Saturday, February 24, 2018

Scott Peterson: Mark Godsey, author of 'Blind Injustice; askss, "Is Scott Peterson Innocent?" as he explores human lie detection and demeanour evidence...". I mean, as high-profile murder trials go, this one seemed even easier to crack than O.J. But A and E's new docuseries The Murder of Laci Peterson, which is based on newly discovered evidence revealed in recent court filings, makes you seriously question that assumption."...". But regardless of whether or not the docuseries convinces you that Peterson is innocent, it presents a fascinating case study of the human frailties—the psychological flaws—that often cause criminal investigations to go awry."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "In recent years, the innocence movement has exposed more than 2,000 wrongful convictions in America, with the number growing at a rate of about three per week. And if we’ve learned anything from this movement, it’s that, contrary to popular belief, humans are really bad—really, really bad—at determining when someone else is telling the truth or lying. Despite what our intuition tells us, demeanor evidence just doesn’t mean that much and can’t be taken to the bank. And that’s been proven not just by the thousands of innocents who were wrongfully convicted after the police or jury disbelieved them and thought their demeanor indicated guilt, but by clinical studies as well."

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COMMENTARY: "Is Scott Peterson Innocent? Part One: Human Lie detection and demeanour  evidence," by "Blind Injustice' author Mark Godsey, published by  Psychology Today on January 18, 2018. (Mark Godsey,J.D., a professor of law at the University of Cincinnati, was also a federal prosecutor in New York City before co-founding of the Ohio Innocence Project.)

