Category Archives: News

Mark Carver

Mark Carver is serving a life sentence without parole after his 2011 conviction for strangling Irina Yarmolenko. Her body was found near her car in Mount Holly, on the banks of the Catawba River. Carver and his cousin were fishing downstream at the time.

Chris Mumma, executive director of North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, is seeking a new trial, arguing that Carver received an inadequate defense and that key pieces of evidence used to convict him would not stand up to updated testing and new information uncovered in the case. In particular, Mumma claims that far more conclusive testing and reporting of DNA will undermine the prosecution’s contention that Carver’s genetic material was found on Yarmolenko’s car.

She also says Carver’s statements to police indicating that he knew the victim’s height can be challenged by interrogation video – never seen by a jury – that shows he was coached into giving the description by a detective.

In 2016, the Charlotte Observer published “Death by the River,” a six-part series raising questions about Carver’s guilt.

Source: Defense in disputed murder case wants Gaston DA punished for withholding evidence June 14, 2017

Discussion | Proposal Post

Sylvester Davis

Sylvester Davis Jr., was convicted of killing his girlfriend Yamisha Thomas of Columbus.

Davis, 32, was sentenced as a habitual offender to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in the death of Thomas.

Court testimony shows that Davis had been with Thomas on April 23, 2011, the day before she was reported missing. Davis first told Thomas’ mother that he too had been looking for the 30-year-old woman, but he later changed his story.

During an investigation, police recovered Thomas’ abandoned 2006 Chevy Avalanche in Columbus and later noted that Davis had a mark on his face as though he had been in a struggle.

A break in the search for Thomas came when Alabama Bureau of Investigation agents were questioning jail inmate Jerry Wayne Foster, who worked for Davis at a detail shop in Phenix City. Foster told authorities that Davis picked him up on the evening of April 23, went to the Summerplace Drive rental home where the couple once stayed and drove her red Avalanche to a hospital in Columbus.

Davis took Foster to Thomas’ body and sought help to conceal it but he refused. As he walked away, Foster spotted what appeared to be a body wrapped in a sheet. It had feet exposed with toenails painted.

Foster returned to Tuskegee, Ala., where he was to face unrelated felony charges on outstanding warrants. While in the Macon County Jail, he told the ABI agents about a body in Phenix City and said he could lead them to the remains. Thomas’ body was found in a shallow grave on May 23, 2011, in a wooded lot off Third Street South in Phenix City. Her body was beneath a mattress lying on the ground.

Source: News report

Discussion | Proposal Post

Daniel Gwynn

Daniel Gwynn was convicted of first degree murder, arson and aggravated assault in 1995. The primary evidence against him was an incriminating police-written statement that he signed. In this statement Mr. Gwynn is supposed to have started the fire at that killed Marcia Smith, one of the six homeless residents there, who refused to jump out of a third floor residence. The other five residents survived. Two of the residents testified that on the day before the fire they had an altercation with someone known as ‘Rick’ who fought with them for seventy minutes before being forced to flee the residence and threatened revenge. The five homeless residents told police that they believed ‘Rick” had to have started the fire – even though they did not see who started the fire.

According to false confession expert Dr. Richard Leo, “There is no objective record of what occurred and therefore no way of ruling out that Mr. Gwynn was not educated about those facts that he got correct, a phenomenon known as ‘contamination’ that is not uncommon in police interrogations, especially those leading to false confessions.”

Source: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/en-gb/125/358/722/free-daniel-gwynn-an-innocent-man-on-death-row/

Discussion | Proposal Post

Jason Sadowski Update

This is a more detailed account of the featured case of Jason David Sadowski, who faces a retrial starting on March 6, 2017.

Update1: A dedicated wordpress site with case information was created on Feb 3, 2017:
https://freecoachjason.wordpress.com/

Update2: Jason was found not guilty on all counts on March 17, 2017.

Two drug addicts, Angel Paris and Becky Bressette, accused Jason of assaulting and torturing them after they admitted stealing money from him, early in the early morning hours of July 2, 2013.

