Tag Archives: Cargo-Cult

Cases in which bogus science was used to bolster the prosecution case.

Keith Allen Harward

In 2009, University of Virginia law professor Brandon L. Garrett was poring over old trial records, looking for questionable forensic science evidence, when he came across the case of Keith Allen Harward, convicted of rape and murder in Newport News in 1986.

Now, the Innocence Project says recent DNA testing proves Harward didn’t commit the brutal 1982 crimes, casting further doubt on the validity of bite-mark comparison — a forensic technique that two experts testified strongly linked Harward to the crimes. It was their testimony that drew Garrett’s attention and concern in 2009.

..

Garrett, after reviewing the trial transcript, is not persuaded the bite-mark testimony was valid and said that when he learned a petition for a writ of actual innocence was filed by Harward earlier this month, “It was really, really, really disturbing to think you can just come across innocent people’s cases by accident like that.”

Harward, 59, has not been exonerated. Lawyers with the Innocence Project and the Washington law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP filed the innocence petition on March 4.

Proceedings have been stayed by the Virginia Supreme Court so that more DNA test results — said by Harward’s lawyers to further support innocence — can be submitted to the court.

 Full article here March 27, 2016

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Update April 2, 2016:

DNA implicates a career criminal in the rape of a Newport News woman and the murder of her husband more than three decades ago and conclusively proves the innocence of his former Navy shipmate wrongly convicted of the crimes, according to the imprisoned man’s lawyers.

April 8, 2016 : Virginia man exonerated by DNA evidence walks free after 33 years in jail

 

Feb 7, 2017 : After wrongful imprisonment of 33 years, Virginia man will get $1.6 million

Keith Allen Harward, who served 33 years in prison for crimes he didn’t commit, will receive nearly $1.6 million from the commonwealth of Virginia under a bill approved Monday by the House of Delegates.

Harward was convicted of a 1982 rape and murder in Newport News. He was released from prison last year after DNA testing proved he was innocent. The House unanimously passed HB 1650 to provide relief to Harward, now 60.

 

Warren Horinek

On March 14, 1995, Warren Horinek called 911, claiming his wife Bonnie had shot herself. When paramedics arrived, they found Bonnie dead. She was lying on the couple’s bed with a gunshot wound to the chest. Warren was frantically administering CPR. On the bed next to Bonnie’s body was a .38 revolver and a shotgun. There was no sign of a break in. Police quickly narrowed the possible scenarios: Either Bonnie had committed suicide or Warren had murdered her. Warren claimed from the beginning that Bonnie had killed herself.

The people normally responsible for prosecuting a murder came to believe that Warren was telling the truth. The crime scene investigator, the homicide sergeant, the medical examiner and the assistant DA assigned to prosecute the case all became convinced that the evidence pointed to suicide.

“I always thought that it was suicide,” Mike Parrish, the prosecutor handling the case, told the Observer last year. “Still do.”

Bonnie’s parents chose to hire a private attorney, who, through a quirk in the law, obtained a grand jury indictment of Horinek. That led to a bizarre trial. Everyone trying to convict Warren was in private practice, and the agents of the state—crime scene investigator, homicide sergeant and assistant DA—all testified for the defense.

It seemed Warren was headed for acquittal until the testimony of the prosecution’s final witness—a blood spatter expert from Oklahoma named Tom Bevel. He testified that the small spots of blood found on Warren’s t-shirt the night of Bonnie’s death were certainly the result of blood spatter form a gunshot. He said the spatter proved Warren had fired a gun the night of the murder.

It was Bevel’s blood spatter testimony that led to Warren’s conviction.

The problem is Bevel may well have been wrong. Several nationally known blood spatter experts have examined the Horinek case and strongly believe the blood spots resulted from Warren administering CPR to Bonnie. They say the key forensic evidence that sent Warren to prison is flawed.

Article

Discussion

Suzanne Johnson

Suzanne was convicted of assault on a child causing death ( shaken baby ), it made no sense but experts thought at the time the only explanation of three symptoms was shaking.

The judge said she was obviously an exemplary, caring, and loving lady, but the medical science established her guilt.

