 2006, the sexual assault prosecution of 19-year-old Terance Calhoun was wrapped up quickly by Detroit, Michigan police. After two victims of sexual assaults committed about a month apart identified him, Calhoun confessed, pled no contest, and was sentenced to 17 to 32 years in prison. Entered on May 2, 2022.


Case closed.

Except Calhoun was not guilty. His confession was false. And the proof was sitting in a file at the Detroit Police Department where it remained, unnoticed, for more than a decade.

Tragically, the evidence of his innocence—a DNA exclusion—was sent to the Detroit Police Department less than three months after Calhoun was sentenced to prison. For reasons that may never be explained, that report was not disclosed to Calhoun’s defense attorney. 

On April 27, 2022, Calhoun was finally exonerated and released from prison as the result of the work of attorneys at the Michigan State Appellate Defender Office (SADO) and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU). At the same time, the CIU said the two crimes were committed by two separate men, one a serial rapist currently facing charges and the other currently in prison for sexual assaults.

The DNA report that excluded Calhoun was discovered in 2019 during a years-long project to eliminate a backlog of more than 10,000 untested rape kits. During an audit, the DNA test, dated June 15, 2007 was found. 

Calhoun had pled no contest on February 21, 2007 to charges of criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping, attempted kidnapping and carrying a firearm in the commission of a felony. On March 28, 2007, Calhoun, who had no prior convictions, was sentenced to prison.

"A series of unfortunate events and a lot of very hard work by quite a few people led to my decision to exonerate Mr. Calhoun," Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement. "The decision, in this case, was the culmination of years of long work on this and unrelated cases. We will leave no stone unturned to get justice for defendants like Mr. Calhoun."

Valerie Newman, CIU director, declared, "Today is about the myriad of things that went wrong, that caused the wrongful conviction of an innocent person. "There are so many things that happened in this case that are troubling, and while this is ostensibly a DNA exclusion case, there is a lot more going on here that supports Mr. Calhoun's innocence than just the exclusion from the condom."

The prosecution of Calhoun arose from two separate sexual assaults in Detroit. 

On September 26, 2006, a 15-year-old girl was grabbed and sexually assaulted by a man near Fenkell Avenue and Blackstone Street. The victim said her attacker wore his hair in braids and had a “puzzle” tattoo on his arm. 

On October 27, 2006, a 13-year-old girl was attacked less than a half mile away, near Fenkell Avenue and Patton Street. She said she was raped at gunpoint in an alley. She said the rapist used a condom. Police recovered a condom at the scene. Biological material was swabbed from inside and outside of the condom. The evidence was sent to ReliaGene Laboratory for DNA testing.

Based on descriptions from the victims, police created a composite sketch which was circulated within the department. At about noon on November 3, Calhoun, who had cognitive deficits, went to a liquor store to buy lottery tickets for his father. A police officer spotted him, believed Calhoun resembled the composite sketch, and took him into custody.

About 3 hours later, at 3:15 p.m., Detective Robert Kane reported that Calhoun had given a statement confessing to both crimes—although his hair was not in braids and he did not have a puzzle tattoo. About five hours later, the two victims viewed a photographic lineup, and both identified Calhoun as their attacker.

That same day, Calhoun signed a consent form to give his samples for DNA testing.

On November 5, he was arraigned on charges of criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping, attempted kidnapping and felony firearm. Court orders in both cases were signed requesting a forensic examination of Calhoun. On February, 21, 2007, the Center for Forensic Psychiatry issued a report concluding that Calhoun had cognitive deficiencies, but was legally competent to stand trial.

That same day, Calhoun pled no contest—meaning that he did not admit guilt, only that the prosecution had evidence sufficient to convict him. He pled no contest to attempted kidnapping in the September crime and was sentenced to 11 months to five years in prison. He pled no contest to criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping and felony firearm in the October crime and was sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison. Both sentences were to be served concurrently, but an additional two year sentence was added for the firearm charge, resulting in a total sentence of 17 to 32 years.

On June 15, 2007, ReliaGene completed its DNA analysis of the biological samples taken from the condom. Calhoun was excluded. The report was addressed to the Detroit Police Department Forensic Sciences Section. 

A few months later, in September 2007, Calhoun agreed to dismiss his appeal based on a lack of merit. 

In January 2019, as part of the sexual assault kit review, a prosecutor reviewed Calhoun’s case. After finding the DNA test report, the prosecutor forwarded it to the state appellate defender. SADO attorney Michael Mittlestat arranged for Bode Technology to conduct additional DNA testing of the condom. By September 2019, Bode had confirmed the 2007 result of ReliaGene.

On January 10, 2022, the Michigan State Police reported that a search of the FBI DNA database linked the DNA profile from the condom to a man who “is currently charged with other sexual assault offenses in the Detroit area that are alleged to have occurred between 2007 and 2014.”

Ultimately, the CIU began re-investigating the case. The Cooley Innocence Project at Western Michigan University, which had partnered with the CIU on a grant-funded DNA project, reviewed the DNA test results along with the CIU.