The appeal ruling reversing the 2014 conviction put it this way: “According to the victims, Sadowski essentially turned into a violent, abusive, sword-wielding captor the moment they confessed to taking a relatively minimal amount of money”.

Jason denies the allegations, the defense case (according to the winning appeal brief) is that “the women lied to the police to insulate themselves from arrest for the larceny. He testified the two women fought between themselves in a dispute over returning the stolen money to him, that he never forced them into the basement or bound them to the poles, that he did not physically assault or choke either woman, and did not solicit Ms. Paris to kill Ms. Bressette”.

Angel and Becky told conflicting stories that were contradicted by medical evidence, and there was no evidence to disprove Jason’s version of events other than Angel and Becky’s testimony. Other witnesses who were present corroborated Jason’s version.

Specifically, there are the following apparent lies and contradictions in their stories:

(1) Money stolen from Jason’s wallet.
At trial, Angel testified that she took four dollars, giving two to Becky. However, the first responding police officer testified that Angel informed him that she had stolen three dollars and Becky had taken ten dollars. Becky, on the other hand, testified that Angel took a couple of dollars while Becky grabbed a handful of change.

(2) After the theft.
Angel testified she asked to use the bathroom, confessed to Jason and gave him two dollars back. But Becky testified that only Jason went to the bathroom, and that when he returned he accused them of taking money.

(3) The curtains.
Becky testified that after being hit, she grabbed onto the curtains and pulled them off, but police pictures purported to show those curtains still intact and installed on the window.

(4) The vagina search.
Becky also testified that Jason made her lie on the bed and forced Angel to insert her hand inside of Becky’s vagina at least twice to check if money was hidden there. Angel, however, testified that while Jason wanted them to check each other’s vaginas, they refused.

(5) Duct-taping to poles.
Both victims testified that it was a joint effort of defendants in duct taping them to poles in the basement. But Charles Cope was repeatedly asked if Jason ever touched, hit or threatened Angel or Becky, and responded that did not happen. Then at sentencing he said “Downstairs … that’s all I know, he never touched ’em downstairs. I never seen him hurt ’em.” [ Note that Cope did not testify, so the jury never heard any of this ]

(6) They were taped to the poles for a long time.
Sarah Pietro, Jason’s ex-wife, testified that she was at the gym on the morning in question, the two victims were fine, there was no yelling or screaming, and they did not seem agitated.

(7) Both women were choked.
In Angel’s medical records there is no indication she complained of having been strangled. Dr. Vanderschaff found no physical signs of strangulation, including no neck swelling, hand marks on her neck, or signs of petechiae (broken blood vessels) in her eyes or on her face.

(8) Becky claimed that Jason burned her on the face with a lit cigarette.
Angel testified : while she heard Becky say that he had burned her with a cigarette, she did not see that happen. Dr. Vanderschaff saw no indication of a cigarette burn.

Angel admitted at trial that she had numerous problems in the past with opiate addictions.  On one occasion, Angel assaulted three people then fled in a stolen vehicle. When police arrested her, she lied and said she had been the one that was assaulted and that the stolen vehicle was a misunderstanding. She then plead guilty and was convicted and had to write an apology letter. The judge is not allowing testimony from three witnesses who could testify to this earlier incident in the retrial.

Another witness was with Angel when she asked to be tied up with duct tape before and then asked to raped. Another circumstance is that Becky died of a drug overdose in September 2013, while with Angel, prior to trial.

Sarah Pietro, Jason’s ex-wife and good friend worked as an EMT Paramedic , 9/11 responder, a volunteer until her ambulance rolled over in 2003 and left her a paraplegic. Sarah has hired a lawyer with savings she had, but the money has run out and the attorney she hired is now working pro bono. The court has paid for one expert but won’t pay for anything else, including DNA testing that could conclusively prove Jason to be innocent.

Sarah is doing everything she can to help Jason have a fair retrial on March 6 and has created a support website and a Facebook Page “Free Coach”.

Update: Cope was offered time-served if he would testify against Jason, he refused, was convicted and sentenced to  to 25 to 40 years.

 

.