However it is now known that a short fall, like a fall from a high chair, can result in trauma sufficient to cause an infant’s death. Additionally, death from a short fall injury is more probable when an infant has a previous skull injury. In fact, when Jasmine fell from her high chair, she had an existing skull fracture that had occurred months earlier. The preexisting skull fracture was confirmed by Jasmine’s failure to thrive, physical discomfort, feeding problems, constant crying, and by autopsy findings.

Sam Sheppard

Samuel Holmes “Sam” Sheppard (December 29, 1923 – April 6, 1970) was an American osteopathic physician and, toward the end of his life, a professional wrestler. He was convicted of the brutal murder of his pregnant wife, Marilyn Reese Sheppard on July 4, 1954, at their Bay Village, Ohio, home. He spent almost a decade in prison, mostly at the Ohio Penitentiary, before a retrial was ordered, where he was acquitted in 1966.

On June 6, 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court, by an 8-to-1 vote, struck down the murder conviction. The decision noted, among other factors, that a “carnival atmosphere” had permeated the trial, and that the trial judge Edward J. Blythin, was clearly biased against Sheppard because Judge Blythin had refused to sequester the jury, did not order the jury to ignore and disregard media reports of the case, and when speaking to newspaper columnist Dorothy Kilgallen shortly before the trial started said, “Well, he’s guilty as hell. There’s no question about it.”

Source: wikipedia

There is new evidence published October 30, 2015, showing the murder was committed by Edward Wayne Edwards :

This is the last page of a letter Edward Edwards sent to Dr. Sam Sheppard’s father Richard, July 13th 1954, just after he had killed pregnant Marilyn Sheppard in her bed while she slept, and set-up her husband Dr. Sam Sheppard. I didn’t know it existed until last week. Just like in the 2009 Christopher Coleman case in Illinois, Edwards left a clue on the P.S. at the end of the letter as to who the real killer was. He left the number 4 in mirror image as a clue to 4 Ds to his name, and 2 Es.

Discussion

The role of Junk Science in Wrongful Convictions

Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit granted qualified immunity to Lowell Thomas Johnson and Raymond Rawson, the two bite mark specialists whose testimony helped convict Robert Lee Stinson of raping and murdering an elderly Wisconsin woman in 1984. Stinson spent 23 years in prison before DNA testing exonerated him in 2009.

writes Radley Balko.

He goes on

It took more than three decades, but over the past several years, actual scientists have finally started testing the claims of bite mark analysts. And as we’ve pointed out on several occasions here at The Watch, those scientists are showing that bite mark analysis is a fraudulent field.

and also references the case of Ray Krone.

When will it ever end. I left a comment:

There is no end to the bogus evidence that is employed when the State embarks on a wrongful conviction.

Take a look at the Jodi Arias trial : the State changed theory with the sole purpose of contradicting Arias’ claim of self-defense. To accomplish this the Medical Examiner (Dr Horn who has a shady reputation) had to arbitrarily and implausibly suggest there was a “typographical error” in his own autopsy report.

There was no end to the false prosecution claims in the case, they ranged from the ridiculous to the hilarious.

The remedy is for courts to refuse to admit evidence which has no scientifically established basis.

Christopher Coleman

On May 5, 2009 at 5.43am, Christopher Coleman left his comfortable suburban house in Waterloo, Illinois to go to the gym.

After his workout he said he called home and was worried when no-one answered, so he rang a neighbor, police officer Justin Barlow, to check on his family.

At trial, Officer Jason Donjon, who entered the house with Mr Barlow, testified that they found the house was covered in threatening messages daubed in red paint.

The graffiti read: ‘I am watching’, ‘punished’ and ‘u have paid’.

Then they discovered the bodies of Mrs Coleman and her two sons, killed in separate bedrooms.

Mrs Coleman was left naked in bed, strangled with a ligature. Her eldest son, Garett, was curled up in bed with spray paint on his sheets.

Finally the youngest, Gavin, was seen lying face down with his limbs dangling either side of the bed and swear words daubed on his covers.

According to police computer experts, Coleman’s own laptop, accessed by his own password, was the source of anonymous profane threats against his family that Coleman had reported to police as early as November 2008.

Coroners took the temperature of Sheri Coleman’s liver at 11 a.m. and recorded 90.4 degrees. Then it was taken again at the funeral home at 1:17 p.m. and was recorded as 87.4 degrees.

