Sex-differences in domestic violence homicide in the UK

Karen Ingala Smith writes about the sex-differences in domestic violence killings in the United Kingdom, using figures from the Office of National Statistics. Her key points:

  1. Far fewer men than women are killed in the context of intimate partner violence (57 men in 3 years compared to 249 women)
  2. Men are much more likely to be killed by the spouse of a partner or a love rival (14 out of 57 men, compared to none of the 249 women killed)
  3. Men are much more likely than women to have been killed by someone of the same sex (21 of 57 male homicide victims were killed by a man, compared to one out or 249 women)
  4. Men are more likely to have been killed by someone they were abusing, women are more likely to have been killed by someone they were being abused by.

See Sex-differences and ‘domestic violence murders’ for the full article.

Wayne Williams

From news article, April 30, 2015

Williams’ attorney Lynn Whatley confirmed he received a letter from the DOJ about a subsequent Office of Inspector General Report that identified 13 examiners whose work may have failed to meet professional standards.

The letter said “The work of one or more of the 13 criticized examiners is believed to have been involved in the criminal prosecution of Wayne Bertram Williams.”

“So they weren’t authorized to tell the jury some of the things that they were saying to convince them that this was the case or that this evidence matched,” Whatley said.

Williams released this statement to 11 Alive News:

“I am thankful, after so long, the truth has finally come forth about the injustice suffered by me, my family and the families of the victims. I hope these revelations can free other innocent persons robbed of their lives by these criminal actions committed by those entrusted to secure justice. This should be a wakeup call, especially in light of the recent murders of African Americans, at the hands of the same types of corrupt law enforcement persons who have been responsible for what we experienced decades ago. I sincerely hope that these correct actions by (J)ustice (D)epartment officials, to come forth with the truth, can finally bring closure and right this terrible wrong.”

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News

Atlanta Child Murders: Wayne Williams hopes for appeal April 30, 2015

David Wayne Spence

Nevertheless, a problem remains. Mr. Spence was almost certainly innocent.

This is not a hypothesis conveniently floated by death-penalty opponents. Those who believe that David Spence did not commit the crime for which he died include the lieutenant, now retired, who supervised the police investigation of the murders; the detective who actually conducted the investigation, and a conservative Texas businessman who, almost against his will, looked into the case and became convinced that Mr. Spence was being railroaded.

The retired lieutenant, Marvin Horton, said in sworn testimony: ”I do not think David Spence committed this crime.”

In an interview Wednesday, Ramon Salinas, the homicide detective who investigated the murders, said: ”My opinion is that David Spence was innocent. Nothing from the investigation ever led us to any evidence that he was involved.”

The businessman, Brian Pardo, was asked for help by Mr. Spence last fall. ”The probability of him being innocent seemed very small in my mind at that time,” Mr. Pardo said. ”He was on death row. It just seemed to me that most people there are guilty, and they all say they are innocent.”

Mr. Pardo agreed to underwrite an investigation that would last only until some evidence turned up showing that Mr. Spence was guilty. No evidence ever did.

”It was all entirely to the contrary,” Mr. Pardo said. ”There is no chance that he committed those murders.”

The murders were horrifyingly violent and bloody. There was a great deal of contact between the victims and the killers. But there was no physical evidence connecting the crime to Mr. Spence or his co-defendants, both of whom are incarcerated for life.

Strands of hair, including pubic hairs, that most likely came from the killers were found on the victims. But an F.B.I. analysis determined that none of the hairs came from Mr. Spence or his co-defendants.

The case against Mr. Spence was pursued not by homicide detectives but by a narcotics cop named Truman Simons who left the Police Department under unusual circumstances, went to work for the county sheriff and in that capacity conducted an obsessive, unprofessional and widely criticized campaign to nail Mr. Spence. (There will be more about this in future columns.)

Mr. Simons cobbled his case together from the fabricated and often preposterous testimony of inmates who were granted all manner of favors in return. Court papers showed that some were even given the opportunity to have sex with wives or girlfriends in the district attorney’s office.

From http://www.nytimes.com/1997/07/25/opinion/the-wrong-man.html

Wikipedia : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1982_Lake_Waco_murders

Texas Moratorium Network Report

October 2015 Summary Texas Monthly via Wrongful Conviction Blog : ( “Bite Mark Analysis” )

The third case is even more troubling because it involved an execution. The defendant’s name was David Spence, and he was, oddly enough, Juanita White’s son. (For more on this labyrinthian case read “The Murders at the Lake.”) Spence was convicted in two trials, in 1984 and 1985, of the murders of three Waco teens and given the death penalty. The only physical evidence against him: bite marks on the bodies of two of the victims. The expert who testified: Homer Campbell. Spence, Campbell said, was “the only individual” to a “reasonable medical and dental certainty” who could have bitten the women. According to jurors, Campbell’s words were powerful. “We had life-size pictures of the marks and a cast of [Spence’s] teeth brought into the jury room,” remembered one juror afterward. “The testimony—‘everyone’s bite mark is different, like a fingerprint’—was very convincing.”