Based on the description provided by the victim in the first of the two crimes, the attacker had braids and a puzzle tattoo. There was no DNA to test in this crime. The CIU conducted a national search of law enforcement databases. The CIU reported that the search “turned up only one individual with a puzzle tattoo on his arm. That individual is currently incarcerated in the Michigan Department of Corrections of sexual assault convictions.”

On April 22, 2022, satisfied that Calhoun was factually innocent of both crimes, Mittlestat, Newman and Cooley attorney David Williams, appeared in the courtroom of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Kelly Ramsey with an agreed motion to vacate both convictions and dismiss the cases.

Justice, delayed by nearly 15 years, was at last within Calhoun’s grasp. 

However, at the last minute, Detective Kane—who had taken Calhoun’s statement back in 2006, showed up and told Judge Ramsey he had “new evidence” of Calhoun’s guilt. Over the protests of Mittlestat and Newman, Ramsey postponed the dismissal until April 27. 

Judge Ramsey said Kane met her in her courtroom that morning. He gave a binder and, according to Judge Ramsey, said: “Judge, you’ve got to look at this before you dismiss this case, you have to look at this evidence here.” Judge Ramsey said she referred Kane to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and did not review any of the documents.

Mittlestat said in a statement issued after the postponement: “Mr. Calhoun is innocent. DNA testing exonerates him and instead points to a suspected serial rapist. Mr. Calhoun should have been freed today. Instead, because a police officer acting alone with no authority could not face the facts, Mr. Calhoun remains wrongfully incarcerated, which is unconscionable. We have been informed that the information that the officer attempted to present to the judge today is nothing new and has already been thoroughly investigated.”

Newman said, “I just want to apologize to Mr. Calhoun and his family who traveled in from out of state to be here today to assist him and to all the defense attorneys because it just happened this morning…I had been diligently trying to deal with this by contacting the Detroit Police Department chief himself because this is so highly inappropriate. It has never happened before. And to me, I just have to say it is absolutely outrageous conduct on behalf of this police officer.

On April 27, when the parties convened again, Newman reviewed the entire case and all of the evidence. She again chastised Kane for attempting to derail the case. At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Ramsey signed the order vacating the convictions and dismissing the cases. 

Calhoun was released into the arms of his family, some of whom had traveled from Tennessee, where Calhoun, now 35, said he intended to restart his life as a free man."

The entire entry can be read at: 

about.aspx

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;



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:




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;

Sunday, May 15, 2022

David Milgaard: Manitoba: RIP: I was saddened earlier today to learn that David Milgaard had passed away. David was widely revered for his decades-long battle to prove his innocence - and then, once exonerated, for the battles the fought, along with Innocence Canada, to help prove other innocent wrongly charged people innocent. I knew David through my Toronto Star work on his case as a member of the paper's editorial board. - having persuaded the paper to go to bat for him because he was innocent. Also, he, along with Joyce, was a strong supporter of this Blog. I have provided a passage from the Innocence Canada account of the David Milgaard case. (See link below for the entire account)..."David spent 23 years in prison, where he suffered physical abuse, sexual assault, a near-fatal gunshot wound (during his eminently understandable escape attempt), and psychological scars that will never heal.[28] In 1995 – only a few years after his release from prison – David gave a poignant interview about his experiences there and subsequent adjustment to life in the outside world. In this interview, David made the following comments: I’ll never forget being a prisoner. In my own way I still consider myself a prisoner. My situation is such that I am never going to forget it. I would like to do more to help prisoners, because I remember what it was like sitting inside a penitentiary. You die a little bit each day you spend in a penitentiary."


PREFACE: FROM INNOCENCE CANADA ACCOUNT:  David Milgaard  and his mother Joyce,  with the help of Innocence Canada (formerly AIDWYC), were able to enlist forensic scientific techniques that had not been available at earlier stages of the process. On July 18, 1997, DNA testing results confirmed that the semen found in Gail’s clothing could not possibly have been David’s. Rather, it was Larry Fisher’s. David now had conclusive proof that he was innocent. The Saskatchewan government has since provided $10 million of compensation to David and his family for their horrific, decades-long ordeal. Fisher, meanwhile, was at long last convicted of the rape and murder of Gail Miller, on November 22, 1999. 

GIST: "Wounds that Innocence Canada Cannot Heal: David spent 23 years in prison, where he suffered physical abuse, sexual assault, a near-fatal gunshot wound (during his eminently understandable escape attempt), and psychological scars that will never heal.[28] In 1995 – only a few years after his release from prison – David gave a poignant interview about his experiences there and subsequent adjustment to life in the outside world. In this interview, David made the following comments. I’ll never forget being a prisoner. In my own way I still consider myself a prisoner. My situation is such that I am never going to forget it. I would like to do more to help prisoners, because I remember what it was like sitting inside a penitentiary. You die a little bit each day you spend in a penitentiary. Coping with being free after 22 years is hard. When I first came out I was a bit lost. Everything seemed so much faster, everybody was bouncing around. People seemed so busy. People didn’t seem to find time to just be kind of quiet, to take it easy. And I still find it like that, but I do take the time. Sometimes I just go camping and fishing or swimming and find my own time and pace. I hope that as time goes on I’ll feel a bit more comfortable." We hope that David has been able to find some measure of the peace that he so richly deserves."