GIST: "Back in 2004, when Scott Peterson’s trial was the courtroom media circus du jour, I was completely convinced—like just about everyone else—that Scott Peterson was stone cold guilty of murdering his pregnant wife Laci and their unborn son Connor. I mean, as high-profile murder trials go, this one seemed even easier to crack than O.J. But A and E's new docuseries The Murder of Laci Peterson, which is based on newly discovered evidence revealed in recent court filings, makes you seriously question that assumption. Even accounting for whether or not the show’s creators had an agenda to make Peterson look innocent, the new evidence—the actual evidence—now being considered by a federal court in California should cause any open-minded person to question the evidence that originally convicted him.  And I’m not just reacting to the provocative reexamination of evidence presented in the docuseries, I also read the court filings. The new evidence makes a persuasive case that numerous witnesses saw Laci alive and walking the family dog—after Scott Peterson had left home for the day to stop at work and then fish in the San Francisco Bay (which, if true, totally undermines the state’s case against him). The evidence also suggests that Laci, upon returning from her walk, confronted shady characters burglarizing the house across the street from the Peterson’s home and that this incident started a chain of events that most likely led to her murder.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But regardless of whether or not the docuseries convinces you that Peterson is innocent, it presents a fascinating case study of the human frailties—the psychological flaws—that often cause criminal investigations to go awry.  I recently wrote about these psychological traps in my new book Blind Injustice:  A Former Prosecutor Exposes the Psychology and Politics of Wrongful Convictions. In the book, I focus on my own cases from my years as a prosecutor, and then more recently as an innocence lawyer with the Ohio Innocence Project (which has now freed 25 innocent people who served 471 years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit). In the book, I also apply principles of psychology to the police investigation depicted in the Netflix docuseries Making a Murderer. I wish The Murder of Laci Peterson had been released when I was still writing Blind Injustice, because it really highlights some of these psychological issues better than any other TV show or movie in recent memory. First, Scott Peterson was convicted primarily because of what we call “demeanor evidence.” Peterson undeniably appeared “aloof” and “unemotional” if not cocky when caught on camera by the paparazzi during the investigation and then at his trial. This caused America’s most famous prosecutor-journalist, Nancy Grace, to preach on an almost nightly basis that Peterson was “lying” and “hiding something” and therefore guilty. And the jurors said after the trial that Peterson’s remorseless demeanor was perhaps the most critical factor that caused them to convict him and send him to death row. In recent years, the innocence movement has exposed more than 2,000 wrongful convictions in America, with the number growing at a rate of about three per week. And if we’ve learned anything from this movement, it’s that, contrary to popular belief, humans are really bad—really, really bad—at determining when someone else is telling the truth or lying. Despite what our intuition tells us, demeanor evidence just doesn’t mean that much and can’t be taken to the bank. And that’s been proven not just by the thousands of innocents who were wrongfully convicted after the police or jury disbelieved them and thought their demeanor indicated guilt, but by clinical studies as well. As I highlight in Blind Injustice, study after study shows that we are about 54 percent accurate at divining the truth from watching someone’s demeanor.  Barely better than a coin flip. And cops fare no better. Things we have been told are indicative of dishonesty and guilt, such as appearing aloof or unemotional, or failing to make eye-contact, are actually not good barometers. Our collective psyches are embedded with the belief that humans are good lie detectors. But in reality, it’s just folklore—outdated pop psychology. Indeed, there is case after case where defendants were convicted for reasons similar to Peterson—they appeared “too unemotional” or “far too aloof”—but later were conclusively proven innocent. I detail many of these cases in Blind Injustice, such as Michael Morton of Texas, who spent 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife before DNA testing conclusively proved him innocent. Not only did Morton appear unemotional, if not cocky like Peterson, but he continued sleeping in the couple’s bed where she was murdered, including the first night after she had been bludgeoned to death on that very mattress. He also did other strange things, like mowing down all of his wife’s beloved flowers the morning of her funeral. These acts seemed callous and, along with his aloof demeanor, convinced the police, the public, and his jury that he was clearly guilty. Morton’s case is eerily similar to Peterson’s, except that Peterson does not have the good fortune of DNA evidence to test years later. And then there are the cases where everyone ganged up on the innocent person because his or her grief was so palpable that it was labeled as “over the top” and “staged.” With something as subjective as demeanor evidence, it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t. There are other innocent explanations for unemotional reactions as well. Some people who lose loved ones may simply not be as upset about it as one might expect. Perhaps feeling for a spouse had faded, so the sudden loss was confusing and caused an aloof, emotionless outward appearance. While insensitive, an aloof reaction in these circumstances doesn’t equate with guilt. Everyone reacts differently to tragic situations. Fortunately, very few of us have experienced the trauma of having a loved one murdered. Some people appear aloof or emotionless because they are in shock or denial. Some people freak out. The assumption that there is an “appropriate” or “normal” way to act in an unfamiliar traumatic situation, and that those who do not respond that way are likely guilty, is simply bad psychology and bad law. Regardless of whether or not Peterson is, in fact, innocent or guilty, it is clear that everyone—the police, the public, the media, and ultimately the jury—gave way too much weight to his demeanor. While demeanor evidence can’t be ignored, it should be used with caution and given proper weight in light of modern understandings of psychology. Otherwise, it’s the tail wagging the dog. As Peterson attorney Mark Geragos says in The Murder of Laci Peterson, “There is no playbook for grief.” In follow-up stories, I’ll continue my discussion of The Murder of Laci Peterson with respect to the psychological phenomena of police tunnel vision (Part 2) and confirmation bias in the forensic sciences (Part 3)."

The entire post can be found at:


https://www.forensicmag.com/news/2018/02/using-mind-reading-criminal-cases-new-analysis-cautions-forensic-frontier-brain?et_cid=6254670&et_rid=979655504&type=headline&et_cid=6254670&et_rid=979655504&linkid=https%3a%2f%2fwww.forensicmag.com%2fnews%2f2018%2f02%2fusing-mind-reading-criminal-cases-new-analysis-cautions-forensic-frontier-brain%3fet_cid%3d6254670%26et_rid%3d%%subscriberid%%%26type%3dheadline

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog."

