Tuesday, August 22, 2017

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions war on science/forensics: (Part: 31); Judges nationwide routinely allow disavowed science as evidence..."The case against Steven Barnes in the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl seemed circumstantial, at best. So the guilty verdict shocked him. “I was saying, ‘This can’t be happening. You can’t convict somebody on similarities, perhaps or maybes,’” Barnes said. He spent the next 20 years in prison before DNA testing exonerated him, becoming one of hundreds of people convicted in whole or in part on forensic science that has come under fire during the past decade. Some of that science — analysis of bite marks, latent fingerprints, firearms identification, burn patterns in arson investigations, footwear patterns and tire treads — was once considered sound, but is now being denounced by some lawyers and scientists who say it has not been studied enough to prove its reliability and in some cases has led to wrongful convictions. Even so, judges nationwide continue to admit such evidence regularly. “Courts — like scientists — rely too heavily on precedent and not enough on the progress of science,” said Christopher Fabricant, director of strategic litigation for the Innocence Project. “At some point, we have to acknowledge that precedent has to be overruled by scientific reality.”


STORY: "Judges nationwide routinely allow disavowed science as evidence," by Associated Press reporter Denise Lavoie, published by The Times Herald  on August 18, 2017.

PHOTO CAPTION: "In this April 30, 2015, file photo, Kirk Odom pauses during an interview with The Associated Press at his home in southeast in Washington. Odom was convicted of a 1981 rape and robbery after a woman identified him as her attacker and an FBI specialist testified that hair on her nightgown was consistent with hair on Odom’s head. But DNA testing some 30 years later affirmed what Odom long had maintained: The hair wasn’t his, nor was the semen left on a pillowcase and robe. A felony conviction that imprisoned him for decades was overturned in 2012 by a judge who declared it a “grave miscarriage of justice.”