The entire Innocence Canada account can be read at: 

david-milgaard

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

More from  this indomitable man, from the interview: "The Social Journal of prisoners on prisons; Vol 6. No. 1. (1995)

"A speaker at the AIDWYC conference was talking about how after you finally get a bit of justice they expect you to say thank you, thank you for helping me out. They have never helped me out. All they have done is bastardize what is suppose to be justice. That's all they have ever done, the government and the officials. For years and years and years they have played the "up the hill, down the hill" thing with me, with my mother and my family hoping something would be done, getting close and then the state pulled away. My mother went across the whole country, talked to witnesses, spent all of her money, all her savings, everything she had. Then after finally getting things moving, we presented a clear black and white picture that showed there was no possible way I would have committed the crime. The Justice Minister, Kim Campbell, laughed! We were all sitting there waiting for things to unfold. We were hopeful and thought "something is going to finally happen". David Asper [Dave's counsel] comes down to the hole in the disciplinary area that I was in and I could just tell by looking at his face that he was screwed up, messed up, right. I said, "what's up"? He replied, "Kim Campbell's decision isn't any good. Basically she said there's absolutely nothing, absolutely nothing that can be offered". That was it for me. Passing over all my dreams. I am sure everyone felt terrible. My mum did not give up. I felt pretty bad, but I didn't give up. I didn't feel too good about it but it wasn't long before something else was happening; organized protests, city support groups. Then strictly because of public opinion, they had to do something. That's how we got into the Supreme Court. That's why I will keep fighting back." 

.http://jpp.org/documents/forms/JPP6_1/Response.pdf

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

CBC NEWS (REPORTER MEGHAN GRANT) ON HIS PASSING:


STORY: "A life 'defined by something he didn't do': David Milgaard, wrongfully convicted of murder, dies at 69," by CBC News Reporter Meghan Grant, published on May 15, 2022.


SUB-HEADING:  "He was a 'loving, caring and gentle person,' says friend."


GIST: "David Milgaard, a man who spent 23 years in prison for a rape and murder he did not commit, died in a Calgary hospital this weekend, sources close to the family have confirmed.

He died after a brief hospital stay from complications related to pneumonia. 


Milgaard, 69, who had been living in Cochrane, leaves behind two children in their teens.

Those close to Milgaard describe him as a gracious man who did not hold onto anger or animosity.


Milgaard worked in recent years, to prevent similar miscarriages of justice from happening to others. 


'Defined by something he didn't do'

"He wanted to live life to the fullest with the time that was available to him and not carry a grudge," said Dr. Patrick Baillie, a psychologist who testified on Milgaard's behalf at the Saskatchewan inquiry into his wrongful conviction in 2006.


"His life was always defined by something he didn't do and he wanted the opportunity to define his life on the basis of the things that were important to him."


In 1969, the Winnipeg man was 16 years old and passing through Saskatchewan with friends when Saskatoon nurse Gail Miller's body was found in a snowbank.


A year after Miller was killed, Milgaard was convicted of her rape and murder, and incarcerated from the ages of 16 to 39. 


Over the years, lawyers have accused police of having "the worst kind of tunnel vision" during the investigation of the case. 


His mother Joyce, who died in 2020, never doubted her son's innocence and together, they spent more than 20 years fighting to prove his innocence. 


Without Joyce, Milgaard believed he would have been left to rot in prison and always credited her for helping secure his freedom.


He was released from prison in 1992, but it took several more years before he was exonerated. 

David

In 1997, the emergence of new DNA evidence linked notorious rapist Larry Fisher to the murder. 


Fisher was convicted of the crime eight years later and sentenced to life in prison. He died in 2015 at the age of 65. 


Milgaard received a multi-million dollar compensation package from the federal government in 1999.


A 'gentle person'

Greg Rodin was one of the lawyers who secured that compensation, but their relationship grew over the years and the two became close friends.

Rodin described Milgaard as a "loving, caring and gentle person." 

"All those who knew and loved David are in a state of shock and great sadness," said Rodin in an email to CBC News. "I will miss my friend greatly."

Milgaard's life work, said Rodin, was his continued advocacy for prison reform.

"He showed us that we are all vulnerable to being wrongfully convicted," said Rodin.


Desire for 'a quiet existence'

Milgaard, said Rodin, believed the current penal system would be greatly improved if it was designed to resemble an Indigenous justice model.


Most recently Milgaard was working closely with Federal Justice Minister David Lametti to establish a commission which would investigate cases where wrongful conviction was claimed.


Milgaard did this even though his advocacy kept his wrongful conviction front and centre to his public identity.


When Baillie testified at the wrongful conviction inquiry, he told Justice Edward MacCallum that Milgaard would always be forced to carry the weight of the wrongful conviction. 


"David wants to be a father to his children, David wants to be married to his wife, David wants to have just a quiet existence," Baillie told the inquiry.


"But even if David became prime minister, the day that David dies, the first line of his obituary is going to be 'David Milgaard, who spent 23 years in prison for a wrongful conviction and later went on to become Prime minister."