Friday, February 23, 2018

Susan Neill-Fraser: Australia: On-going "last chance" appeal. Significant Development? (Another twist in this suspicious death at sea case (among many others, including new DNA evidence): Police claim to have two films - said to have come into their posession in the last two weeks - which they say are important, ABC News reports. Adjournment granted. (Neill-Fraser is serving a 23-year jail sentence for the 2009 murder of her partner Bob Chappell onboard their yacht moored off Hobart.)..."The Crown had previously advised the court that they would not be calling any of its own witnesses in the appeal. But today the court heard four new Crown witnesses would be called, in addition to the cross-examining of Detective Shane Sinnitt. Detective Sinnitt was one of the investigators on the original murder investigation, and was also involved in last year's investigation into allegations that three people attempted to pervert the course of justice in relation to the appeal application. It is understood the two recordings were some of the items seized during raids on CJZ productions in Sydney in November last year. It was reported at the time that the seized footage had been for a Seven Network "true crime" series."


STORY: "Sue Neill-Fraser murder appeal: Police reveal new recordings and witnesses, delaying case, by reporter Edith Bevin, published by ABC News on February 21, 2018.
GIST: "The last-chance appeal of convicted killer Sue Neill-Fraser has been adjourned again after revelations police obtained two films that the DPP says are "significant and important evidence".
Neill-Fraser is serving a 23-year jail sentence for the 2009 murder of her partner Bob Chappell onboard their yacht moored off Hobart. She exhausted all other avenues of appeal, and is now relying on new last-chance appeal laws to have her convicted quashed. The application for the new appeal is part heard, and was due to return to court on Friday, but the court heard today the DPP will tender two films that have come into the possession of police. The DPP said the film recordings had only come to light in the past two weeks, but it meant Neill-Fraser's lawyers needed more time to see them and talk to people in them. The application will go back before the court in March. Crown will now call more witnesses; The Crown had previously advised the court that they would not be calling any of its own witnesses in the appeal. But today the court heard four new Crown witnesses would be called, in addition to the cross-examining of Detective Shane Sinnitt. Detective Sinnitt was one of the investigators on the original murder investigation, and was also involved in last year's investigation into allegations that three people attempted to pervert the course of justice in relation to the appeal application. It is understood the two recordings were some of the items seized during raids on CJZ productions in Sydney in November last year. It was reported at the time that the seized footage had been for a Seven Network "true crime" series. It is understood the Crown intends to tender the recordings to the court through Detective Sinnitt during cross-examination. Neill-Fraser team needs time to review films..." The hearing will now be set down for March 8 and 9, when the court will hear evidence from Neill-Fraser's winching expert, and the DPP's four witnesses. It will then be adjourned to a date yet to be set for Detective Sinnitt to give evidence and the recordings to be tendered."

The entire story can be  found at:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-21/police-reveal-recorded-tapes-in-neil-fraser-murder-appeal-case/9471254

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

National Commission of Forensic Science: (No big surprise here. HL); Innocence Project disappointed by the Department of Justice's approach to forensic science reform as set out by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in an address to the American Academy of Forensic Science..."While short on details, his remarks renew concerns that the DOJ is backtracking on progress to ensure that forensic disciplines are guided by the best science and that safeguards were enacted to insulate practitioners from law enforcement influence. “We’ve known since 2009 that there are problems with the scientific validity of forensic disciplines used to identify suspects with the exception of DNA evidence. Yet after this administration shut down the National Commission of Forensic Science — the first inclusive and transparent effort to address these fundamental flaws in evidence that is used in countless prosecutions across the nation — there was no mention by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein of how the Department of Justice plans to address this core validity problem,” said Chris Fabricant, director of Strategic Litigation at the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law."


 QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The initial attempt by the DOJ to develop uniform language fell far short of meeting the standards for science. Although we support efforts to develop uniform language, we do not know if the DOJ’s efforts have adequately addressed the significant and critical concerns previously raised by independent statisticians and scientists, and we won’t know this without having the opportunity to review the revised language.”

Glinda Cooper, director of Science and Research for the Innocence Project.