Defense attorney Jim Stern said that was a rate of 1.5 degrees an hour, which he calculated put Sheri Coleman’s time of death after 5:30 a.m., while her husband was at the gym.

Dr Michael Baden said Stern got it wrong, because the body does not start losing heat for three to four hours after death.

Coleman was convicted of the murders in 2011.

News report on trial, April 27, 2011

However it is now believed that the murders were the work of serial killer Edward Wayne Edwards.

It’s probably the last murder committed by Edwards, in fact it was after his family tipped off the police in March 2009, and just weeks before his DNA was taken for testing in June 2009, prior to his arrest on 30 July 2009.

See the timeline here for the context of the murder :https://ededwardsserialkiller.wordpress.com/timeline/#2000

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September, 2015: John Cameron has written a 65-page PDF document that explains the coded messages Edward Wayne Edwards left in red paint on the walls.

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.

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

Cameron Todd Willingham

One of the clearest examples of an innocent man who was executed, there is clear evidence that the prosecution concealed exculpatory evidence.

It’s official, the State of Texas executed an innocent man – an innocent father – after prosecutors deliberately concealed evidence in his children’s arson deaths. Now the state bar of Texas has filed a formal misconduct accusation against the prosecutor in this case.

The bar had already filed a petition in Navarro County, near Dallas, earlier this month that alleged that prosecutor John Jackson deliberately withheld evidence which indicated that Cameron Todd Willingham was innocent. Because of this, Willingham was executed in 2004 for supposedly murdering his three young daughters. His daughters died in a house fire back in 1991, but the evidence Jackson suppressed showed that Willingham had nothing to do with the fire that took his daughters from him.

from Texas Executed An Innocent Father After Prosecutor Hid Evidence In Kids’ Arson Deaths March 19, 2015.

See also Fresh doubts over a Texas execution Washington Post, August 3, 2014

Anthony Ray Hinton

Anthony was convicted of two shooting murders at fast food restaurants near Birmingham, Alabama in 1985. There were no eyewitnesses to either crime, and the fingerprints lifted from each crime scene did not match Mr. Hinton. The only evidence linking Mr. Hinton to the murders stemmed from a third shooting at a fast food restaurant in Bessemer. The victim in the third shooting did not die and misidentified Mr. Hinton as the assailant. At the time of the third shooting, Mr. Hinton was working in a locked warehouse 15 miles from the crime scene. His supervisor and other employees confirmed his innocence.

The State claimed that bullets recovered from all three crimes were fired from the same weapon and claimed that they matched a weapon recovered from Mr. Hinton’s mother.

In June 2002, three of the country’s top gun experts testified that they had examined the state’s evidence and concluded that the crime bullets could not be matched to the weapon recovered from Mr. Hinton’s mother and that the state had erred in making that claim.

After a long legal saga (including a successful appeal to the US Supreme Court), on September 25, 2014, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Laura Petro ordered a new trial for Mr. Hinton, and the Court of Criminal Appeals upheld that decision on November 21, 2014.

On April 2, 2015 the case was dismissed due to lack of evidence.

Anthony was represented by the Equal Justice Initiative.

News

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Report at National Registry of Exonerations

David Camm

David Camm was acquitted in October 2013 after three trials.

Facebook Page

Trial by Media

David attending court, 3 October 2013. Click for videos of David talking about his experience in April 2014 ( scroll down, several videos )

The case of David Camm, accused of killing his wife and two young children. David was in custody from October 2000 until found Not Guilty on 24th October 2013, apart from the period from 26 January 2005 to 9th March 2005, when he was released on bond.

On 24th October 2013, David Camm was found NOT Guilty on all charges.

This site will be permanently left as a record of David’s trials. Please consider joining the Wrongly Convicted Group to support other victims of injustice, thank you!

Please see the Index to navigate.

Postscript:

http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/indiana/2014/04/23/camm-speaks-isu-students-wrongful-conviction/8072245/ April 24. 2014

A MUST read article by Bill Clutter : Private Investigator Gary Dunn working to free David Camm – the inside story.