Book Review: “Forensic Science Reform – Protecting the Innocent”

Wrongful Convictions Blog

bower-book

For the last 8 1/2 years, I have been working to ‘help’ overcome the devastating effects that incorrect, bogus, and non-scientific forensics has had on our justice system in producing wrongful convictions.  And I’ve also been writing about it on this blog since its inception.

C.M. (Mike) Bowers has teamed up with Wendy Koen to produce a definitive work addressing many of these issues. Mike is forensic dentist who has been at the forefront of debunking the junk science of bite mark analysis. Wendy Koen is a former attorney with the California Innocence Project. Mike also maintains the website CSIDDS dedicated to promoting truth, reason, logic, and actual science in the discipline of forensics.

The data below from the National Registry of Exonerations shows that false or misleading forensic evidence is a contributing factor in 24% of all the wrongful convictions logged by the registry to date.

nat-reg-exon

This book provides…

View original post 178 more words

Vincent Simmons

On May 22, 1977, Karen and Sharon Sanders, 14-year-old twins, reported that they were raped two weeks prior. In statements to police, the twins claimed that they, along with their cousin Keith Laborde encountered a black man at the 7-11 filling station. They gave the man a ride and then claim that the same man produced a knife and ordered everyone into the trunk of the car. He then allegedly raped the twins one at a time and repeatedly before setting them free. The twins claimed that their attacker threatened to have his buddies come after them if they breathed a word.

In their statements, the twins were unable to identify their attacker because “all blacks looks alike.” With this information, Avoyelles Parish police picked up Vincent Simmons and placed him under arrest. Simmons was placed in a line-up in which he was the only one handcuffed. The Sanders twins and Laborde then identified Simmons as their attacker.

From 1977 until 1993 Simmons filed repeated motions to view the evidence file pertaining to his case, including police reports, arrest reports, victims’ statements, trial transcripts, the medical examiner’s report and other documents. After 16 years, his request was finally granted. Facts that came to light included the medical examination of the twins, which showed that Sharon Sanders’ hymen remained intact three weeks after the date of the alleged rapes and that she remained a virgin. This medical examiner’s report was never turned over to the defense for discovery during the trial.

There was no physical evidence presented in the Simmons case that the rapes actually occurred. Simmons’ defense also presented several eyewitnesses who claimed that Simmons was at a local bar with them the night of the alleged rapes.

Simmons was given a 100-year sentence, two counts of attempted aggravated rape.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vincent_Simmons

Website : http://www.freevincent.com/

Documentary (1999):

Proposal Post

David Temple’s Alibi

dec282016
David was released from custody on December 28, 2016

The case against David Temple, recently released on bond, appears to be extremely weak, based on not much more than police alleging the scene was staged, and  he had motive and opportunity. At the trial in 2008, according to this report  :

 

DeGuerin’s key witnesses were brothers who lived directly behind Temple’s house.

“I heard a loud boom,” said one of the brothers. “Boom,” said the other.

The Roberts brothers were young boys when they told the police they heard what sounded like a gunshot.

They had started watching the movie “Dr. Doolittle” a little after 4 p.m., and nine years later, they remembered the exact point in the film when they heard that sound.

Using that point as a time reference, the defense figured they heard the boom around 4:30 p.m. And that is a critical time because David and his son, Evan, were seen on that store security video at 4:32 p.m.

“When they heard the gunshot, David Temple was six miles away,” DeGuerin told Schlesinger.

==

But there have been some new developments. One is that in the recent concurrence written by Judge Kevin Patrick Yeary ( source ) which found ineffective assistance of counsel, we find:

On the night of Belinda’s murder, Kenneth [David’s father] had given written statement to the sheriff’s investigators. Asked about the time that Belinda had dropped by his residence to pick up the homemade soup for the ailing ET on her way home, Kenneth maintained that he had gotten home from work at 3:30 pm, “and Belinda arrived about fifteen minutes later at approximately 3:45 PM.” She “visited with us for a few minutes” and then, “I guess it was around 3:55 PM. at the time she left.”