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PASSAGE OF THE DAY:  "In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences issued a groundbreaking report warning that, with the exception of DNA evidence, none of the forensic practices that are used by law enforcement to identify a suspect from crime scene evidence have been scientifically validated.  These include firearms and spent ammunition, tool marks, shoe prints and bite marks. The NAS report called on an independent federal agency to conduct the research to validate those disciplines that could be scientifically validated.  It’s been nearly a decade since the NAS report, and the only effort to engage stakeholders outside of DOJ – creation of the National Commission on Forensic Science – was shuttered in early 2017 by Attorney General Sessions."

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STORY: "Innocence Project responds to remarks by Deputy Attorney General before The American Academy of Forensic Science, posted by The Innocence Project on February 21, 2018.

GIST: "Today Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Rod Rosenstein gave a plenary address at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences where he outlined plans that the Department of Justice (DOJ) would be implementing regarding forensic sciences.  While short on details, his remarks renew concerns that the DOJ is backtracking on progress to ensure that forensic disciplines are guided by the best science and that safeguards were enacted to insulate practitioners from law enforcement influence. “We’ve known since 2009 that there are problems with the scientific validity of forensic disciplines used to identify suspects with the exception of DNA evidence.  Yet after this administration shut down the National Commission of Forensic Science — the first inclusive and transparent effort to address these fundamental flaws in evidence that is used in countless prosecutions across the nation — there was no mention by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein of how the Department of Justice plans to address this core validity problem,” said Chris Fabricant, director of Strategic Litigation at the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law. In his remarks, DAG Rosenstein announced that DOJ was implementing uniform language for analysts to use when testifying or providing reports on latent fingerprint analysis. While he stated that the final document was informed by comments of experts outside of DOJ, this process was not described. “The initial attempt by the DOJ to develop uniform language fell far short of meeting the standards for science,” said Glinda Cooper, director of Science and Research for the Innocence Project.  “Although we support efforts to develop uniform language, we do not know if the DOJ’s efforts have adequately addressed the significant and critical concerns previously raised by independent statisticians and scientists, and we won’t know this without having the opportunity to review the revised language.” The need to implement uniform language for analysts arose after it was discovered that FBI agents provided erroneous statements or reports in more than 90 percent of cases reviewed where an analyst identified a suspect through microscopic hair analysis.  These were the preliminary findings from a review of FBI cases involving microscopic hair analysis initiated after three men were wrongly convicted and wrongly spent decades in prison based at least in part on erroneous FBI testimony. After these errors came to light, the DOJ agreed that in addition to establishing uniform language for all the forensic disciplines practiced by the DOJ, it would go back and review the prior testimony from a subset of the cases involving these disciplines between 2008 and 2012. In his remarks today, DAG Rosenstein seemed to back away from the previous commitment to review these past cases, only calling for a testimony monitoring program moving forward. In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences issued a groundbreaking report warning that, with the exception of DNA evidence, none of the forensic practices that are used by law enforcement to identify a suspect from crime scene evidence have been scientifically validated.  These include firearms and spent ammunition, tool marks, shoe prints and bite marks. The NAS report called on an independent federal agency to conduct the research to validate those disciplines that could be scientifically validated.  It’s been nearly a decade since the NAS report, and the only effort to engage stakeholders outside of DOJ – creation of the National Commission on Forensic Science – was shuttered in early 2017 by Attorney General Sessions."

The entire post can be read at the link below;

https://www.innocenceproject.org/innocence-project-responds-remarks-deputy-attorney-general-american-academy-forensic-sciences/
  
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.

William Amor: Illinois. Arson 'science.' False confession: Major Development: (A very welcome development. HL); He has been acquitted on retrial for murder, arson in mother-in-law’s 1995 death..." On Sept. 17, 1997, Amor was convicted of murder and aggravated arson for the fire that caused Miceli’s death, according to the statement. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison. Brennan vacated Amor’s conviction in April 2017 after his attorneys claimed he was convicted based upon a confession which was proven false and arson findings that are no longer scientifically reliable, the Innocence Project said. His confession was the basis for fire investigators to change their mind in 1995 to change their initial finding of an “undetermined” cause of the fire to arson."


