Prosecutors turning to ‘PowerPoint justice’ to win the day

Has some good ideas – points out that visual argument is more effective that oral argument, as well as detailing improper arguments by prosecutors. Defense lawyers can properly utilise some of the ideas mentioned.

Wrongful Convictions Blog

The Marshall Project reports that prosecutors have found a new tool with which to convict the innocent as well as the guilty: PowerPoint. You can see some examples of their improper “visual advocacy” here.

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Private Eye Hp Sauce: Failing Grayling

UK judicial review may survive – I hope so!

Trial by Media

JUSTICE secretary Chris Grayling’s plan to dismantle judicial review – a vital check on government abuse and illegality – has been thrown into disarray by his own bungling.
He has been caught misleading parliament over his plan to restrict the system that enables members of the public to obtain court scrutiny where they believe the government or other public authority may have ignored, abused or acted above the law.

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Jodi Arias – where are we now?

The years pass by and the circus trial of Jodi Arias continues. Having commenced in January 2013, completion of sentencing could still be several months away. The implausible prosecution case continues to steadily disintegrate, as more and more prosecution misconduct is exposed.

Trial by Media

The case of Jodi Arias drags on. It is a classic case of misleading circumstantial evidence. In some ways it is simple, but in others it is complex.

It is true, that there are perplexing facts:

  • The large number of knife wounds – can that be self-defense?
  • Jodi fled the scene and lied about her involvement in a stunning show of denial
  • A gun was stolen a week before Travis Alexander died in a fight with Jodi

But there is a complex mystery here : a fundamental problem : WHY would Jodi want to murder Travis Alexander? There is no motive for premeditated murder.

On 18 December 2014, there was further evidence that confirms what we have known since the original trial in 2013 : Jodi was not in the least bit jealous of Travis’ new girlfriends, she had all but escaped from this toxic relationship and was looking for…

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Robert Fischer

Featured case #44

Robert Fischer is accused of murdering Lee Radder. Robert was staying with relatives ( he was the step-father of the Lee’s wife ). Lee Radder apparently committed suicide on 30 December 2010, after receiving bad news about a business deal. He had spent the night in a heavy drinking session with Robert. Due to being intoxicated, Robert made some confused, inaccurate statements, stating that he was in bed when the shot was fired, whereas in reality he was in close proximity to Lee.

The prosecution allege Robert staged the scene. However this is scientifically impossible. Forensic evidence conclusively demonstrates that Lee shot himself, and there was no staging.

On 28 February 2014, the trial judge overturned the jury’s verdict, on the grounds that the verdict was contrary to the balance of evidence and prosecution misconduct.

  • Lee’s DNA and partial fingerprint were found on the gun
  • There was no trace of Robert (DNA or fingerprint) on the gun
  • The gun in Lee’s hand and the high velocity back spatter on Lee’s hands is compelling evidence that Lee shot himself.
  • Detective Acosta’s opinion that the defendant manipulated Lee’s body and staged the scene is not supported by the physical evidence and lacked credibility.

See here for the full ruling.

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Eric Koula

Featured Case #43

Eric was convicted in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, after a trial based entirely on circumstantial evidence. Eric was a stable, hard-working father and husband who was very close to his parents. When his mother, Merna, did not show up for work one Monday, Eric tried unsuccessfully to reach them, then drove to their house and found them both dead. It appeared as though it was the work of professionals and that there may have been crime scene staging.

Investigators found DNA at the scene that was not Eric’s DNA and remains unidentified. Nothing at the crime scene tied Eric to the murders. The murder weapon was never forensically identified. There was no evidence of the crime found on Eric’s person, in his truck or at his home. Digital forensic evidence was improperly presented at trial as documented by trial transcripts. A neighbor testified that he had seen the couple alive in their backyard talking with two unidentified people hours after Eric was supposed to have already killed them. The judge in the case restricted the defense attorney from presenting alternative suspects. The jury convicted Eric on the basis of two incidents, both of which can be explained by past precedents and emotional reaction to his parents’ murder.

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George Stinney Exonerated

A 14-year-old South Carolina boy who was quickly convicted of murder and then executed in 1944 has been posthumously exonerated.

Judge Carmen Tevis Mullen vacated George Stinney, Jr.’s conviction on Wednesday, stating that the boy’s prosecution was marked by “fundamental, Constitutional violations of due process.”

Frances Newton should be next.

News Report

Full Report by NCADP

Can Jodi Arias’ Sentencing Be Fair?

Good summary of the recent hearing in this featured case.

Dare to Think

arias3-largeIt took a three day evidentiary hearing and three weeks of arguing for a Mesa, Arizona police technician to admit that there was pornography present on Travis Alexander’s computer.  That might not sound like much, but it is at the center of a disturbing question in the capital case, were files deleted from the victim’s computer?

Judge Sherry Stephens must now decide whether prosecutorial misconduct in the case was egregious enough to dismiss the prosecution’s intent to seek the death penalty.