Testimony at trial indicated that the drive from Kenneth’s residence to Applicant and Belinda’s house takes about fifteen minutes. Thus, according to Kenneth’s original estimate, Belinda could not have arrived home much earlier than 4:10 pm. This would have left only a very narrow window of time—ten minutes or so—during which applicant could have forced or coaxed Belinda into the walk-in closet, killed her, potentially changed his clothes, staged a burglary, hustled ET into his truck, and still arrived at the supermarket by 4:32 pm.

..

When Kenneth testified before the grand jury in April of 1999, he gave the same time estimates: Belinda arrived at his house “at 3:45,” and they visited “for a few minutes standing there in the garage.”

“She probably was at my house from 3:45 to 3:55. I think she left about five minutes till 4:00.” He confirmed that the drive from his house to Applicant and Belinda’s home was “[a]bout 15 minutes.”

..

Inexplicably, Kenneth remembered the time-line differently at trial. He claimed once again that he got home at 3:30 pm. Defense counsel asked him to give his first estimate or if you looked at a clock, when did Belinda get there?” Kenneth told jury, “3:32, or close to that. ” A short while later, defense counsel asked, “And then did she leave Kenneth answered, “In minutes. 3: 45 at least.”

==

It seems that the defense have also discovered cell phone evidence, confirming this timeline to be correct:

“If she’s [Belinda Temple] in that parking lot between 3:20 and 3:30 and her cellphone records say she’s there at 3:30 too, then it’s virtually impossible for David Temple to have committed this crime,” Defense attorney Casie Gotro said. “So not only is this evidence beneficial to the defense, but it completely undermines the state’s entire theory of prosecution.”

Source: David Temple’s attorneys claim mountain of evidence will prove his innocence, July 2015

==

Also interesting is this additional evidence that the murder happened around 4:30 p.m in a 2013 blog by By ADA Alan Curry  :

4:25 p.m. The Parkers’ dog was barking and running up and down along the fence line. The Temples’ dog was not barking.
4:30 p.m. Nothing unusual at the Temple home; the Temples’ dog was not barking. A four-door, light-colored sedan with two young men drove quickly out of the neighborhood.

[ Note: Shaka the family dog was locked in the garage, so wouldn’t necessarily be aware of any events, see here. ]

==

Finally, the confusion about when Belinda got home is very evident in Curry’s blog, as it has an impossible timeline:

3:32 p.m. Belinda calls David Temple at their house to say that she is on her way home. After leaving school, Belinda went to her in-laws’ home to pick up some soup, and she left their residence at about 3:45 p.m.

3:45 p.m. Belinda gets home

==

The drive from the in-laws to home is about 15 minutes, and certainly cannot be completed in ZERO time!!

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Skakel Update

On October 31, 1975, the body of Martha Moxley, a 15-year-old girl, was found on her family property in the Belle Haven section of Greenwich, Connecticut. Her blue jeans and underpants were pulled down, she had been struck several times in the head with a Toney Penna golf club—so ferociously that the club had shattered into multiple pieces—and then stabbed in the neck with the broken shaft. The club’s handle and part of the shaft were not found.

Martha was last seen alive around 9:30 p.m. the previous day. Based on stomach contents, experts estimated that the time of death was between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.  Barking dogs, Martha’s curfew, and Dorthy Moxley’s testimony that she heard Martha cry out around 10:00 all suggested the murder occurred around 10 p.m (see note 1 below ).

Three witnesses—John Skakel, Jim Terrien, and Rush Skakel Jr. maintained from the first time they were questioned that they had left with Michael to go to  Terriens’ house at 9:30, when Martha was still alive, and had returned at 11:20 ( see note 5 for more about the alibi ).

Thus 15-year-old Michael Skakel was never considered to be a suspect at the time, as he had an alibi confirmed by multiple witnesses. Instead suspicion mostly fell on his older brother Tom, and tutor Kenneth  Littleton, who had moved in to the Skakel house on the day of the murder, however no charges were brought.

Michael Skakel’s father, Rushton Walter Skakel (1923–2003) was the brother of  Ethel Skakel Kennedy, the widow of Senator Robert F. Kennedy (assassinated June 5, 1968), and due to the Kennedy connection the case was heavily publicised, leading to considerable speculation. In 1993, a fictional story closely resembling the Moxley case was published, and in 1998 a book by Mark Fuhrman accused Michael Skakel of the murder. In  June 1998, a one-man grand jury was convened to review the evidence of the case, and after an 18-month investigation, Michael was charged with murder. On  June 7, 2002 after a one-month trial, Michael was found guilty. He was sentenced to 20 years to life.