QUOTE OF THE DAY: “While my office stands by our prosecution and we believe the evidence supported a finding of guilty, we certainly respect the Court’s decision. ” DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said in a statement. “This was a very complicated case originally based on fire science available at the time,” Berlin said. “Since that time, more than twenty years later, fire science has improved dramatically and consequently the evidence presented at this trial has changed from that presented in 1995.”

DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin.

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STORY: "Man acquitted in retrial for murder, arson in mother-in-law’s 1995 death," by reporter Luke Wilusz, published by The Chicago Sun-Times on February 21, 2018.

GIST: "A former Naperville man who spent 22 years in prison for the 1995 death of his mother-in-law was found not guilty in a retrial Wednesday. Following a seven-day bench trial, DuPage County Judge Liam C. Brennan found 61-year-old William Amor not guilty of murder and aggravated arson in connection with the death of Marianne Miceli, according to a statement from the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office.  “This is the end of a nightmare for me,” Amor said in a statement released by the Illinois Innocence Project, which represented him. “I have fought to clear my name for the last 22 years and I am so grateful that I was able to have my day in court for the truth to be heard,” Amor said. “I am looking forward to starting the next phase of my life as a free man, no longer labeled as a murderer, for the first time in a long time.” On the evening of Sept. 10, 1995, Amor and his wife left their Naperville apartment to go to a drive-in movie, according to the Innocence Project. They shared the apartment with Amor’s mother-in-law, Marianne Miceli, and when they returned, they found that a fire had broken out and Miceli had died from smoke inhalation. On Sept. 17, 1997, Amor was convicted of murder and aggravated arson for the fire that caused Miceli’s death, according to the statement. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison. Brennan vacated Amor’s conviction in April 2017 after his attorneys claimed he was convicted based upon a confession which was proven false and arson findings that are no longer scientifically reliable, the Innocence Project said. His confession was the basis for fire investigators to change their mind in 1995 to change their initial finding of an “undetermined” cause of the fire to arson. Amor was released from custody in May 2017 and has remained free on bond during his retrial, according to the Innocence Project. “While my office stands by our prosecution and we believe the evidence supported a finding of guilty, we certainly respect the Court’s decision,” DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said in a statement. “This was a very complicated case originally based on fire science available at the time,” Berlin said. “Since that time, more than twenty years later, fire science has improved dramatically and consequently the evidence presented at this trial has changed from that presented in 1995.”

The entire story can be found at:

https://chicago.suntimes.com/news/man-acquitted-in-retrial-for-murder-arson-in-mother-in-laws-1995-death/

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.

John Giuca: Brooklyn, New York. (A fascinating story of a troublesome murder case that has a big question mark hanging over it, by New York Times Reporter Alan Feuer..."Many murder cases are built on science — fingerprints, ballistics, DNA — but Mr. Giuca’s case was built from the start on something much more tenuous: the shifting stories of a group of privileged young people who were partying with him and Mr. Fisher on the late-night-into-morning when Mr. Fisher died. From the outset, the prosecution’s presentation was a kind of collegiate Rashomon: people lied, changed their statements and often contradicted one another. “This wasn’t really a forensic case,” said Mark Hale, the prosecutor who oversaw the probe by the district attorney’s office. “This was a case of who said what to whom, when.”


STORY: "A murder, a conviction and a never-ending case," by reporter Alan Feuer, published by The New York Times on February 21, 2018.

SUB-HEADING: "Fifteen years after a college student was found shot five times in a quiet Brooklyn neighborhood,  the circumstances of his death remain muddled. And a man convicted in the killing remains in limbo:

PHOTO CAPTION. (The photo captions tell much of the story);"A court recently through out the conviction of John Giuca. The Brooklyn District Attorney has vowed to retry him.

PHOTO CAPTION: "The murder victim Mark Fisher, who was a sophomore at Fairfield University in Connecticut."

PHOTO CAPTION:  "Frustrated at the pace of the investigation into Mark Fisher’s murder, members of the Fisher family hold a vigil on Argyle Road, where his body was found."