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

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;



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:




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;

Steven Hayne: Time magazine rates book on this Alabama medical examiner who conducted hundreds of autopsies each year, and Dr. Michael West, a self-proclaimed “forensic dentist,” as "one of 10 books to help you get over a reading slump"..."Both men provided misleading, if not outright fraudulent, testimony at countless trials, causing innocent Mississippians, often from poor and underserved communities, to be imprisoned while letting murderers and rapists go free. True crime fans, in particular, won’t want to miss this."

PASSAGE OF THE DAY: New York Times review by Elie Mystal: "The crime having been solved early on, Balko and Carrington devote the bulk of the book to pulling back the curtain on the justice system’s little-known but systemic problem that put Brewer and Brooks behind bars: faulty and biased forensic evidence. Junk science convicted these men; real science set them free. The inability of judges and jurors to tell the difference is why innocent men languish in jail while the prosecutors who put them there run for higher office."

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

STORY:"10 Books to Help You Get Over a Reading Slump," by Reporter Elizabeth Held, published be 'Time' on April 26, 2022.


GIST: Even the most avid readers sometimes find themselves in a slump where no book feels quite right. Especially in times of uncertainty, it can be challenging to find a book capable of getting you to put down your phone and stop doomscrolling.


If you’re in a slump right now, grab one (or more) of these books and see if it can help you get back on track.


The Cadaver King and The Country Dentist, Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington


The Cadaver King and The Country Dentist is equal parts enraging and engrossing, a mixture that is sure to keep you turning pages. The writers—veteran criminal justice journalist Radley Balko and founding director of the Mississippi Innocence Project Tucker Carrington—carefully document the way Mississippi’s death investigation system, a relic of the Jim Crow era, keeps innocent people in jail. They focus on Dr. Steven Hayne, a medical examiner who conducted hundreds of autopsies each year, and Dr. Michael West, a self-proclaimed “forensic dentist.” Both men provided misleading, if not outright fraudulent, testimony at countless trials, causing innocent Mississippians, often from poor and underserved communities, to be imprisoned while letting murderers and rapists go free. True crime fans, in particular, won’t want to miss this one.

https://time.com/6170414/books-to-break-reading-slump/


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


Read also Elie Mystal's review of 'The Cadaver King and  the Country Dentist, published  by The New York Times, on March 39, 2018... At link below: (Elie Mystal is the executive editor of Above the Law and a contributing editor for “More Perfect” on WNYC.)



THE CADAVER KING AND THE COUNTRY DENTIST 

A True Story of Injustice in the American South 

By Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington 

416 pp. PublicAffairs. $28.



GIST: "America’s bottomless fascination with “true crime” stories and “murder porn” has been capitalized on by some content creators seeking to inspire changes in the criminal justice system. But the genre tends to let the system itself off the hook. The titillating and gory details of any one case narrow readers’ focus onto particular bad actors, relegating law enforcement to a largely offscreen menace. Literature as a tool for social and legal reform further requires the reader to accept the author’s assertion that the highlighted case produced an incorrect result, which is a big ask in a country that can’t even agree on whether Han Solo shot first.


“The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist,” by the Washington Post journalist Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington, a law professor at the University of Mississippi, avoids these generic problems. There is no murder mystery. The book details the wrongful convictions of two men, Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks, in the separate murders of two girls in the same rural Mississippi town in the early 1990s. But the real killer of both 3-year-olds is revealed to the reader before the wrong men are even put on trial. We are also spared the anguish of wondering if the system will ever get it right, for we know the men have already been freed thanks to the work of the nonprofit criminal exoneration organization the Innocence Project.


The crime having been solved early on, Balko and Carrington devote the bulk of the book to pulling back the curtain on the justice system’s little-known but systemic problem that put Brewer and Brooks behind bars: faulty and biased forensic evidence. Junk science convicted these men; real science set them free. The inability of judges and jurors to tell the difference is why innocent men languish in jail while the prosecutors who put them there run for higher office.


Mississippi would have been better served by the actual actors from “CSI” conducting its forensic investigations than the autopsy specialist Steven Hayne and his “sidekick,” the bite-mark analyst Michael West. The book isn’t even really about exposing these men, as they’re already disgraced. Instead, Balko and Carrington have written a cry for help: “What happened in Mississippi may be the most wide-reaching scandal to date. Few states have encountered revelations that strike as forcefully at the very foundation of its criminal justice system. And few states’ public officials have shown less concern or taken less action after having learned of the problem.”

But, like so many who have demanded criminal justice reform, the authors are likely to fail. Not because they’re wrong, or because not enough judges and lawyers and politicians know they’re right. But because fixing the problem is just too hard.


The real tension in Balko and Carrington’s book is why it’s too hard — whether our society’s tendency to incarcerate innocent individuals results from basic incompetence, or bald racism.

The authors propose an answer: “There’s no question that Hayne and West thrived in a system that was created and honed during Jim Crow, and that for decades was used to reinforce the segregated social order. There’s also no question that the system’s problems continue to disproportionately affect minority and poor populations across the state. But no one has described Hayne as a racist. … Instead, Hayne could be described more as an opportunist.”