The conviction rested mainly on an alleged confession made to students at Élan School ( see note 2 below ) where Michael was sent at age seventeen after a drunk driving accident.  The school  practiced a controversial behavior-modification program that relies on peer confrontation. For two years Michael was continually spat upon, slapped, and deprived of sleep. He was serially beaten with hoses and by students wearing boxing gloves, forced to wear a dunce cap and a toilet seat around his neck, and subjected to a long inventory of other tortures. Various students claimed that Michael confessed during this mis-treatment, however these claims were not credible. Unfortunately, owner  Joseph Ricci, who stated as much, died shortly before trial and was unable to testify. See this January 2003 article in The Atlantic ( http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/01/a-miscarriage-of-justice/304759/ ) by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for the details.

In 2003, Gitano “Tony” Bryant, a former classmate of Michael and a cousin of the basketball star Kobe Bryant, came forward with information that he and the two teenagers had been in the exclusive Belle Haven section of Greenwich on Oct. 30, 1975, the night of the murder. Bryant said that he had left early but that the other two stayed behind and told him they wanted to attack a girl “cave-man style.”

Prosecutors said Bryant’s story was not credible, and a judge agreed, however in fact his account is well corroborated by entries in Martha Moxley’s journal. For details see here and notes 3 & 4 below.

Finally in 2013 the conviction was overturned, and Michael was released on bail, however in December 2016 the State Supreme court voted 4-3 to re-instate the conviction.

The majority opinion is available here, it explains :

“Despite their efforts in the years after the murder, including extensive investigations into whether Thomas Skakel or Littleton was involved, the police were unable to connect anyone to the murder and did not make any arrests.”

and makes it clear that any statements made by Michael while at the Elan school cannot possibly be taken as reliable: “he was paddled, assaulted in a boxing ring, and forced to wear a sign that had written on it something to the effect of ‘‘please confront me on the murder of my friend, Martha Moxley . . . .’’

and “These witnesses also stated that the petitioner denied involvement in the victim’s murder, and, when the abuse continued, he parried their accusations by stating that he either did not know or could not recall what happened”.

According to a news report, the Supreme court’s minority opinion was that the lower court was “absolutely correct” in finding that by failing to pursue a third-party liability defense aimed at Thomas Skakel, and the trial attorney did not act as the competent counsel guaranteed by the sixth amendment.

See this Facebook Page ( created 31 December 2016 ) for updates.

Notes

Note 1: Later that night Dorthy went upstairs to paint the trim around some windows. While doing so, she heard a commotion down in the yard, on the side of the house where Martha was killed. “You know, I was aware of voices outside the house that night, and I’m sure that’s when it happened. There were several voices. That is cause for wonder.” from https://www.greenwichsentinel.com/2015/10/30/the-moxley-case-turns-40-with-no-end-in-sight/

Note 2: Wikipedia has details about Élan School for example ” ‘humiliation’ was stated clearly as a therapeutic tool”

and

“In March 2016, Maine State Police announced they had opened a cold case investigation into the death of former Elan resident Phil Williams, who died Dec. 27th, 1982 after participating in Elan’s brutal “ring” where students were forced to fight each other as a means of behavior modification”.

Note 3: See the ruling overturning the conviction (via NyTimes ) for more information. For example from pages 29-30:

The court heard evidence from Margerie Walker Haur, now of Ridgeway, Connecticut, who, as a fifteen year old teenager grew up on Mayo Avenue in Belle Haven, where she had been a close friend of the victim. She testified that she knew Bryant in 1975, and that he and her brother, Neil, had been classmates at the Brunswick School. She indicated that Mills had relayed Bryant’s story to Neil, who, in turn, repeated it to her. She indicated that her brother was frightened by the story and thought they should tell someone about it. Accordingly, she indicated, she related Bryant’s story to Garr in person and to Attorney Sherman by phone before the trial in 2002. Her impression was that neither Garr nor Attorney Sherman seemed interested in the account. In addition to speaking with Garr and Attorney Sherman, she wrote to Dorothy Moxley, the victim’s mother, on May 24, 2002, in which she recounted Bryant’s tale. While Garr denied meeting Walker, and Attorney Sherman stated he had no recollection of such a conversation, the court credits her testimony as accurate and true.

