AAAS Responds to the NAS’s call for Research Backing Forensic Science

My thought : there should be a mechanism for expert testimony to be subjected to something similar to peer review pre-trial.

Forensic Science in North Carolina

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) announced that it will begin conducting an analysis of the scientific bases for ten forensic disciplines. Through funding from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, AAAS plans to review the current scientific studies regarding the procedures and testimony of forensic experts. This analysis is a direct response to some members of the National Commission on Forensic Science’s comment that further study is needed to ensure that forensic science meets Daubert’s requirements for validity and reliability in expert testimony.

In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences released a report entitled Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward which found that “forensic science disciplines suffer from an inadequate research base: Few forensic scientists have the opportunity to conduct research, few academics are positioned to undertake such research, and, importantly, the funding for forensic research is insufficient.” p…

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United States Supreme Court questions constitutionality of the death penalty

Although Richard Glossip‘s appeal to the Supreme Court failed today, there are signs that the death penalty may in future be declared unconstitutional.

Justice Breyer wrote:

“In 1976, the Court thought that the constitutional infirmities in the death penalty could be healed; the Court in effect delegated significant responsibility to the States to develop procedures that would protect against those constitutional problems. Almost 40 years of studies, surveys, and experience strongly indicate, however, that this effort has failed. Today’s administration of the death penalty involves three fundamental constitutional defects: (1) serious unreliability, (2) arbitrariness in application, and (3) unconscionably long delays that undermine the death penalty’s penological purpose. Perhaps as a result, (4) most places within the United States have abandoned its use.”

He goes on to give an excellent analysis of the many problems with the death penalty, including the statement:

“In light of these and other factors, researchers estimate that about 4% of those sentenced to death are actually innocent.”

and concludes:

“For the reasons I have set forth in this opinion, I believe it highly likely that the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment. At the very least, the Court should call for full briefing on the basic question.”

I agree. It’s time to end the death penalty once and for all. It is both cruel and unusual punishment.

See here for some points in response to Justice Scalia.

More reaction at DPIC.

The End of the Death Penalty? By Robert J. Smith, Slate.com, July 2015

The Intercept Article by Liliana Segura.

Kenneth Moore

Kenneth Moore’s brother, and two other men, committed a series of heinous crimes in the summer of 1978, including robbery, rape and murder. His brother was sentenced to death and committed suicide soon after.

Kenneth had no part in these crimes, he was implicated due to a truck he had stolen and given to his brother weeks before.

Nevertheless, Kenneth was convicted and (aged 19) sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

Kenneth was assisted by the Northern California Innocence project. DNA tests were conducted, but the sample was apparently switched or mis-labelled, because the results excluded both Kenneth and the victim.

Kenneth is seeking to have further DNA tests performed to prove his innocence, but this has been denied by the judge.

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The Fairbanks Four

The Claim:

Jeff O’Bryant was the man who tried and convicted George Frese, Kevin Pease, Eugene Vent, and Marvin Roberts. He went to trial with very little evidence of any kind, a few jailhouse snitches in his pocket, one fabricated exhibit presented as scientific, and absolutely no physical evidence.

In addition to the lack of evidence indicating the men were guilty, there was a tremendous amount of alibi testimony indicating that the men were innocent. To convict the Fairbanks Four, O’Bryant knew he would have to convict the alibis, the witnesses, and in reality, all Native people. He had the ideal stage. Overt, extreme racism against the Native people of Alaska is the norm in the northern state. Persuading an all-white jury that being guilty of being Native was guilty enough was not as difficult as we hope it will be someday. So, Jeff O’Bryant argued that the alibi witnesses in the Fairbanks Four case should be ignored because they were simply Indians sticking together the way Indians do, a la “Spartacus.”