She has a few questions to answer:
1.  How is it possible for there to be pornography on the computer when police testified in court that there was none?
2.  Who deleted tens of thousands of files?
3.  Was it a deliberate act of misconduct?

Arias’ defense attorneys Jennifer Willmott and Kirk Nurmi and their forensic expert Bryan Neumeister explained to the court the computer contained viruses that had…

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Rodney Lincoln – another victim of Tommy Lynn Sells?

Evidence recently uncovered by Investigating Innocence has revealed notorious serial killer Tommy Lynn Sells as the probable killer of Joann Tate.

Sells’ brother, recently confirmed that Tommy Lynn Sells was living in St. Louis at the time JoAnn Tate was killed. In addition, Sells was working at a company owned by his family which repaired and sold used Volkswagens. A major lead in the case was the white Volkswagen that Melissa saw “Bill”, an unidentified suspect, driving.

Key forensic evidence at trial was a single pubic hair recovered at the scene, a prosecution expert claimed it was similar to Rodney Lincoln.  However, in Novermber 2010, Rodney Lincoln’s DNA was eliminated as the source of the pubic hair found at the crime scene, based on mitochondrial DNA testing.

However the judge ruled this new evidence to be irrelevant, citing an eyewitness identification by a seven year old child.

Now tests are being conducted to check if Tommy Sells’ DNA matches the pubic hair. Based on all the circumstances a match is very probable.

Please see this petition for further details, and sign the petition!

Are Prosecutors Above the Law?

Great article on probably the underlying reason for most wrongful convictions : prosecutors being above the law. My view is direct elections are bad : justice and politics need to be well separated.

Wrongful Convictions Blog

From the DailyKos.com:

By Susan Grigsby

There is something terribly wrong with a justice system that allows an inordinate amount of power to reside in the hands of one office that not only has no real accountability or oversight, but is insulated from the consequences of its actions by court-granted immunity. And no, I am not talking about Supreme Court justices, but about prosecuting attorneys.

The prosecuting attorney—whether local, state, or federal—has an incredible amount of authority and discretion in how to exercise that authority. The prosecuting attorney decides how many, and what kind of charges are brought in criminal prosecutions. The prosecuting attorney has the ability to directly charge a crime, or to use a grand jury for more serious crimes, to indict a defendant. The prosecuting attorney has the authority to offer plea bargains.

And while there should be some type of accountability other than election, and…

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Shrien Dewani found Not Guilty

Overwhelming evidence that Tongo implicated Dewani to get a shorter sentence.

A judge has dismissed the case against Shrien Dewani, who was accused of arranging the murder of his wife Anni in South Africa.

Judge Jeanette Traverso said the evidence presented by the prosecution fell “far below the threshold” of what a reasonable court could convict on.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-30375335

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/08/shrien-dewani-murder-trial-collapse-anni-south-africa

The end.

An adopted case : see Shrien Dewani

Drug-Planting Case Against Cops Proceeds

“In April, Ross sued the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department, the Santa Clara County Crime Laboratory, the county and the sheriff, along with several deputies and sergeants, alleging a police car dash cam captured officials plotting to plant drugs after an illegal search of Ross’s home in 2009.”

http://www.courthousenews.com/2014/12/01/drug-planting-case-against-cops-proceeds.htm

Discussion here.

John Horton

Featured Case #41: John Horton was wrongly convicted of murder in 1995. His cousin subsequently confessed to the crime. The case is supported by the Center of Wrongful Convictions of Youth at Northwestern University School of Law.

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News

12 October 2016 : New trial granted

The Court ruled that John was entitled to a new trial because prosecutors had violated his due process rights by not disclosing exculpatory evidence, although a special concurrence penned by one of the Justices added that this case was riddled with “outrageous errors and missteps” and that John has “significant” evidence of actual innocence.

Ruling | News Report

10 February 2016 : Released on Bond.  Judge Joseph G. McGraw set his bond at $50,000.

 

Jason Payne

Featured Case #40 : On December 11, 2007 in the town of Quitman, Texas two people were shot to death. Nichole Payne, wife of Jason Payne and her son by a previous marriage, Austin Taylor Wages. Upon discovering the two bodies Jason immediately called 911 at 9:09 AM and told the operator that “his wife and his son are both shot” and that he needed help.

The lead detective in the case Lt. Det. Miles Tucker of the Wood County Sheriff’s Office requested the assistance of Sgt.Noel Martin, a Criminologist with the Smith County Sheriff’s Office to come out to the crime scene and perform a crime scene reconstruction. After doing a thorough and extensive examination of the crime scene, and a rigorous examination of the autopsy report and other evidence Noel Martin, the only forensic expert at the crime scene issued his findings: Murder Suicide. This must of come as a surprise to Lt. Tucker who likely felt that Martin, a fellow police officer and prosecution expert witness would issue a finding that would support his theory of a Double Homicide.

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