PHOTO CAPTION: "Charles J. Hynes, the Brooklyn district attorney at the time of the murder, was facing a difficult re-election and was under pressure to solve the case."

PHOTO CAPTION: "Nancy and Michael Fisher leaving Brooklyn State Supreme Court after the other defendant in the murder case, Antonio Russo, was found guilty."

PHOTO CAPTION: "Mr. Guica at court during the murder trial, with his mother, Doreen Giuliano, and a lawyer, James Kilduff."

PHOTO CAPTION:  "Doreen Giuliano posing as “Dee Quinn,” an alias she used to get close to Jason Allo, who was on the jury at her son’s murder trial."

PHOTO CAPTION: "A decade after Mr. Guica was convicted, John Avitto tearfully recanted what he said was false testimony he gave at the murder trial."

PHOTO CAPTION: "Ms. Giuliano at the recent hearing in Brooklyn after her son’s conviction was thrown out, with the actor Holt McCallany, one of her supporters."
 
GIST: "Just before sunrise, on Oct. 12, 2003, the residents of Argyle Road in Brooklyn were woken by gunfire. Then, as now, such a thing was virtually unheard-of. The quiet street is in Prospect Park South, an architectural enclave of hundred-year-old trees, landmark homes and an urban gentry of lawyers, chefs and jewelry designers.  With its air of Victorian charm, the neighborhood looks nothing like the rest of New York City. It seems like a nice Connecticut suburb, not the heart of Brooklyn. But that morning, as the police arrived on Argyle Road — not coincidentally, in minutes — the worst came to pass: the body of a young man was discovered in a driveway just outside a Queen Anne house toward the end of the block. He was lying facedown on a bloody yellow blanket. In the dawning daylight, it soon became apparent that he had been shot five times. Fifteen years later, the circumstances of how that man, Mark S. Fisher, a 19-year-old college student from New Jersey, wound up dead in the driveway remain the subject of a simmering debate in spite of nearly every fact-finding method the criminal-justice system has at its disposal. There was a two-week trial. There were several state appeals. There was a federal appeal. There were countless legal hearings. There was even an exhaustive inquiry by the Brooklyn district attorney’s office. But all of them have so far failed to silence the stubborn whispers questioning the case that have long been heard in the circles that surround the Brooklyn courts. Earlier this month, an appeals court addressed some of those whispers when it abruptly threw out the conviction of a man found guilty of killing Mr. Fisher, ruling that the prosecutors at his trial withheld evidence from his lawyers and relied on testimony from a witness who had lied in sending him to prison. Just a few days ago, at yet another hearing that raised more questions than it answered, the prosecutors suddenly announced that they were going to challenge the ruling that threw out the conviction, and if that failed they were prepared to retry the man, John Giuca. Many murder cases are built on science — fingerprints, ballistics, DNA — but Mr. Giuca’s case was built from the start on something much more tenuous: the shifting stories of a group of privileged young people who were partying with him and Mr. Fisher on the late-night-into-morning when Mr. Fisher died. From the outset, the prosecution’s presentation was a kind of collegiate Rashomon: people lied, changed their statements and often contradicted one another. “This wasn’t really a forensic case,” said Mark Hale, the prosecutor who oversaw the probe by the district attorney’s office. “This was a case of who said what to whom, when.” (Publishers note: This excellent article on a very troublesome case cannot be reduced. It is a reminder of the curious void which can exist when forensic evidence is lacking. Read on.  HL);

The entire story can be found at:
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/21/nyregion/john-giuca-murder-trial-never-ending.html

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.