Spence’s appellate lawyers tried to attack Campbell’s methods with other forensic odontologists. One, Thomas Krauss, a former president of the American Board of Forensic Odontology (ABFO), said Campbell’s methodology was “well outside the mainstream.” Krauss helped the lawyers set up a blind panel of five odontologists to analyze the autopsy photos and vet Campbell’s work by comparing the marks with dental molds from Spence and four other subjects. The results were astonishing. Though the five experts identified several patterns that were possibly bite marks, they couldn’t say much more. One of them said the photos were too poor in quality to compare to the molds. A second wrote that the marks were “more likely than not made by insects or artifacts.” A third thought that some of the marks were probably bite marks, but he couldn’t match any of the molds to them. Two of the experts did indeed match one of the marks to one of the molds, but it was not Spence’s. It belonged to a housewife from Phillipsburg, Kansas. Unfortunately for Spence, the study wasn’t completed until after the deadline for Spence’s writ. He was eventually executed, despite numerous questions about his guilt—the biggest coming from the fact that the only physical evidence against him came from Campbell.

Bill Wilson

This case is included to show just how ridiculous wrongful convictions can be.

Wilson was convicted of murdering his wife after she left and some old bones were found in a cave in 1912.

Luckily his wife turned up alive and well after he was convicted.

In 1932, Yale’s Borchard included Bill Wilson’s story in his book “Convicting the Innocent,” an examination of 65 wrongful convictions in America.

Report

Robert Pruett

Robert Pruett is an innocent man who was sent to prison at age 16 for a crime he didn’t commit. Then he was charged with capital murder for killing a guard which he did not do. This man should never have been sent to prison in the first place.

“The Legislature recently enacted three statutes addressing the inherently questionable nature of inmate testimony, the prejudicial impact of junk science, and the problems that occur when the State does not fully participate in discovery with the defense, and this snakebit case is riddled with each of those problems. I would grant the motion to stay this impending execution for a capital-murder conviction against Robert Lynn Pruett, applicant, on the basis that this Court should fully consider the merits of his complaint that junk science played a primary role in his conviction, but in discussing the gravity of the situation, I also note that this case is riddled with problems that the Legislature has attempted to now fix: junk science, inmate testimony, and lack of discovery.” — Judge Elsa Alcala of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals from her dissenting statement over the denial of Robert Pruett‬‘s last writ. Filed April 24, 2015.

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See http://www.robert-pruett.com/index.php?page=update for updates.

BBC Documentary March 2014 ( Also on Vimeo, see also here and this summary )

News

Death Row Inmate Convicted Of Killing Guard Loses Appeal April 23, 2015

Texas inmate asks US supreme court to block execution over lack of evidence April 27, 2015

Texas calls off Robert Pruett execution with just hours to spare April 28, 2015

Michael Hanline – case dismissed

A California man who was freed after serving 34 years of a life sentence for murder had the charges formally dismissed Wednesday.

Michael Hanline, 69, was the longest-serving wrongfully incarcerated inmate in California history, according to the California Innocence Project, whose lawyers worked for 15 years to free him and persuaded prosecutors to re-examine the evidence.

Testing showed DNA found at the crime scene did not come from Hanline or his alleged accomplice. In addition, prosecutors withheld evidence that should have been disclosed to Hanline’s legal team during the trial.

Report

Larry Swearingen

Larry Ray Swearingen was sentenced to death in July 2000 for the 1998 abduction, sexual assault and murder of Melissa Trotter, a 19-year-old college student from Montgomery County, Texas. DNA testing excluded Swearingen as the perpetrator, and forensic science provides an airtight alibi: Swearingen was in the county jail on outstanding traffic warrants at the time Trotter was murdered and her body dumped in the Sam Houston National Forest.

From https://thedublinreview.com/texas-v-larry-swearingen/

Over the course of Swearingen’s appeal, nine forensic scientists have testified for the defence, in sworn statements, on the witness stand, or both. Their estimates of post-mortem interval range from two days to a fortnight – well short, in every case, of the twenty-two-day interval between Swearingen’s arrest and the discovery of Trotter’s body. In other words, according to these nine witnesses, by the time Trotter was killed, Swearingen was behind bars – unless, as one entomologist speculated, Trotter’s body had been ‘frozen’ for a time before being dumped in the forest by an accomplice. Barring such an improbable scenario, the clear implication of the testimony was that Trotter must have been killed by someone else, at least ten days after her disappearance.

..