Source

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Charges dismissed 18 December, 2015

Tommy Zeigler

At Zeigler’s 1976 trial the state put forth a theory that Zeigler held his father-in-law, Perry Edwards Sr., in a headlock and bashed his head in with a linoleum roll crank handle and that is why Edwards blood was on Zeigler’s shirt. The trial prosecutor even demonstrated how Zeigler held Mr. Edwards in a headlock and swung the crank handle.

Years later in a national television documentary, the prosecution’s blood expert Dr. Herb MacDonell re-enacted the demonstration that state attorney Bob Eagan did at trial for the Zeigler jury in 1976. Click here to see the re-enactment.

Twenty five years later limited DNA testing in 2002 found no blood from Edwards on Zeigler’s shirt. Accordingly, Zeigler’s attorney requested a new trial at a hearing in December 2004.

At the close of the 2004 DNA hearing assistant state attorney Jeff Ashton, who has been on the Zeigler case for decades, argued that the blood evidence did not change anything because Zeigler was convicted for other reasons. Ashton argued, among other things, that Zeigler was convicted because his fingerprint was found inside of a ripped off latex glove tip that was found on the floor at the scene of the crime, and that Zeiger had secretly purchased life insurance on his wife Eunice. Apparently Judge Whitehead believed Ashton’s argument because he denied Zeigler a new trial.

Neither the fingerprint nor the secretly purchased insurance statements were true. These damning statements went un-refuted by Zeigler’s attorney because he was not at the trial and apparently had not studied the trial transcript. Unfortunately, Zeigler’s attorney mistakenly relied on professional ethics that are supposed to keep attorneys from lying to a judge.

There is no evidence that Zeigler’s fingerprint was in the glove tip and plenty of evidence that Zeigler’s family and his family lawyer knew he was purchasing the life insurance and had actually advised him to do so.

This false narrative devised by the state effectively denied any chance Zeigler would get a new trial.

The state of Florida’s false narrative denied Zeigler a new trial.

This false narrative fits right in with the tactics used to convict and keep Zeigler on death row for 39 years.

Source

Featured Case #77 Facebook Page | Discussion | Proposal Post | Featured Case Post | Website | Huffpost Article from 2012

News

Evidentiary hearing granted October 23, 2015

Eddie Lee Howard

The expert whose bite-mark evidence led a jury to put Eddie Lee Howard Jr. on Mississippi’s death row now believes such evidence should be tossed.

“I no longer believe in bite-mark analysis,” forensic odontologist Michael West of Hattiesburg testified in a 2012 deposition. “I don’t think it should be used in court. I think you should use DNA. Throw bite marks out.”

On Tuesday, lawyers from the Mississippi Innocence Project will argue to the state Supreme Court that Howard deserves a new trial. The state says justices have already rejected these arguments in a previous appeal.

Howard, who turns 62 on Saturday, remains on death row, convicted of the 1992 rape and stabbing death of 84-year-old Georgie Kemp of Columbus.

Recently performed DNA tests reveal the presence of male DNA (other than Howard) on the bloody knife found at the murder scene. DNA tests on the nightgown and the rape kit have excluded Howard as well.

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News

June 20, 2015 Bite-mark expert dismisses own testimony

August 7, 2015 Lowndes man sentenced to death may get new trial “On Aug. 4, the Supreme Court ruled Howard may file a petition for post-conviction relief in the trial court.

Read more: http://www.cdispatch.com/news/article.asp?aid=43769#ixzz3iY6BmrfY

Troy Clarke

The claim:

Troy has been an inmate on death row since March 2000. He was found guilty of capital murder and received the death penalty. Troy did not commit this crime. His girlfriend at the time, Tory Bush, confessed to the murder and gave at least 4 statements to the police admitting her guilt.

While Tory was in jail awaiting her trial she changed her story and put the blame on Troy. She was assisted in this by another inmate, who had been willing to testify to that effect at Troy’s trial had she been called: she was not.

Troy was convicted, tried, and ultimately sentenced to death; he is on death row purely because of what Tory said, he’s there because she changed her story after confessing to the murder. There was no concrete evidence whatsoever against Troy: any “evidence” was purely circumstantial, and it came down to Tory’s word against his.