The bigotry in our criminal justice system is one of its key features, not an unfortunate bug. Mississippi wouldn’t allow quack science to convict the wrong people if white citizens primarily bore the burden. The namesake “bad guys” in this book are allowed to exist because their work puts black men behind bars, not in spite of it.

What’s the remedy for a person who has been convicted based on so-called science that we now know to be faulty, corrupt or both? One doesn’t need a law degree to answer that question. Common sense or a modicum of human decency suggests that those found guilty based on bad evidence deserve justice. But to grant all such retrials would be too much for this country’s criminal courts to bear."


The entire review can be read at:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/30/books/review/cadaver-king-country-dentist-radley-balko-tucker-carrington.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;



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;

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Technology: (Gone wrong?) Pennsylvania and over much of the USA: An algorithm that screens for child neglect raises raising concerns, the Journal Times (Reporters Sally Ho and Garance Burke) reports; (Publisher's note: Edge of the wedge? Will this kind of algorithm emerge in the criminal justice system next? (If it's not here in some shape for form already!) HL)..."Inside a cavernous stone fortress in downtown Pittsburgh, attorney Robin Frank defends parents at one of their lowest points – when they risk losing their children. The job is never easy, but in the past she knew what she was up against when squaring off against child protective services in family court. Now, she worries she's fighting something she can't see: an opaque algorithm whose statistical calculations help social workers decide which families should be investigated in the first place. "A lot of people don't know that it's even being used," Frank said. "Families should have the right to have all of the information in their file." From Los Angeles to Colorado and throughout Oregon, as child welfare agencies use or consider tools similar to the one in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, an Associated Press review has identified a number of concerns about the technology, including questions about its reliability and its potential to harden racial disparities in the child welfare system. Related issues have already torpedoed some jurisdictions' plans to use predictive models, such as the tool notably dropped by the state of Illinois."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: ""We're researchers and we're trying to model what good, good approaches look like in this field," Vaithianathan said in an interview. The developers also noted in a document sent to Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services last year that demand for their tools had increased due to the pandemic, as the state weighed a proposal for a statewide tool that would cost $520,000 to develop and implement. Vaithianathan has said the tool ultimately can help address racial bias, and has pointed to a 2019 Stanford University evaluation commissioned by Allegheny County that suggests it may have had a modest impact on some disparities. "I've always felt that these are tools that have the opportunity to improve the quality of decision making," Vaithianathan said at a November panel. "To the extent that they are used with careful guardrails around them, I think they also offer an opportunity for us to try and address some of those systemic biases." But when AP asked county officials to address Carnegie Mellon's findings on the tool's pattern of flagging a disproportionate number of Black children for a "mandatory" child neglect investigation, Allegheny County questioned the researchers' methodology by saying they relied on old data. The researchers reran the analysis using newer data to address the county's concerns and reached many of the same conclusions."

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

PASSAGE TWO OF THE DAY: "Critics say it gives a program powered by data mostly collected about poor people an outsized role in deciding families' fates, and they warn against local officials' growing reliance on artificial intelligence tools. If the tool had acted on its own to screen in a comparable rate of calls, it would have recommended that two-thirds of Black children be investigated, compared with about half of all other children reported, according to another study published last month and co-authored by a researcher who audited the county's algorithm. Advocates worry that if similar tools are used in other child welfare systems with minimal or no human intervention–akin to how algorithms have been used to make decisions in the criminal justice system–they could reinforce existing racial disparities in the child welfare system. "It's not decreasing the impact among Black families," said Logan Stapleton, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University. "On the point of accuracy and disparity, (the county is) making strong statements that I think are misleading."

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


CONTEXT: "This story, supported by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, is part of an ongoing Associated Press series, "Tracked," that investigates the power and consequences of decisions driven by algorithms on people's everyday lives."

STORY: "An algorithm that screens for child neglect raises concerns," by Sally Ho and  Garance Burke,  published by The Journal Times on April 29, 2022.

PHOTO CAPTION: The Family Law Center in Pittsburgh is seen on Wednesday, March 16, 2022. Around the country, as child welfare agencies use or consider algorithmic tools like in Allegheny County, an Associated Press review has identified a number of concerns about the technology, including questions about its reliability and its potential to harden racial disparities in the child welfare system. 


GIST: "Inside a cavernous stone fortress in downtown Pittsburgh, attorney Robin Frank defends parents at one of their lowest points – when they risk losing their children.


The job is never easy, but in the past she knew what she was up against when squaring off against child protective services in family court. Now, she worries she's fighting something she can't see: an opaque algorithm whose statistical calculations help social workers decide which families should be investigated in the first place.


"A lot of people don't know that it's even being used," Frank said. "Families should have the right to have all of the information in their file."


From Los Angeles to Colorado and throughout Oregon, as child welfare agencies use or consider tools similar to the one in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, an Associated Press review has identified a number of concerns about the technology, including questions about its reliability and its potential to harden racial disparities in the child welfare system. Related issues have already torpedoed some jurisdictions' plans to use predictive models, such as the tool notably dropped by the state of Illinois.