In 2007, the former Harris County Medical Examiner Joye Carter, who had testified at trial that Trotter had been killed on the day she went missing, revised her opinion in a sworn statement. Based on the data she collected herself at autopsy, this time including the condition of Trotter’s internal organs, she concluded that Melissa’s corpse had been in the forest for less than two weeks when it was discovered. In a brief to the court the same year, pathologist Glenn Larkin described how quickly the pancreas and spleen liquefy after death and estimated that Trotter had been dead for three or four days when her body was found.

The Chief Medical Examiner for Galveston County, Dr Stephen Pustilnik, submitted a sworn statement in Swearingen’s defence two years later, based on his histological examination of the tissue samples taken from Trotter’s organs. ‘Nuclear and cytoplasmic details of the tissue and other supportive elements such as lung tissue, myocardium, adipose tissue, blood vessels, blood elements and connective tissue are all in remarkably good shape,’ he wrote. ‘Without prior refrigeration, the deceased was killed within reasonable certainty between five or seven days prior to her discovery.’

See also Is Larry Swearingen Innocent? Texas Observer, Nov 27, 2012

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News

Feb 29, 2015: DNA testing change sought “A Houston state senator instrumental in the passage of Texas’ DNA testing law announced plans on Monday to correct a flaw that could hamper new verifications of innocence.”

Oct 29 2015: “The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for the second time Wednesday reversed a state district judge’s order that would have allowed East Texas death row inmate Larry Swearingen to test DNA from evidence in his murder case.”

Feb 10 2016: “The state’s highest criminal court has refused to reconsider its ruling reversing a trial court judge’s decision that would have allowed additional DNA testing of evidence a condemned killer contends could show he’s not responsible for the slaying of suburban Houston college student in 1999. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, without comment Wednesday, refused to rehear arguments from 44-year-old death row inmate Larry Swearingen. The court last October for a second time overturned a Montgomery County judge’s decision permitting the new tests.”

The Innocent Citizen’s Justice System Survival Guide

Excellent, brilliant and well overdue.

Wrongful Convictions Blog

“Ours is a world in which justice is accidental, and innocence no protection.”     Euripedes, 400 BC.

———————————————————————————————–

I come from a legal family, so even though I did not go into law, I’ve had a closeup view of the justice system my entire life, which is, I think, one of the reasons I decided to devote my post-corporate life to innocence work. I saw too many things happening that were not congruent with my view of what a fair and just system should, and must, be. For the past seven years, I’ve been deeply involved in innocence work, and have become knowledgable about the details of many, many cases (100’s) of wrongful conviction and wrongful imprisonment. Consequently, I’ve seen many ways in which actually innocent people become tragic victims of what we call “justice.” There are just so many ways the justice system can get it wrong. This…

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NACDL: FBI overstated strength of hair evidence

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Innocence Project found that 26 of the 28 examiners in the FBI’s microscopic hair comparison unit overstated evidence in more than 95 percent of 268 trials that the groups have examined so far.

Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, said the FBI’s hair analysis in that period was “a complete disaster” but praised the bureau and the Justice Department for collaborating in the review.

Report

Fix the Flaws in Forensic Science Eric S. Lander, New York Times, April 21, 2015

Thirty years in jail for a single hair: the FBI’s ‘mass disaster’ of false conviction Guardian, April 21, 2015

Call on the DOJ and FBI to Ensure Justice and Accuracy in Forensics Innocence Project “Action Alert”

Pseudoscience in the Witness Box Slate.com April 22, 2015

New York Times Op-Ed: Flawed Forensics Bigger than Erroneous FBI Hair Analysis Innocence Project Blog, April 27, 2015

Jessica Silva

“I JUST grabbed the knife…

“Just to kind of scare him. I wasn’t thinking I was going to use it.”

It is a day Jessica Silva tries desperately to forget.

But three years on she said it still feels like yesterday and she knows that only by talking about it will she finally be free.

“He really made me believe that he was coming to kill me.”

In an interview with 60 Minutes, the 27-year-old opened up about the day she stabbed to death her estranged partner James Polkinghorne, 28, in the street outside her family’s Marrickville home in Sydney’s inner west.

Ms Silva admits her character was broken by years of domestic abuse and she carries guilt and remorse for the way the events of Mother’s Day 2012 unfolded.

Report

Note:

A jury found her not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter and a judge sentenced her to time already served.

Now her lawyer says she shouldn’t have been charged with anything and that he will seek a full acquittal in the Court of Criminal Appeal.

This is categorised as “exonerated”, even though technically there is no full acquittal yet.

Melissa Calusinski

This young lady confessed after 6 hours of grueling questioning and even apologized for getting upset with the investigators. At the end of the 6 hours, she wanted to know when she could go home and see her parents and her puppy.

With an IQ of approx 80, Melissa didn’t understand what was happening to her.

She did not harm the child at the day care. The child died from an old injury.