Note 4: News report July 30, 2014 on unidentified hairs:

In April, Seeger requested a court order protecting two unidentified pieces of hair found on sheets used to wrap Moxley’s body, according to court documents. The cataloguing of key hair evidence had been “inconsistent and discombobulated” over the years, Seeger argued, suffering from redundant labeling and weak record-keeping.

The hairs, Seeger said, possess characteristics that match the description of Adolf Hasbrouk and Burton Tinsley, two men named in out-of-court comments by Skakel’s former schoolmate, Gitano “Tony” Bryant, as the true killers of Moxley. Bryant’s claims have been previously dismissed by prosecutors and the courts.

“These hairs are connected to two individuals that have been spoken about by another witness,” said Seeger. “They have African-American and Asian characteristics, and these are hairs that will be instrumental in our third-party culpability motion to the trial.”
The state could not confirm Wednesday whether the evidence remained in its possession.

Note 5: The key habeas alibi witness, Dennis Ossorio. From Page 49 – 54 of https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/809322/skakel.pdf

2. Failure to Adequately Present the Alibi

The petitioner claims that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel on the basis of his assertion that Attorney Sherman failed, adequately, to present his alibi defense.

Specifically, the petitioner claims that Attorney Sherman failed to investigate and then to present the testimony of Dennis Ossorio, an independent witness who would have testified that the petitioner was at the Terrien home, a location approximately twenty minutes distant from the murder site during the time period in which the victim was most likely murdered.
..
At the habeas trial, Dennis Ossorio, now seventy-two years old, testified that in 1975, he, as a psychologist, was operating a program for women. He indicated that he then had a personal connection to Dowdle and that he had been at the Terrien home in the evening hours of October 30, 1975, visiting with Dowdle and her daughter. He testified that, while there, he had visited with the Skakel brothers, including the petitioner, and Terrien, while they were watching the Monty Python show on television. He indicated that he was in and out of the room where the others were watching Monty Python while Dowdle was putting her daughter to bed. Finally, he indicated that he left the Terrien residence at about midnight and was not sure whether the Skakels had left before him. Thus, Ossorio’s testimony supported the petitioner’s claim that during the likely time of the murder, he was away from Belle Haven, as he indicated.

To the court, Ossorio was a disinterested and credible witness with a clear recollection of seeing the petitioner at the Terrien home on the evening in question. He testified credibly that not only was he present in the home with Dowdle and that he saw the petitioner there, but that he lived in the area throughout the time of the trial and would have readily been available to testify if asked. He indicated that while he was aware of the general parameters of the state’s claim against the petitioner, he did not pay close attention to the trial and he did not come forward because he was unaware of the significance of the particular information he possessed.

He indicated that he had not been contacted by Attorney Sherman or by the state in conjunction with the investigation or trial. To the court, Ossorio was a powerful witness in support of the petitioner’s alibi claim.

A science-based blast at Prosecutors’ belief in alchemy, voodoo and bitemarks

FORENSICS and LAW in FOCUS @ CSIDDS | News and Trends

The Current Issue

Oxford University Press’  Journal of Law and the Biosciences just published an amicus curiae (i.e. friend of the court) anti-bitemark treatise which empirically debunks the recent PCAST deniers such as the National DA Association, the IAI, a ‘congress’ of crime labs, the US Department of Justice and the FBI.

The treatise does a complete look into skin-pattern-matching origins, early case law of its acceptance, judicial scientific mis-conceptions about validity, self-serving assumptions, dozens of exonerations, and ruinous failures in proficiency testing. The parallels to alchemy and voodoo are striking. Recent research into the impossibility of bitemarkers possessing ‘medical certainty’ in court gets special attention.