According to new research from a Carnegie Mellon University team obtained exclusively by AP, Allegheny's algorithm in its first years of operation showed a pattern of flagging a disproportionate number of Black children for a "mandatory" neglect investigation, when compared with white children. The independent researchers, who received data from the county, also found that social workers disagreed with the risk scores the algorithm produced about one-third of the time.


County officials said that social workers can always override the tool, and called the research "hypothetical."


Child welfare officials in Allegheny County, the cradle of Mister Rogers' TV neighborhood and the icon's child-centric innovations, say the cutting-edge tool – which is capturing attention around the country – uses data to support agency workers as they try to protect children from neglect. That nuanced term can include everything from inadequate housing to poor hygiene, but is a different category from physical or sexual abuse, which is investigated separately in Pennsylvania and is not subject to the algorithm.


"Workers, whoever they are, shouldn't be asked to make, in a given year, 14, 15, 16,000 of these kinds of decisions with incredibly imperfect information," said Erin Dalton, director of the county's Department of Human Services and a pioneer in implementing the predictive child welfare algorithm.


Critics say it gives a program powered by data mostly collected about poor people an outsized role in deciding families' fates, and they warn against local officials' growing reliance on artificial intelligence tools.


If the tool had acted on its own to screen in a comparable rate of calls, it would have recommended that two-thirds of Black children be investigated, compared with about half of all other children reported, according to another study published last month and co-authored by a researcher who audited the county's algorithm.


Advocates worry that if similar tools are used in other child welfare systems with minimal or no human intervention–akin to how algorithms have been used to make decisions in the criminal justice system–they could reinforce existing racial disparities in the child welfare system.


"It's not decreasing the impact among Black families," said Logan Stapleton, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University. "On the point of accuracy and disparity, (the county is) making strong statements that I think are misleading."


Because family court hearings are closed to the public and the records are sealed, AP wasn't able to identify first-hand any families who the algorithm recommended be mandatorily investigated for child neglect, nor any cases that resulted in a child being sent to foster care. Families and their attorneys can never be sure of the algorithm's role in their lives either because they aren't allowed to know the scores.


Incidents of potential neglect are reported to Allegheny County's child protection hotline. The reports go through a screening process where the algorithm calculates the child's potential risk and assigns a score. Social workers then use their discretion to decide whether to investigate.



The Allegheny Family Screening Tool is specifically designed to predict the risk that a child will be placed in foster care in the two years after they are investigated. Using a trove of detailed personal data collected from birth, Medicaid, substance abuse, mental health, jail and probation records, among other government data sets, the algorithm calculates a risk score of 1 to 20: The higher the number, the greater the risk.


Given the high stakes – skipping a report of neglect could end with a child's death but scrutinizing a family's life could set them up for separation – the county and developers have suggested their tool can help "course correct" and make the agency's work more thorough and efficient by weeding out meritless reports so that social workers can focus on children who truly need protection.


The developers have described using such tools as a moral imperative, saying child welfare officials should use whatever they have at their disposal to make sure children aren't neglected.


"There are children in our communities who need protection," said Emily Putnam-Hornstein, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Social Work who helped develop the Allegheny tool, speaking at a virtual panel held by New York University in November.


Dalton said algorithms and other predictive technologies also provide a scientific check on call center workers' personal biases because they see the risk score when deciding if the case merits an investigation. If the case is escalated, Dalton said the full investigation is carried out by a different social worker who probes in person, decides if the allegations are true and helps determine if the children should be placed in foster care


CMU researchers found that from August 2016 to May 2018, the tool calculated scores that suggested 32.5% of Black children reported as being neglected should be subject to a "mandatory" investigation, compared with 20.8% of white children.


In addition, the county confirmed to the AP that for more than two years, a technical glitch in the tool sometimes presented social workers with the wrong scores, either underestimating or overestimating a child's risk. County officials said the problem has since been fixed.


The county didn't challenge the CMU researchers' figures, but Dalton said the research paper represented a "hypothetical scenario that is so removed from the manner in which this tool has been implemented to support our workforce."


The CMU research found no difference in the percentage of Black families investigated after the algorithm was adopted. The study found the workers were able to reduce this disparity produced by the algorithm.


The county says that social workers are always in the loop and are ultimately responsible for deciding which families are investigated because they can override the algorithm, even if it flags a case for mandatory investigation. Dalton said the tool would never be used on its own in Allegheny, and doubted any county would allow for completely automated decision-making about families' lives.


"Of course, they could do that," she said. "I think that they are less likely to, because it doesn't make any actual sense to do that."


Despite what the county describes as safeguards, one former contractor for the child welfare agency says there is still cause for concern.


"When you have technology designed by humans, the bias is going to show up in the algorithms," said Nico'Lee Biddle, who has worked for nearly a decade in child welfare, including as a family therapist and foster care placement specialist in Allegheny County. "If they designed a perfect tool, it really doesn't matter, because it's designed from very imperfect data systems."


Biddle is a former foster care kid turned therapist, social worker and policy advocate. In 2020, she quit, largely due to her growing frustrations with the child welfare system. She also said officials dismissed her concerns when she asked why families were originally referred for investigation.


"We could see the report and that decision, but we were never able to see the actual tool," she said. "I would be met with … 'What does that have to do with now?'"