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Blaming Melissa : 48 hours, Sunday  July 19, 2015 ( Video + Transcript )

News

Wins Court Victory 21st September, 2015 “There were tears from Calusinski’s family after a judge ruled Lake County prosecutors need to answer new evidence that could overturn her murder conviction.”

Sabrina and Cosima Misseri

Michele Misseri, a man with a history of molesting females, implicated his daughter Sabrina (age 20) and wife Cosima in a murder he committed.

First Michele confessed to the murder of Sarah Scazzi (Sabrina’s cousin, age 15), as the lone killer. For some reason police decided it was too easy and pressured him in various taped interrogations to reveal his accomplices and hinted at his daughter and wife being involved. Eventually he broke down and said they were involved. Police couldn’t believe he managed to move a rock by himself and the coroner indicated the signs of the belt used to strangle her must have been done by a female because of the light touch involved. The old cell phone ploy where the cops placed Sabrina at the scene.

The towers were later taken down/changed before the defense got a chance to do their own investigation. Michele later recanted the involvement of his wife and daughter but now the police did not believe him.

During the trial the main piece of evidence was a florist that had made a statement where he saw Sabrina and Cosima at a time that would indicate their involvement. He later admitted it was not true, just a dream and of course the prosecutors decided that this was a lie and sued him.

The trial was held in the same venue and the locals were screaming for blood, even spitting on Cosima as she was arrested during a staged perp walk. The judges/jury were drawn from the same area and the city was allowed to join the case as a civil party as their reputation had been damaged by this horrible murder.

During the trial the prosecution tried to show Sabrina was jealous of her cousin but failed miserably. A cell phone call that seemed to mess up the prosecutions timeline was reinvented as a ploy to throw the cops off the real killer. The dad was eventually convicted of just helping move and dispose of the body and was released after a couple of years as time served. So the killer is free and two innocents are in jail. The appeal is happening now.

The motivation report was some ridiculous length, over 1,000 pages IIRC and the judges were heard talking during the trial making fun of the defense and seeming to indicate they had already decided on guilt. The motivation (supposed to be filed within 90 days) was allowed a year to be published and Sabrina and Cosima were ordered to stay in jail.

If you thought the Kercher case generated a lot of spin off lawsuits, this one was up to 22 at one point. And wiretaps, makes the Kercher ones look a little puny by comparison.

Apparently the defense experts in the appeal trial presented a report where they were able to reconfigure the original cell phone grid set up and that showed the cops got it wrong that Sarah’s cell phone connected from the scene of the murder (go figure). The judge has ordered an independent test to be done (a good sign).

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Lorenzo Johnson

Lorenzo Johnson served 16 and a half years of a life-without-parole sentence, from 1995 to 2012, when the Third Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled there was legally insufficient evidence for his conviction. He remained free for 4 months, after which the US Supreme Court unanimously reinstated the conviction and ordered Lorenzo back to prison to resume the sentence. With the help of Michael Wiseman, Esq., The Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, The Campaign to Free Lorenzo Johnson, and others, he is continuing to fight for his freedom

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News 11 July 2017 : ‘I had to end their pain:’ Lorenzo Johnson says he took plea deal for his family

Top Wrongful Convictions – #3 Hannah Overton

Hannah Overton – Charges dropped April 8 2015.

Trial by Media

hannahfreeThis is the third in a series of short posts, my personal “top” wrongful convictions.

The purpose is to explain that “you may be wrong”.

Remember that in every wrongful conviction, a jury is fooled into believing the accused person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Every wrongful conviction has a cause, sometimes there are multiple causes.

I have chosen the case of Hannah Overton as #3.

Hannah was (thankfully!) exonerated on April 8th, 2015.

My view of the causes:

  • Medical staff mistook the effects of salt poisoning for neglect
  • The prosecutor was an alcoholic, with a “win at all costs” attitude
  • Exculpatory evidence was suppressed
  • The judge was negligent

For more see here, here and here.

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Harold Fish

This case is notable due to a retroactive change in the law regarding the burden of proof in self defense cases in Arizona.

On May 11, 2004, 57-year-old Harold Fish, a retired high school teacher, was completing a solo hike in a remote area of the Coconino National Forest near Strawberry, Arizona, when he saw 43-year-old Grant Kuenzli lying on the ground near a car. Fish waved at Kuenzli, whom he did not know, and two unleashed dogs came charging at him.

Fish yelled at Kuenzli to corral the dogs and, when nothing happened, he pulled a 10-millimeter semi-automatic pistol from his backpack and fired a warning shot into the ground. The dogs scattered, but then, according to Fish, Kuenzli himself charged at Fish, threatening to kill him.

Fish fired three shots and killed Kuenzli, a former firefighter who was living out of his car in the forest. Fish covered Kuenzli’s body with a tarp and walked to a highway where he flagged down a motorist who summoned emergency personnel.

Entry at National Registry of Exonerations | News Article on change in law.