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How Germany does prison, day two.

The Germans had trouble making sense of these questions. There were a lot of blank stares. In Germany, prosecutors and judges are not elected. As career civil servants, they are insulated from public opinion. Their work is more “technical,” said Gero Meinen, who directs the prison system in Berlin. The role is to protect the rational system of correction — which aims to restrict freedom the least amount necessary — from the retributive impulses that individual victims and society in general might feel.

Series index – The Marshall Project

Jason Young

Jason Young was convicted for the November 2006 murder of his wife, Michelle.  He was convicted based on very weak, manufactured circumstantial evidence.  There was no physical evidence linking him to the crime.

A neighbor testified that she saw an SUV type vehicle exiting the Young’s driveway at approximately 5:20 that morning. She said there was a white male driver and a female passenger with thick, bushy hair, who looked away sharply as she passed.

Two footprints in blood were identified near the body: One was a Hushpuppy shoe (approximate size, 12) and the other was a Franklin athletic shoe, size 10.

Unidentified DNA was found on a jewelry box in the Young’s bedroom, and unidentified fingerprints and palm prints were found in the Young’s home, some near the body.

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News

April 1, 2014

— The North Carolina Court of Appeals on Tuesday ordered a third trial for a man convicted of murdering his pregnant wife in their Wake County home seven years ago, saying a judge should not have allowed evidence about a wrongful death lawsuit.

May 19, 2015

North Carolina’s highest court is considering whether a Raleigh man convicted of killing his pregnant wife should get a new trial.

The state Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in the Jason Young case.

Young is serving a life sentence at the Alexander Correctional Institution in Alexander County for the death of his wife Michelle. She was five months pregnant in 2006 when her bloody body was found in their bedroom with their unharmed daughter. She was beaten to death.

..

Young was convicted of killing Michelle in March, 2012. At his first trial in 2011, a jury couldn’t come to a verdict deadlocking 8-to-4 for acquittal. Eight months later, he was tried again and convicted, after prosecutors introduced evidence that wasn’t used in the first trial.

In April 2014, the state Court of Appeals said the judge at the second trial shouldn’t have allowed evidence about a wrongful death lawsuit and child custody complaint.

Stobert Holt

In 2010 police arrested and convicted National Flight Services employee Stobert Holt for the murder of Robert Wiles. Edward Edwards killed Wiles in his apartment the night of March 31, 2008, took his cell phone, and followed Stobert Holt from April 1st until April 3rd, planting evidence to make it look like Stobert had the victim’s body and cell phone.

On “48 hours” he said “I was in disbelief. There is no evidence to support the conviction. I’m upset because I’m an innnocent man convicted of manslaughter.”

He was sentenced to 30 years.

Source: It’s Me, pages 369-370.

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Edward Edwards : Website | Discussion Group | Facebook Page

Matthew Riley

Matthew Riley was convicted in October 2013 of the December 9, 2008 murder of his parents, Linda and Steven Riley in Sacramento, California, and was sentenced to life with no possibility of parole.

The murder occurred  early in the morning, in the afternoon Matthew discovered the bodies and called 911. From that moment he was the only target of the investigation, despite the fact that his family tried to get the police to consider other suspects.

Matthew had no reason to murder his own parents.

Unidentified DNA extracted from blood was found at the scene, and also unidentified finger-prints.

There was no forensic evidence linking him to the crime, however his wife Jannilin Overton testified that he left home that night. Overton, a meth addict, was not a credible witness, and her story changed several times. Overton testified that Matthew left their apartment around 3am. Matthew’s parents home, where they were murdered, was 40 miles from Matthew’s apartment. If he went out in the middle of the night at 3am intent on murdering his parents, he would have been at the scene around 4am.

The prosecution’s time of death seems incompatible with evidence found at the scene which suggests Matthew’s parents were attacked after Steven had made coffee. The morning routine was that Steven got up first and drank coffee while reading the paper. Then he brought Linda breakfast upstairs on a tray. When they were killed, the coffee pot was half-full and the breakfast tray was still downstairs. Security cameras showed a newspaper delivery car at 6:30am. This suggests the attack happened after 6:30am. Around 7:00 a.m., Matt made a purchase in a doughnut shop near his home, which was verified by a time-stamped receipt. If he murdered his parents, he would have been covered in blood, no trace was found in his car, there is no place or time for him to have cleaned up, driven back before buying the doughnut.

At the sentencing hearing, the judge said Matthew staged a fake ransacking of the residence but made the mistake of leaving valuables normally taken by a thief. The judge said “They were horrific assaults and during many trials over 22 years as a judge, the savage nature of the attacks showed that it would have to be a crazy person, serial killer or some connection – it would have to be someone close to them”.

The judge added that Riley’s guilty demeanor after his parent’s death was an important factor in the case, “He was dispassionate – almost matter of fact”.

Family members, including Matthew’s Aunt, and the brother of victim Linda Riley, believe that Matthew was wrongly convicted.

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Wife Of Convicted Murderer Explains Why She Lied On The Stand (VIDEO) Huffington post, April 16, 2015

A possible alternate suspect would be Edward Wayne Edwards.

Michael Amick

Michael Amick was wrongly convicted for the 2008 murder of Leona Vaughan, his grandmother-in-law, at her daughter Jackie Risner’s home in Myrtle, in southern Missouri, and the fire that destroyed the home after the murder. Vaughan had been shot six times in the head. On June 16, 2015, the conviction was overturned.

During the three full days of testimony, the jury heard from more than a dozen witnesses on both sides of the case, mostly in favor of the defendant, placing him at several locations in the Myrtle area at the time of the Risner home fire.

One witness, Risner’s neighbor, Jake Mayberry, who was 19 at the time of the murder, testified he saw Amick’s pickup truck at the Risner home about 15 minutes before seeing smoke coming from the house. Mayberry’s description of Amick’s truck as a silver extended-cab rather than a pewter crew-cab pickup was a critical point of contention for Amick’s defense team.

Mayberry admitted smoking marijuana sometime in the month before Vaughan’s death, although not that morning. Several times during the trial and during closing arguments, defense attorney Dee Wampler said Mayberry was “too high on pot” to identify Amick’s truck.

“This guy’s brain deserves to be in the Smithsonian when he dies,” Wampler said of Mayberry.

Missouri Assistant Attorney General Kevin Zoellner of Jefferson City, who served as prosecutor alongside Oregon County Prosecutor Fred O’Neill, accused the defense of fraud for producing a photo of a similar pickup truck, presumably to trick Mayberry into identifying it as Amick’s truck.

Linda Amick testified that her son did not benefit from Vaughan’s death. She named several people in the community that she said did benefit by Vaughan’s death, saying they were dealing in large quantities of drugs from California, and Vaughan likely confronted them about the drugs.

Source: News report on the trial July 6, 2011

Appeal

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Documents ( see also discussion group documents )

Document on alleged Perjury by Deputy King | Brief 31 December 2014

News

24 May 2014 Jake Mayberry charged for a driving-related offense

16 June 2015 Conviction overturned
“In that trial, the judge excused a juror for health reasons after the jury had already begun deliberations. That juror was replaced with an alternate juror that had already been excused and had gone home.”

29 November 2016 Detailed article at The Reporters.org

1 December 2016, Found Not Guilty after retrial.

 

Edgar Patino

Sergeant Edgar Patino plead guilty to a murder he did not commit ( when faced with the threat of the death penalty ).

On June 14, 2008, Megan Touma, 7 months pregnant, was murdered. Her body was found on the 21st June, 2008, at the Cross Creek Mall Fairfield Inn, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Patino worked for the Criminal Investigation Command of the U.S. Army at Fort Bragg.

When police entered, they found the Zodiac sign written in lipstick on a mirror.

Megan was killed in the bathtub and had been rabbit punched in the throat.

A Zodiac letter, dated June 17, 2008 (four days before the body was found), was sent, claiming responsibility.

On June 28, 2008, Edward Edwards went online, using his grandmother’s name “Anibal”, implicating Patino.

Edwards also planted a typewriter to implicate Patino.

Patino was arrested on June 28, 2008. He denied the murder.

In 2010, threatened with a charge of 1st degree murder, and a possible death penalty, Patino plead guilty to 2nd degree murder, his lawyer did not inform him he could not appeal.

Patino was contacted in April 2013, and wrote back in a letter dated May 28, 2013.

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Edward Edwards : Website | Discussion Group | Facebook Page

New Zealand starts new ‘Innocence’ Panel

Wrongful Convictions Blog

untitledSince the high profile exoneration of Teina Pora (see here…) and lots of calls for reforms in New Zealand, including a body to look at miscarriages of justice, the newly created New Zealand Public Interest Project (NZPIP) has now started work. A charitable organisation, it plans to look into cases as well as wider concerns about the operation of the NZ criminal justice system. The body already has a queue of high profile cases in which a prisoner is claiming innocence. While good news…. it is not a government backed (or funded) body… which should have been the response to growing concerns about the justice system in New Zealand.  One hopes that if they can bring attention, and overturn, further miscarriages of justice, the government will take the issue seriously and set up a funded body. Read more here….

Many innocent people languishing in NZ jails says legal group fighting…

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Stacey Hyde : defense team letter to Guardian

It is quite extraordinary that the chief crown prosecutor in the Stacey Hyde case complains (Letters, 16 June) that your article is not balanced as you fail to represent the full facts of the case, citing a key piece of evidence as “fact”, whereas it was strongly disputed at trial. The defence did not accept that Stacey “left the original scene only to return armed with a kitchen knife” and it is likely that the jury also rejected this prosecution evidence when returning their not guilty verdict.

The claim also shows a worrying unfamiliarity with the evidence, as the “original scene” was in fact the kitchen and hallway in which the 32-year-old deceased had strangled the 17-year-old Ms Hyde in an attempt to kill her and had repeatedly swung her around by her hair. Ms Hyde was heard screaming in pain (on the 999 call) for nearly two minutes while this was going on. He then immediately left the flat to repeatedly punch his girlfriend just outside the front door. It was at this point that Ms Hyde picked up and used a knife in order to save her friend from the treatment she had been receiving seconds earlier.

This blinkered approach to the evidence characterises the CPS’s unbalanced approach throughout the proceedings and their determination to secure a reconviction for murder. What he also fails to mention is that the CPS instructed an adolescent psychiatrist at the appeal that they abandoned when he agreed with the defence about the state of Stacey’s mental health. Instead of then conceding that there were good medical reasons to offer Stacey a plea to manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility and provocation they continued to seek to have her convicted of murder. This was cruel and evidentially unjustified, as the jury clearly found.
Stephen Kamlish QC
Clare Wade
Harriet Wistrich
Stacey Hyde defence team

Letter to Guardian Tuesday 16th June, 2015

Arizona Bar investigating complaint about Juan Martinez

Ex-DA Who Sent Exoneree Anthony Graves to Death Row Is Disbarred

Today, finally, a small measure of justice was served when the State Bar of Texas stripped Sebesta of his law license and formally disbarred him.

It was a stunning reversal of fortune for a man who was, for decades, the most powerful elected official in Burleson and Washington counties. Even after Graves walked free in 2010 and was formally exonerated in 2011, Sebesta continued to impugn his character—telling Texas newspapers as recently as last January that Graves was guilty of murder. Until the bar’s ruling, he did so with impunity.

http://www.texasmonthly.com/daily-post/ex-da-who-sent-exoneree-anthony-graves-death-row-disbarred