Kevin Cooper: California: Will Cooper be executed without granting his request for an investigation with up-to-date DNA testing could show whether someone else committed the crimes — someone who may still be at large? Four California law school deans have asked Gov. Jerry Brown to open an independent investigation into the case of Kevin Cooper, convicted and sentenced to Death Row for the 1983 Chino Hills knife-and-hatchet murder of four people, two of them children..."“Mr. Cooper’s clemency petition does not ask you to pardon him or commute his sentence,” the letter states. “It asks only that you order an independent innocence investigation that includes state-of-the-art DNA and other forensic testing.” Cooper’s supporters have long pointed to what they believe are exonerating issues in the case regarding DNA evidence, inadequate defense at trial, claims about other possible suspects they say were not investigated at the time, and a related cover-up by the investigating San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. They also contend that racism played a role in charging and trying Cooper, who is black."..."The clemency petition was filed in February 2016. During Cooper’s appeals in the early aughts, two DNA tests concluded Cooper was the killer. Cooper since then unsuccessfully sought additional tests on a T-shirt, a speck of blood on a paint chip, and a vial of blood drawn from Cooper after his arrest."


STORY: "California law school Dean asks for new investigation into Kevin Cooper's case," by reporter Richard K. De Atley, published by The Press-Enterprise on February 20, 2018.

GIST:  "Four California law school deans have asked Gov. Jerry Brown to open an independent investigation into the case of Kevin Cooper, convicted and sentenced to Death Row for the 1983 Chino Hills knife-and-hatchet murder of four people, two of them children. The letter is one of several sent to Brown asking him to grant a pending clemency petition from Cooper, which would put his death sentence temporarily on hold during the investigation. The American Bar Association sent Brown a similar letter in March 2016. Others who have written letters to Brown include former California Supreme Court justices Cruz Reynoso and Joseph Grodin and late California Attorney General John Van de Kamp. The bloody June 4, 1983, attack for which Cooper was convicted and sentenced took the lives of Doug and Peggy Ryen; their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica; and neighbor Christopher Hughes, 11, who was staying overnight at the Ryens’ home. The boy was a friend of the Ryens’ 8-year-old son, Joshua, who survived the attack with a slashed throat. Cooper, 60, has exhausted all appeals from his 1985 conviction and sentencing, and he is likely to be one of the first prisoners executed if California resumes the death penalty. He has always claimed he was innocent.
The state last executed a prisoner in 2006, and injunctions against further executions remain standing in state and federal courts over issues of execution method and protocol. The Feb. 14 letter is signed by Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University California School of Law in Berkeley; Michael Waterstone, dean of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles; Lisa A. Kloppenberg, dean of the Santa Clara School of Law; and John Trasvi├▒a, dean of the University of San Francisco School of Law. “Mr. Cooper’s clemency petition does not ask you to pardon him or commute his sentence,” the letter states. “It asks only that you order an independent innocence investigation that includes state-of-the-art DNA and other forensic testing.” Cooper’s supporters have long pointed to what they believe are exonerating issues in the case regarding DNA evidence, inadequate defense at trial, claims about other possible suspects they say were not investigated at the time, and a related cover-up by the investigating San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. They also contend that racism played a role in charging and trying Cooper, who is black. Prosecutors have said Cooper’s advocates ignore a big volume of direct and circumstantial evidence that tie Cooper to the attack. Two days before the slayings, he had escaped from nearby California Institution for Men in Chino. Cooper has admitted hiding in a vacant house near the Ryen home, but he denies killing anyone. “Because the clemency petition is pending, it would be inappropriate to comment at this time,” Christopher Lee, spokesman for District Attorney Mike Ramos, said Tuesday in an email. Gov. Brown’s office declined comment on Tuesday. The clemency petition was filed in February 2016. During Cooper’s appeals in the early aughts, two DNA tests concluded Cooper was the killer. Cooper since then unsuccessfully sought additional tests on a T-shirt, a speck of blood on a paint chip, and a vial of blood drawn from Cooper after his arrest. “An investigation with up-to-date DNA testing could show whether someone else committed the crimes — someone who may still be at large,” the letter says. The letter from the deans points to the case of Craig Coley,  whose sentence Brown commuted in November 2017, after DNA evidence exonerated him of a 1978 double slaying in Simi Valley. He had served nearly 39 years in prison after being sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Brown can order a temporary reprieve to Cooper’s death sentence to complete the investigation."