In recent years, movements to reshape – or dismantle – child protective services have grown, as generations of dire foster care outcomes have been shown to be rooted in racism.


In a memo last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services cited racial disparities "at nearly every major decision-making point" of the child welfare system, an issue Aysha Schomburg, the associate commissioner of the U.S. Children's Bureau said leads more than half of all Black children nationwide to be investigated by social workers.


 "Over surveillance leads to mass family separation," Schomburg wrote in a recent blog post.

With discussions about race and equity looming large in child welfare circles, Putnam-Hornstein last fall took part in a roundtable of experts convened by the conservative American Enterprise Institute and co-authored a paper that slammed advocates who believe child welfare systems are inherently racist.


She said she collaborated with the group that suggested there are "racial disparities in the incidence of maltreatment" because she sees the need for reforms, and believes "that the adoption of algorithmic decision aids can help guard against subjectivity and bias."

Some researchers worry that as other government agencies implement similar tools, the algorithms could be allowed to make some decisions on their own.


"We know there are many other child welfare agencies that are looking into using risk assessment tools and their decisions about how much fully to automate really vary," said Stapleton. "Had Allegheny County used it as a fully automated tool, we would have seen a much higher racial disparity in the proportion of kids who are investigated."



'LAB RATS'

A decade ago, the developers of Allegheny's tool – Putnam-Hornstein and Rhema Vaithianathan, a professor of health economics at New Zealand's Auckland University of Technology – began collaborating on a project to design a predictive risk model for New Zealand's child welfare system.


Vaithianathan and colleagues prototyped a new child abuse screening model that proposed using national data to predict the risk that the child protection system would confirm allegations that a child had been mistreated by age 5. The plan was scrapped after documents revealed the Ministry of Social Development's head sharply opposed the project, declaring: "These are children, not lab rats."


The minister wasn't the only one concerned. Emily Keddell, a professor of social work at Otago University in New Zealand who analyzed the tool in the peer-reviewed Critical Social Policy journal, found that it would likely have resulted in more Māori families being tagged for investigation, reinforcing "existing structural inequalities by contributing to the ongoing stigmatisation of this population."


In response, Vaithianathan said that she and her collaborators are open to community criticism and committed to showing their work, even if jurisdictions decide against it. She added that she has worked extensively with Indigenous Māori researchers.

"We encourage agencies to listen to those critical voices and to make leadership decisions themselves," she said.


Vaithianathan and Putnam-Hornstein said they have since expanded their work to at least half a dozen cities and counties across the United States and have explored building tools in Chile and Australia.


Brian Chor, a clinical psychologist and child welfare researcher at the University of Chicago's Chapin Hall, said the pair are respected for confronting ethical and racial concerns in creating the tool. He also said that Pittsburgh was the perfect place to create a model algorithm for other public welfare agencies.


"Allegheny County is probably an early adopter where the stars seem to be aligned, where they have the data," Chor said. "They have a solid recipe that I think is replicable."


In several public presentations and media interviews, Vaithianathan and Putnam-Hornstein said they want to use public data to help families in need.


"We're researchers and we're trying to model what good, good approaches look like in this field," Vaithianathan said in an interview. The developers also noted in a document sent to Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services last year that demand for their tools had increased due to the pandemic, as the state weighed a proposal for a statewide tool that would cost $520,000 to develop and implement.


Vaithianathan has said the tool ultimately can help address racial bias, and has pointed to a 2019 Stanford University evaluation commissioned by Allegheny County that suggests it may have had a modest impact on some disparities.


"I've always felt that these are tools that have the opportunity to improve the quality of decision making," Vaithianathan said at a November panel. "To the extent that they are used with careful guardrails around them, I think they also offer an opportunity for us to try and address some of those systemic biases."


But when AP asked county officials to address Carnegie Mellon's findings on the tool's pattern of flagging a disproportionate number of Black children for a "mandatory" child neglect investigation, Allegheny County questioned the researchers' methodology by saying they relied on old data.


The researchers reran the analysis using newer data to address the county's concerns and reached many of the same conclusions.


In response to AP, Allegheny County provided research that acknowledges the tool has not helped with combating disparities in the rates at which Black and white child neglect cases are investigated. A recent unpublished analysis written by the developers themselves determined "no statistically significant effect of the algorithm on this disparity."


"We don't frame the entire decision-making process around race, though clearly it's an important thing that we think about," Dalton said.


Dalton said her team wants to keep improving the tool and is considering new updates, including adding available private insurance data to capture more information about middle class and upper income families, as well as exploring other ways to avoid needless interventions.


Dalton also downplayed the algorithm's role in neglect investigations.

"If it goes into court, then there's attorneys on both sides and a judge," Dalton said. "They have evidence, right?"


Chor disagreed, saying Allegheny's tool is applied at the most important point of the child welfare system.

"The very front end of child protection decision-making is understandably the most impactful decision that you can make on a child's life, because once you come into contact with the hotline, with an investigator, then your chance of being removed, of course, is increased," Chor said.