NOTE: the use of ’empirical’ should be considered facts, peer-reviewed studies, failed reliability testing and data underscoring the false beliefs advertised by the bitemark dentists belonging to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Read about the ‘Bullshit Factor about Bitemarks.’

Here…

View original post 260 more words

Alternative suspects

The case of Russ Faria (exonerated November 2015 after a retrial) and Pamela Hupp is in the public eye, with Dateline showing an update on the case yesterday. Hupp has been charged with another murder, and according to officials, the serial number on a $100 bill in Pamela Hupp’s bedroom dresser was sequential with numbers on four $100 bills found on a man she said was a stranger who she killed as an intruder.

During the Faria’s first trial, Judge Chris Kunza Mennemeyer ruled against the defense and they could not introduce the details about Pamela Hupp because it was not direct evidence ( see Russ Faria Found Not Guilty – Or When Pigs Really Fly , November 8, 2015 by Lise LaSalle ).

The point : In another Missouri case, Michael Amick faces a retrial set for Monday November 28, 2016. However, once again the jury will not hear evidence on alternative suspects : a prison confession by David Youngblood, 52, who is serving life without parole for the death of four older adults who were killed in two separate incidents in 2010. Those victims were burned, some of them shot, in their homes about 30 minutes from where Vaughan died, a crime very similar to the one for which Amick stands accused.

Is this a level playing field?

 

 

 

Thank You, Judge Kozinski

Lawyers on Strike

…for taking to the pages of the Wall Street Journal, not only to point out the perils of junk science in the courtroom, but also to succinctly highlight the enormous difficulty of righting our justice system once it has gone wrong and convicted someone who is innocent, and noting the obvious, if unheeded, moral obligation the country has to right these wrongs:

Preventing the incarceration and execution of innocent persons is as good a use of tax dollars as any…As for past convictions obtained through discredited methods, the outlook remains grim… Setting aside wrongful convictions has become exceedingly difficult under a 1996 law called the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which severely limits the ability of federal courts to review state-court decisions. Congress should amend the legislation to authorize swift federal relief to prisoners who make a convincing showing that they were convicted with false or overstated expert…

View original post 125 more words

Nothing to Smile About: Bite Mark Evidence Blasted Again

Wrongful Convictions Blog

Your smile could cost you your freedom.

Just ask Crystal Weimer from Pennsylvania, or William Richards from California.  Weimer and Richards don’t know each other, but their fates were eerily and tragically similar.

Both were tried and convicted of murder in unrelated cases.  Both of their convictions were based on testimony by so-called bite mark experts, who claimed to have matched marks found on victims with each of the defendant’s “bite mark.”  In both cases, the prosecution relied heavily on the “matching” bite marks as proof of the defendants’ guilt.  In both cases, the bite mark evidence was just plain nonsense.

A new report released this week by the President’s Counsel of Advisors for Science and Technology (PCAST), offered yet another devastating critique of bite mark evidence:

available scientific evidence strongly suggests that [bite mark] examiners not only cannot identify the source of bite mark with reasonable accuracy, they cannot…

View original post 200 more words

Brendan Dassey conviction overturned

Brendan Dassey‘s conviction has been overturned. An extract from the Order:

Consequently, the court finds that the confession Dassey gave to the police on March 1, 2006 was so clearly involuntary in a constitutional sense that the court of appeals’ decision to the contrary was an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.

The court does not reach this conclusion lightly. The present decision is made in full appreciation of the limited nature of the habeas remedy under AEDPA and mindful of the principles of comity and federalism that restrain federal intervention in this arena.

However, the high standard imposed by AEDPA is not a complete bar to relief. Cockrell, 537 U.S. at 340. While the circumstances for relief may be rare, even extraordinary, it is the conclusion of the court that this case represents the sort of “extreme malfunction[] in the state criminal justice system[]” that federal habeas corpus relief exists to correct.

New interrogation techniques taking hold

Wrongful Convictions Blog

The good cop-bad cop Reid Technique of interrogations, which has caused numerous false confessions and wrongful convictions, may be finally on the way out.