The entire story can be read at:
https://www.dailybulletin.com/2018/02/20/california-law-school-deans-ask-for-new-investigation-in-kevin-cooper-case/

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Bobby Griffin: Connecticut; false confession case; Jury returns guilty verdict inspite of his claim of coersion..."Griffin testified in his own defense last Thursday, saying Johnson had shot Bradley. Griffin said he ran from the scene and later accepted the rifle from Johnson. As for Griffin’s confession to two police detectives under about 3 1/2 hours of questioning, Griffin said the detectives kept pressuring him until “I thought I had no choice.” The videotape of the interview showed one of the detectives telling Griffin he could “fry” or get “the chair” and so had better cooperate. However, Senior Assistant State’s Attorney John P. Doyle Jr. reminded jurors in his closing argument that detectives had read Griffin his Miranda rights to remain silent and ask for an attorney; he signed the form and agreed to begin answering questions. They had also told him he could stop the questioning at any time."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "The videotape of the interview showed one of the detectives telling Griffin he could “fry” or get “the chair” and so had better cooperate."

STORY: "New Haven man convicted of 2013 killing with assault rifle," by  reporter Randall Beach, published by The New Haven Register on February 20 2018.

GIST: "Twelve jurors Tuesday found Bobby Griffin Jr. guilty of murder and three other counts in the shooting death of Nathaniel Bradley five years ago in New Haven. In addition, Superior Court Judge Elpedio N. Vitale found Griffin guilty of criminal possession of a firearm. As a previously convicted felon, Griffin was not allowed to have a weapon. During their closing arguments last Friday, the two prosecutors displayed the assault rifle that was used to shoot Bradley twice in the back during an attempted robbery at the corner of Ella T. Grasso Boulevard and Goffe Terrace the night of Oct. 14, 2013. The rifle was found in Griffin’s attic when police executed a search and seizure warrant. Griffin, 25, of Peck Street, was convicted by the jury of felony murder (causing a death in the course of another crime, such as robbery), murder, attempted first-degree robbery and conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery. Vitale set a tentative sentencing date of May 8 and raised Griffin’s bond from $1 million to $2.5 million. Griffin faces a potential sentence of more than 100 years. During his summation of the prosecution’s case last Friday morning, Assistant State’s Attorney Sean McGuinness cited Nathan L. Johnson’s testimony that Griffin wanted to rob somebody. And so he arranged to have Bradley, 36, of Hamden, come to that Boulevard corner to sell some marijuana. But Johnson said Griffin came out of a nearby alley brandishing the assault rifle, pointed it at Bradley and told him: “Run everything.” This is street talk for “give me everything you’ve got.” Johnson quoted Bradley replying, “You can have everything” and turning to get back into his car. At that point, Griffin shot him twice. Johnson testified he didn’t understand why Griffin had shot Bradley. But McGuinness said in his closing argument that Griffin “had been disrespected” and was so angry he fired at Bradley with the intent of killing him. Defense attorney Wade Luckett had argued the state lacked forensic evidence and had relied on Johnson’s account as well as Griffin’s police statement. Luckett said Johnson was not credible because he had entered into a cooperation agreement with the state. Prosecutors dropped a felony murder charge and Johnson pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree robbery and conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery. He faces a prison sentence of up to 30 years. Griffin testified in his own defense last Thursday, saying Johnson had shot Bradley. Griffin said he ran from the scene and later accepted the rifle from Johnson. As for Griffin’s confession to two police detectives under about 3 1/2 hours of questioning, Griffin said the detectives kept pressuring him until “I thought I had no choice.” The videotape of the interview showed one of the detectives telling Griffin he could “fry” or get “the chair” and so had better cooperate. However, Senior Assistant State’s Attorney John P. Doyle Jr. reminded jurors in his closing argument that detectives had read Griffin his Miranda rights to remain silent and ask for an attorney; he signed the form and agreed to begin answering questions. They had also told him he could stop the questioning at any time."

The entire story can be read at: 
https://www.nhregister.com/news/article/New-Haven-man-convicted-of-2013-killing-with-12627439.php

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog."