Monday, June 24, 2024

Ramiro Gonzalez: Texas: Extraordinary Development: Set to be executed on June 26, on the testimony offered by the state's expert psychiatrist Edward Gripon who claimed with certainty that he would be a "future danger," Dr. Gripon, evaluated Gonzalez again two years ago has changed his mind. As Professor Austin Sarat says in a commentary published in 'The Hill,' in a commentary headed, 'Texas sentencing is out of date: No one can predict future crimes, even on death row,' "Even Dr. Gripon, who evaluated Gonzales again two years ago, has changed his mind. Talking about his 2006 testimony, Gripon now says “I don’t think that diagnosis would now be accurate, particularly in retrospect” — and most importantly, that Gonzales does not “present a danger to others.” “At the time of the commission of this offense,” Gripon explained, “Gonzales was barely 18 years old. With the passage of time and significant maturity he is now a significantly different person both mentally and emotionally. This represents a very positive change for the better.” “If this man’s sentence were changed to life without parole, I don’t think he’d be a problem.” Texas should listen to its own expert and spare Gonzalez’s life."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: " In addition, it should pay attention to the position of the American Psychiatric Association that the question of future dangerousness should no longer play a role in jury decisions in capital cases. As the APA notes, “[t]he unreliability of psychiatric predictions of long-term future dangerousness is by now an established fact within the profession.” 


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PASSAGE TWO OF THE DAY: "This law has spawned an industry of experts who, like Gripon, make themselves available to testify for the state about future dangerousness. Gripson (sic) estimates he “testified in roughly 25 death penalty cases.”  But he is far from the most infamous.  That distinction belongs to psychiatrist James Grigson. As a post from Vanderbilt Law School explains, “Grigson, nicknamed ‘Dr. Death,’ testified in over 150 capital murder trials for the prosecution in Texas and often stated that there was a 100 percent chance that capital murder defendants would kill again, despite never having personally examined them.” 


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COMMENTARY: "Texas sentencing is out of date: No one can predict future crimes, even on death row." by Austin Sarat, Opinion Contributor, The Hill, published on June 23, 2024. (Austin Sarat is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College.)  


GIST: "The state of Texas plans to execute Ramiro Gonzales on June 26. Gonzales was sentenced to death in 2006 for kidnapping, sexually assaulting and fatally shooting 18-year-old Bridget Townsend five years earlier. At the time, Gonzales was also 18. 


One of the key factors that led the jury to sentence Gonzales to death was testimony offered by psychiatrist Edward Gripon claiming, with certainty, that Gonzales would be a future danger. Gonzales’s case offers a striking illustration of the unreliability of predicting future dangerousness in capital cases, something even Gripon has come to recognize. 


He testified pursuant to a 1973 Texas law that requires juries “to determine whether a defendant presents a future danger to society before imposing a death sentence.” Texas is the only state in the country with such a law. 


This law has spawned an industry of experts who, like Gripon, make themselves available to testify for the state about future dangerousness. Gripson estimates he “testified in roughly 25 death penalty cases.”


 But he is far from the most infamous. 


That distinction belongs to psychiatrist James Grigson. As a post from Vanderbilt Law School explains, “Grigson, nicknamed ‘Dr. Death,’ testified in over 150 capital murder trials for the prosecution in Texas and often stated that there was a 100 percent chance that capital murder defendants would kill again, despite never having personally examined them.” 


Journalist Abbie VanSickle, writing in The Atlantic, notes that people like Grigson and Gripon had to tell the jury “whether there is a probability that the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society.


 VanSickle rightly labels this question “convoluted.”  


In the Gonzales case, Gripon told the jury that the defendant “certainly” had antisocial personality disorder, and potentially “some type of significant underlying psychosexual disorder.”  


He testified that “sexual assault has the highest continuum of recidivism,” and “there is lots of data out there” indicating that recidivism rates “are way up in the eighty percentile or better.” 


Gripon concluded that Gonzales “would pose a risk to continue to commit threats or acts of violence” “wherever he goes,” even in a carceral setting. 


There are different approaches that can be taken to predict the danger a defendant poses. The AMA Journal of Ethics identifies common approaches while warning of the unreliability of each one.  


First, there are what the journal calls “actuarial approaches.” They “attempt to assess individual risk using information derived from group data rather than from an individualized assessment of dangerousness.” The accuracy of such assessments in predicting rare events is “low because its prediction is limited to those who are similar to the population from which the actuarial data were drawn.”  

In contrast, what the journal calls “clinical approaches” depend on “individualized and contextualized assessments based upon nothing more than a psychiatrist’s intuition, experience, and clinical orientation.” 


Identification of risk factors in the clinical approach is, the Journal of Ethics concludes “vulnerable to individual bias.” In fact, we know that race plays a key role in predictions of future dangerousness, with people of color much more likely to be labelled as a future danger, especially in capital cases


Another problem in predicting future dangerousness is that experts, like Gripon in the Gonzales case, erroneously associate dangerousness with mental illness. As the Journal of Ethics notes, “The absolute risk of violence among the mentally ill as a group is…very small.” 


In fact, the Gonzales case itself shows how hard it is to get predictions of future dangerousness right.  


At trial, as The Independent stated, “Gripon relied on facts that were later proven false. He told the jury that people who commit sexual assault are especially likely to reoffend, but the basis for that claim was later discredited and numerous studies have shown they aren’t.” 


Gripon also based his testimony on Gonzalez’s cellmate’s claim that he heard the defendant “admit to torturing Townsend and return[ing] to the crime scene to sexually defile her body.


 But the cellmate later recanted, explaining that officers were threatening a more severe sentence in his own case if he didn’t help him paint a nightmarish picture of Gonzalez.” 


And during his time on death row, Gonzales changed. As The Texas Tribune reported in 2022, he “turned to faith.” Prison officers testify to his “generosity” and genuine “desire to do good after the crimes of his youth.” 


He has also shown, as the Marshall Project says, “incredibly good character in his years in prison — he has never committed an act of violence or threat, is a positive influence on those around him and a faith leader for fellow death row prisoners.” 

Evidence also suggests that he is “fully rehabilitated and could not possibly pose a threat of future danger to anyone, and thus cannot be executed under Texas law.” 


Even Dr. Gripon, who evaluated Gonzales again two years ago, has changed his mind


Talking about his 2006 testimony, Gripon now says “I don’t think that diagnosis would now be accurate, particularly in retrospect” — and most importantly, that Gonzales does not “present a danger to others.” 


“At the time of the commission of this offense,” Gripon explained, “Gonzales was barely 18 years old. With the passage of time and significant maturity he is now a significantly different person both mentally and emotionally. This represents a very positive change for the better.” 


“If this man’s sentence were changed to life without parole, I don’t think he’d be a problem.”  


Texas should listen to its own expert and spare Gonzalez’s life.


 In addition, it should pay attention to the position of the American Psychiatric Association that the question of future dangerousness should no longer play a role in jury decisions in capital cases.


As the APA notes, “[t]he unreliability of psychiatric predictions of long-term future dangerousness is by now an established fact within the profession.” 


It is long past time for Texas to get out of the business of asking juries to use those future predictions when making life and death decisions. "


The entire story can be read at:


 https://thehill.com/opinion/civil-rights/4733515-texas-execution-ramiro-gonzales/



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

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


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


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

Lawyer Radha Natarajan:

Executive Director: New England Innocence Project;


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

Christina Swarns: Executive Director: The Innocence Project;


Porsche crash case: Pune, India; (Alleged blood-switching case): 'The Indian Express (Express News Service) has released a 'final report' based on CCTV footage obtained from the minor's residence, and also from the two hotels where he consumed liquor, which concludes that he should be tried as and adult in connection with the deaths of the two IT engineers who died after a speeding Porsche car, allegedly driven by a 17-and-a-half-year-old boy in an inebriated state, hit their motorcycle on May 19…"That same day, a first information report (FIR) was lodged against the minor car driver, at Yerwada police station. Police produced him before the JJB seeking his custody in the juvenile observation home and had also appealed he be tried as an adult. But the JJB had granted bail to the minor on conditions like he should “write an essay of 300 words” on road accidents. Later, on May 22, after the controversy snowballed, the JJB sent him to an observation home till June 5, which was further extended again."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "Meanwhile, the police investigation had revealed that when the boy was taken to Sassoon Hospital for a medical examination after the accident, his blood sample was allegedly replaced with his mother’s. Police said the minor’s blood sample was allegedly thrown into the biomedical waste at Sassoon hospital to destroy the evidence. Police have communicated with the company that disposes of the biomedical waste at the hospital to get further information about the minor’s blood sample. Police arrested his father, mother, Dr Ajay Taware — the former head of the forensic department of Sassoon Hospital, Dr Shrihari Harnol — who was the casualty medical officer at the time, and a Class IV employee Atul Ghatkamble, for allegedly changing the minor’s blood sample by taking financial favours. The trio have since been placed under suspension and are currently in judicial custody. The police had further arrested Makandar and Gaikwad in this case. Police said Makandar took Rs 4 lakh from the minor’s father at a hotel in Kalyani Nagar and gave it to the Sassoon staffers for changing blood samples. Police said they have recovered Rs 2.5 lakh from Dr Halnor, Rs 50,000 from Ghatkamble. Police are trying to recover the remaining Rs 1 lakh. Police said a technical investigation and analysis of CCTV videos have revealed that following the Porsche car crash, Makandar was present at the accident spot, Yerwada police station, Sassoon hospital and also in JJB premises. Police are also probing an “important meeting” held between the accused persons for “destroying evidence” by changing the minor’s blood samples."


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STORY: "One month since Porsche crash: Police submit ‘final report’ against juvenile before JJB (Juvenile Justice Board),"  published by The Express News Service, on June 18, 2024.


SUB-HEADING: "Police officer: Proof supports plea to try minor as adult."


SUB-HEADING: "Police said the "final report" has information pertaining to CCTV footage obtained from the minor's residence, and also from the two hotels where he consumed liquor."


GISTT: "Pune city police have submitted a “final report” in the Porsche car accident case before the Juvenile Justice Board.


The final report has details pertaining to the evidence of the minor boy’s involvement in the Porsche car accident, a senior police officer said.


A senior police officer said that the evidence supports their plea before the JJB to try the minor as an adult.


Two IT engineers Aneesh Awadhiya and his friend Ashwini Koshta, both 24 and from Madhya Pradesh, died after a speeding Porsche car, allegedly driven by a 17-and-a-half-year-old boy in an inebriated state, hit their motorcycle at Pune’s Kalyani Nagar junction around 2.30 am on May 19.


That same day, a first information report (FIR) was lodged against the minor car driver, at Yerwada police station.


 Police produced him before the JJB seeking his custody in the juvenile observation home and had also appealed he be tried as an adult.


 But the JJB had granted bail to the minor on conditions like he should “write an essay of 300 words” on road accidents.

Later, on May 22, after the controversy snowballed, the JJB sent him to an observation home till June 5, which was further extended again.


Meanwhile, during investigations, police gathered the alleged evidence against the minor boy. Police said it was mandatory for them to submit the final report on the investigation in this case within one month. Accordingly, a “final report” against the minor was filed before the JJB on Monday. A police officer said the final report comprises details right from the moment he left his home on the evening of May 18 to the accident at Kalyani Nagar on May 19.


Police said the “final report” has information pertaining to CCTV footage obtained from the minor’s residence, and also from the two hotels where he consumed liquor. It has statements of the co-passenger (minor’s friend) and a driver, who were present in the Porsche car at the time of the accident. It also has statements of the minor’s friends who were present with him for the party at the hotels where they had consumed food and liquor before the accident, police said.


Police sources said that the witness statements and the CCTV footage at different locations prove the minor boy was drunk and he was driving the Porsche car that knocked down and killed two IT engineers.


Meanwhile, the police investigation had revealed that when the boy was taken to Sassoon Hospital for a medical examination after the accident, his blood sample was allegedly replaced with his mother’s.


Police said the minor’s blood sample was allegedly thrown into the biomedical waste at Sassoon hospital to destroy the evidence.


 Police have communicated with the company that disposes of the biomedical waste at the hospital to get further information about the minor’s blood sample.


Police arrested his father, mother, Dr Ajay Taware — the former head of the forensic department of Sassoon Hospital, Dr Shrihari Harnol — who was the casualty medical officer at the time, and a Class IV employee Atul Ghatkamble, for allegedly changing the minor’s blood sample by taking financial favours. The trio have since been placed under suspension and are currently in judicial custody.


The police had further arrested Makandar and Gaikwad in this case.


 Police said Makandar took Rs 4 lakh from the minor’s father at a hotel in Kalyani Nagar and gave it to the Sassoon staffers for changing blood samples. Police said they have recovered Rs 2.5 lakh from Dr Halnor, Rs 50,000 from Ghatkamble. Police are trying to recover the remaining Rs 1 lakh.


Police said a technical investigation and analysis of CCTV videos have revealed that following the Porsche car crash, Makandar was present at the accident spot, Yerwada police station, Sassoon hospital and also in JJB premises.


Police are also probing an “important meeting” held between the accused persons for “destroying evidence” by changing the minor’s blood samples.


Currently, the minor’s parents and the other four accused are in judicial custody. A police officer said a chargesheet will be filed against them within 60 days of their arrest.


Police are also preparing to file chargesheets against the minor’s father and grandfather in two more FIRs. In the second FIR related to the Porsche car crash, police had arrested the father along with the owner and managers of the two restaurants where his minor son had allegedly consumed liquor before the accident.


The minor’s grandfather, who is also in judicial custody at Yerwada Central Prison, was arrested along with his father in the third FIR lodged by a driver employed by the family, who alleged that the duo kidnapped and forced him to take the blame for the May 19 accident.


Meanwhile, a five-member committee appointed by the Women and Child Development Commissioner (WCD) of the state prima facie found that the minor in the Porsche car case was hurriedly granted bail by a JJB member and directed to write an essay. On June 14, the WCD issued a show cause notice against two non-judicial members of the JJB, directing them to respond to the findings of the investigation committee within four days."


The entire story can be read at: 


https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/one-month-porsche-crash-police-final-report-juvenile-jjb-9400373/



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

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


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


———————————————————————————————


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

Lawyer Radha Natarajan:

Executive Director: New England Innocence Project;


—————————————————————————————————

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

Christina Swarns: Executive Director: The Innocence Project;