The Marshall Project reports here about how “a radical new interrogation technique is transforming the art of detective work: Shut up and let the suspect do the talking.”

The new technique is also discussed in former homicide detective Jim Trainum’s soon-to-be released book, How the Police Generate False Confessions: An Inside Look at the Interrogation Room. Steve Drizin of the Center on Wrongful Convictions says Trainum’s book “puts a lie to so many myths about police interrogations that I lost count of them all. But it does so much more. Det. Trainum is not just a critic; he is a reformer, charting a course for the proper way for police officers to investigate cases, interview suspects, witnesses and informants and to obtain reliable information from them.” You can read…

View original post 6 more words

For shame : the public humiliation of prosecutors by judges to correct wrongful convictions

Wrongful Convictions Blog

29 Geo. J. Legal Ethics 305 Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics Spring, 2016

Lara Bazelon

ABSTRACT

Shaming sanctions have a long history in the United States. In the colonial era, judges routinely subjected criminal offenders to a variety of public humiliations that included branding and even maiming. These punishments were designed to exact retribution, deter future misdeeds, and to impress upon the offender the importance of adhering to community norms. Shaming sanctions largely disappeared in the early 1800s with the rise of the prison industrial complex, only to reappear in courtrooms across the country in the early 1990s, when trial judges began to demand that offenders write public apologies, mop streets they had desecrated, and wear signs proclaiming their offenses to the world.

Now, a new shame sanction is on the horizon with a wholly unexpected cast of characters. The shamers are federal appellate judges; the shamed are prosecutors who…

View original post 281 more words

Comment on the Nature and State of the (US) Justice System

Wrongful Convictions Blog

While writing the latest post about Jack McCullough‘s exoneration, and while reading Courtney Bisbee‘s latest filing with the US District Court for Arizona, I got to reflecting on my experiences with the justice system over the past eight years, and I thought I would share some of my (unvarnished) observations. Clearly, this will be very editorial. It will probably help to understand my comments to know that I am not an attorney. I am an engineer by training, and that’s what I did for my entire working career – until I started doing innocence work pro bono. So I see the justice system with the naivete’ of someone who is an “outsider” and is not a functionary of the system; but I do see the system as someone who has spent his entire life founded in objective truth and logic and fact. Again, this article will be…

View original post 2,087 more words

The Human Toll of Antonin Scalia’s Time on the Court

Blacks, Latinos, and poor whites suffered because of his draconian approach to criminal punishment.

In the days since Antonin Scalia’s death, he has been duly recognized as one of the most impactful justices in the Supreme Court’s history. A critical part of his troubling legacy has long been staring us in the face, although it finally started receiving the public scrutiny it deserves in recent years. As draconian punishments became the norm over the last three decades, the Supreme Court largely rubber-stamped these practices. Justice Scalia played a key role in this process, as his hardline stances on criminal punishment significantly contributed to mass incarceration, numerous executions, and systemic racial discrimination. Scalia was an outspoken supporter of harsh punishments and wanted the court to take an even more hands-off attitude toward so-called “tough on crime” laws.

See here for full article at Slate.com

Rogue prosecutor’s influence on hair expert’s testimony highlighted in ruling overturning conviction

Misguided zealotry – a case study, but it applies so often. A premature rush to judgement followed by cheating.

Wrongful Convictions Blog

The January 26 opinion overturning the conviction of Massachusetts inmate George D. Perrot, which you can read about here, was important in several respects.

First and foremost, the opinion written by Hampden County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Kane was important because it could lead to the release of Perrot 30 years after his conviction on rape charges even though the victim repeatedly said the then-long-haired, bearded Perrot didn’t look like the clean-shaven, short-haired man who raped her.

Second, the opinion is important because Judge Kane’s reasoning could influence thousands of past convictions that were based on now-discredited hair-comparison analysis like that used to convict Perrot.

Equally important, though, was Judge Kane’s finding that Wayne Oakes, the FBI hair examiner who testified as an expert in the case was unduly influenced by the overzealous prosecutor in the case. In his ruling, Kane noted that the prosecutor, Francis W. Bloom, hand-delivered the hairs and other evidence to the…

View original post 243 more words