Post trial coverage by Dateline : http://www.nbcnews.com/video/dateline/54240184#54240184

View original post 275 more words

Ryan Widmer

Ryan Widmer was wrongly convicted of murder after three trials. He found his wife unresponsive in their bathtub, on August 11, 2008. Sarah had not been feeling well the entire day and had a bad headache. She was also known by family and friends to easily fall asleep and according to her brother had fallen asleep in the tub numerous times. An expert at the trial testified that in the U.S. every year about 300,000 people under the age of 35 die and that these people’s autopsies do not show any sign of what they died from.

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News

Ryan Widmer’s attorneys argue for his release December 3, 2015

This time, Gary Widmer is hoping for a different outcome for his son.

“It’s a big day for Ryan and I’m glad he has this opportunity, and I think a win for Ryan would be a win for the public because he’s an innocent guy and he’s in jail and it’s not right,” said supporter Sara Kraner. “I believe 100 percent in his innocence and I hope justice is served today.”

After three trials, Widmer was convicted in 2011 of killing his wife Sarah by drowning her in the bathtub. He has maintained his innocence.

On Wednesday, Michele Berry argued on his behalf. Berry said lead Hamilton Township Detective Jeff Braley was a “corrupt cop” and evidence presented was based on “junk science.”

widmer-federal-court-decision-feb-2-2017

Guy Heinze Jnr

Featured Case #48

Guy Heinze Jnr was wrongly convicted of murdering his own family after he discovered them murdered. He had no criminal record or record of violence and was a model employee.

The police failed to collect and perform DNA exams on evidence at the scene, and then suggested the lack of other DNA indicated Guy as the killer. A forensic expert said that the murder was committed by approximately five people.

One of the victims was still alive when Guy raised the alarm, which is inconsistent with him being the killer.

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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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Jodi Arias

Jodi Arias defended herself from repeated attacks by her abusive ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander after she dropped his camera.

The prosecution attempted to prove premeditated murder with a ridiculous circumstantial case based around Jodi using three gas cans (false), and changing her hair color on her trip to visit Travis (also false), among other rubbish cited as evidence of premeditated murder.

In addition the State changed it’s theory over the order of the injuries, in a blatant attempt to pit the testimony of the medical examiner against Jodi’s truthful testimony of what occurred. This culminated in a ridiculous claim that his own autopsy report had a “typographical error”.

The physical evidence shows Alexander was shot first, then he stands at the sink, indicating he did not anticipate further attack, consistent with Jodi’s testimony that she shot him by accident.

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Death penalty retrial commenced  29 September, 2014.
Jury hung in sentencing retrial 5 March, 2015.
Sentenced to natural life, April 13, 2015.

Scott Peterson

Scott was alleged to have murdered his pregnant wife for no good reason, then dumped her body in San Franciso Bay in broad daylight, then immediately told police where. But they could not find the body. Appellate brief filed July 2012, State responded January 2015, Reply Brief 23 July 2015, Habeas Appeal November 2015.

In 2014, a book “It’s Me, Edward Wayne Edwards, The Serial Killer you Never Heard Of” identified serial killer Edward Wayne Edwards as the killer, and in 2015 a coded signature “Edward E” left by Edwards was decoded.

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Edward Edwards : Website | Discussion Group | Facebook Page

Update August 2016: Summary of Habeas Appeal

Darlie Routier

Darlie and her two sons were stabbed at her home on 6/6/1996. Allegedly performed elaborate staging of crime scene, including a bloody sock found 75 feet from her house. Has been waiting on Texas death row for new DNA tests to be performed since 2008. Extensive support from many innocence groups. Discredited “cargo cult science expert” Tom Bevel involved.

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Is this Texas mother a victim or a murderer? Death Row Stories, July 2015

Unidentified Fingerprint

A possible alternate suspect is serial killer Edward Wayne Edwards.

Darlie Routier is still on Death Row in Texas despite overwhelming evidence that her conviction for killing her own child is false, whilst Knox, Sollecito and Kiszko have been vindicated by the highest judicial authorities and telling evidence. The authors show how and why unfounded rumours still persist in the Knox/Sollecito case and advance a new theory that the Routier killings were the work of a notorious serial killer.
 
Three False Convictions, Many Lessons: The Psychopathology of Unjust Prosecutions Published 14 September 2016, by David C Anderson and Nigel P Scott