The latest version of the tool excludes information about whether a family has received welfare dollars or food stamps, data that was initially included in calculating risk scores. It also stopped predicting whether a child would be reported again to the county in the two years that followed. However, much of the current algorithm's design remains the same, according to American Civil Liberties Union researchers who have studied both versions.


The county initially considered including race as a variable in its predictions about a family's relative risk but ultimately decided not to, according to a 2017 document. Critics say even if race is not measured outright, data from government programs used by many communities of color can be a proxy for race. In the document, the developers themselves urged continuing monitoring "with regard to racial disparities."


"If over a million dollars have been spent creating and maintaining this tool, only for call screeners to disagree with it, for racial disparities to stay essentially level, and for screen-ins to continue at unreasonably high rates, is that the best use of Allegheny County's resources?" asked Kath Xu, an attorney at the ACLU.


Child welfare agencies in at least 26 states and Washington, D.C., have considered using algorithmic tools, and at least 11 have deployed them, according to a recent ACLU white paper by Xu and colleagues.

***

LITTLE TRANSPARENCY, GROWING INFLUENCE

Family law attorney Frank says she's always worried about the lack of due process and secrecy surrounding Allegheny County's child welfare algorithm. Some of her clients have asked if the system was surveilling them because they used public assistance or community programs, but she can't answer.

"I just don't understand why it's something that's kept in secret," Frank said.

Once, Frank recalled, a judge demanded to know a family's score, but the county resisted, claiming it didn't want to influence the legal proceeding with the numbers spat out by the algorithm.


Bruce Noel, who oversees call screeners using Allegheny's tool, said that while the risk score advises their decision on whether to launch an investigation, he is torn about sharing that information with families because of the tool's complexity. He added that he is cognizant of the racial disparities in the underlying data, and said his team didn't have much input into development.


"Given that our data is drawn from public records and involvement with public systems, we know that our population is going to garner scores that are higher than other demographics, such as white middle class folks who don't have as much involvement with public systems," Noel said.


Dalton said she personally doesn't support giving parents their score because she worries it could discourage people from seeking services when they need them.


"I do think there are risks and I want the community to also be on board with … the risks and benefits of transparency," Dalton said.


Other counties using algorithms are taking a different approach. Larimer County, Colorado, home to Fort Collins, is now testing a tool modeled on Allegheny's and plans to share scores with families if it moves forward with the program.


"It's their life and their history," said Thad Paul, a manager with the county's Child, Youth & Family Services. "We want to minimize the power differential that comes with being involved in child welfare … we just really think it is unethical not to share the score with families."

In the suburbs south of Denver, officials in Douglas County, Colorado, are using a similar tool and say they will share scores with families who request it.


Oregon does not share risk score numbers from its statewide screening tool, which was first implemented in 2018 and inspired by Allegheny's algorithm. The Oregon Department of Human Services – currently preparing to hire its eighth new child welfare director in six years – explored at least four other algorithms while the agency was under scrutiny by a crisis oversight board ordered by the governor.


It recently paused a pilot algorithm built to help decide when foster care children can be reunified with their families. Oregon also explored three other tools – predictive models to assess a child's risk for death and severe injury, whether children should be placed in foster care and if so, where.


For years, California explored data-driven approaches to the statewide child welfare system before abandoning a proposal to use a predictive risk modeling tool Putnam-Hornstein's team developed in 2019. The state's Department of Social Services spent $195,273 on a two-year grant to develop the concept.


"During the project, the state also explored concerns about how the tool may impact racial equity. These findings resulted in the state ceasing exploration," department spokesman Scott Murray said in an email.


Putnam-Hornstein's team is currently working with one of the nation's largest local child welfare systems in Los Angeles County as it pilots a related tool.


The embattled agency is being audited following high-profile child deaths, and is currently seeking a new director after its previous one stepped down late last year. The "complex-risk algorithm" helps to isolate the highest-risk cases that are being investigated, according to the county's Department of Children and Family Services.


So far, the experiment has been limited to the Belvedere, Lancaster, and Santa Fe Springs offices, the agency said. The tool also has allowed the agency to generate and review reports about cases involving Black children and families who were deemed low-risk, but were still investigated and didn't result in any conclusive or substantiated allegations, the county said.

In the Mojave Desert city of Lancaster, U.S. Census shows 22% of the city's child population is Black. In the first few months that social workers started using the tool, county data shows that Black children were the subject of nearly half of all the investigations flagged for additional scrutiny.


The county did not immediately say why, but said it will decide whether to expand the tool later this year.


Back in Pittsburgh, family law attorney Frank is still trying to untangle how, exactly, the county's algorithm is impacting each client she shepherds through the system.


To find strength on the brutal days, she keeps a birthday calendar for the children she's helped and sends them handwritten cards to remember times when things went right.


She's still haunted by a case in which she says she heard a social worker discuss a mother's risk score in court around 2018. The case ultimately escalated to foster care, but Frank has never been able to understand how that number influenced the family's outcome.


County officials said they could not imagine how a risk score could end up in court.

"There's no way to prove it – that's the problem," Frank said.

***

https://journaltimes.com/news/national/an-algorithm-that-screens-for-child-neglect-raises-concerns/article_be46b5ed-5633-5a72-83a1-3b16877ddf35.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;



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:




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;