GIST: "Two hairs that looked like the victim’s; some dirt on a truck like that taken from the crime scene; a pattern on the bumper that resembled a design on the victim’s popular brand of jeans. The case against Steven Barnes in the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl seemed circumstantial, at best. So the guilty verdict shocked him. “I was saying, ‘This can’t be happening. You can’t convict somebody on similarities, perhaps or maybes,’” Barnes said. He spent the next 20 years in prison before DNA testing exonerated him, becoming one of hundreds of people convicted in whole or in part on forensic science that has come under fire during the past decade. Some of that science — analysis of bite marks, latent fingerprints, firearms identification, burn patterns in arson investigations, footwear patterns and tire treads — was once considered sound, but is now being denounced by some lawyers and scientists who say it has not been studied enough to prove its reliability and in some cases has led to wrongful convictions. Even so, judges nationwide continue to admit such evidence regularly. “Courts — like scientists — rely too heavily on precedent and not enough on the progress of science,” said Christopher Fabricant, director of strategic litigation for the Innocence Project. “At some point, we have to acknowledge that precedent has to be overruled by scientific reality.” Defense lawyers and civil rights advocates say prosecutors and judges are slow to acknowledge that some forensic science methods are flawed because they are the very tools that have for decades helped win convictions. And such evidence can be persuasive for jurors, many of whom who have seen it used dramatically on “Law & Order” and “CSI.” Rulings in the past year show judges are reluctant to rule against long-accepted evidence even when serious questions have been raised about its reliability: A judge in Pennsylvania ruled prosecutors can call an expert to testify about bite marks found on a murder victim’s body, despite 29 wrongful arrests and convictions nationwide attributed to unreliable bite mark evidence since 2000. A Connecticut judge allowed prosecutors to present evidence that a footprint was made by a specific shoe belonging to a man accused of murder, despite a 2016 finding by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology that such associations are “unsupported by any meaningful evidence or estimates of their accuracy.” In Chicago, a federal judge rejected a request to exclude testimony of government experts to describe firearm and tool-mark comparisons they performed on bullets collected at crime scenes in the trial of Hobos gang members. The judge reasoned that defense lawyers were free to cross-examine the government’s experts. Two reports by scientific boards have sharply criticized the use of such forensic evidence, and universities that teach it are moving away from visual analysis — essentially, eyeballing it — and toward more precise biometric tools. But some defense lawyers fear any progress on strengthening forensic science may be lost under President Donald Trump. In April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Justice Department would disband the National Commission on Forensic Science, an independent panel of scientists, researchers, judges and attorneys that had been studying how to improve the reliability of forensic practices. Some forensic methods have been questioned by defense lawyers for years, but it wasn’t until 2009 that the National Academy of Sciences, a nonprofit consisting of some of the nation’s most distinguished researchers, released a report that found that with the exception of DNA, many methods had not been tested enough to be considered valid. “The simple reality is that the interpretation of forensic evidence is not always based on scientific studies to determine its validity,” the report said. “That is a serious problem.” The National Registry of Exonerations at the University of California Irvine has documented more than 2,000 exonerations since 1989. Nearly one-fourth list “false or misleading forensic evidence” as a contributing factor. And a report last fall from the President’s Council criticized several “feature-comparison” methods, which attempt to determine whether a sample from a crime scene is associated with a sample from a suspect by comparing patterns. The council said those methods — including analysis of shoeprints, tire tracks, latent fingerprints, firearms and spent ammunition — need more study to determine their reliability and error rates. When the reliability of forensic evidence is challenged through DNA testing or other new evidence, it often results in the granting of a new trial, even if there is other strong evidence against a defendant. “More often than not, it undermines confidence in the verdict, which is enough to get a new trial,” said Daniel Medwed, a law professor at Boston’s Northeastern University. In 2015, the Justice Department revealed that FBI agents had overstated the strength of their evidence for decades in many cases involving microscopic hair analysis. The FBI now acknowledges microscopic hair analysis is inconclusive and uses it only in conjunction with DNA testing. Kirk Odom was 18 when he was charged with raping a woman at gunpoint in Washington, D.C. An FBI agent testified that a hair on the woman’s nightgown was “indistinguishable” from Odom’s, a conclusion he said he had reached only eight or 10 times during thousands of analyses. “I just kept saying, ‘They’re lying. That ain’t my hair,’” Odom recalled. Odom spent 22 years in prison but was exonerated after DNA testing of the hair and other evidence excluded him as the rapist. The President’s Council also found that bite mark evidence does not meet scientific standards and is unlikely to ever do so. That didn’t surprise Keith Harward, a former Navy sailor who spent 33 years in prison for the 1982 killing of a man and the rape of the man’s wife in Newport News, Virginia. Forensic dentists testified that his teeth matched bite marks on the woman’s leg. But in 2014, DNA tests matched sperm at the scene to one of Harward’s former shipmates, who had died years earlier in prison after being convicted of a different crime. One of the experts was Dr. Lowell Levine, an odontologist who testified in the case of serial killer Ted Bundy, linking Bundy to the 1978 murder of a college student. “Here he comes waltzing up in the courtroom with these normal, everyday people in the jury — ‘I testified in the Ted Bundy case’ — well, boom! That was the first nail in my coffin,” Harward said. “I was done; the jury was hypnotized,” he said. After Harward was freed last year, Levine said he was “upset and quite disturbed” by the mistake. He told The New York Times that he and another expert had “completely followed” guidelines and that considerable evidence seemed to point to a match with Harward. But, he acknowledged, “This case should persuade all my colleagues to agree with the need for more scientific research and investigation.”........Lisa Wood, who represented a defendant in the Chicago gang trial , argued that prosecutors should not be allowed to introduce firearms identification evidence because of the 2016 President’s Council report. “It can be very powerful evidence, and it doesn’t seem consistent with the principles of justice that we would introduce this kind of evidence without knowing that it’s sound,” she said. In Massachusetts, a judge ruled that prosecutors could present ballistics evidence in the double-murder trial of ex-NFL star Aaron Hernandez. He was eventually acquitted but was already serving a life sentence in a separate killing; he hanged himself in prison days after his acquittal.........Critical reports, wrongful convictions and scandals involving unscrupulous lab chemists have sparked discussion at universities and an increased emphasis on the language analysts should use in court. Visual analysis is also increasingly coming under fire, said David Foran, director of the forensic science program at Michigan State University. “The idea is, instead of a person looking at two things and saying they are the same, they’re not, or I can’t tell,” Foran said, “is to actually have computer scans of them, at a digital level, to find out how similar they are.” For Barnes, those similarities added up to convictions in Utica, New York, on murder, rape and sodomy charges. “I said to myself, ‘The jury has to understand; they won’t convict me on this stuff they say is similar,’” Barnes recalled. “I was wrong.”"

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.

The entire story can be found at:

http://www.timesheraldonline.com/article/NH/20170818/NEWS/170819830

Monday, August 21, 2017

Bad Rap? (The research); Prof. exoses a disturbing trend: gangsta rap lyrics are treated as autobiographical confessions rather than art or entertainment..."Other music genres frequently feature violent and misogynistic lyrics, but the practice of introducing lyrics as evidence of criminal intent or as confession evidence is virtually unheard of for any other genre except rap. This practice raises questions about whether prosecutors, judges and jurors may be relying on stereotypes about rap music to inform their evaluations of the lyrics and those who write them, which may affect trial outcomes."...(Is there an empirical basis for these practices? Read on. HL);


COMMENTARY: "Rap on Trial: Do Violent Lyrics Prove a Crime?" by Professor  Adam Dunbar, published by The Crime Report on August 7, 2017. (Adam Dunbar is a professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at the University of Delaware.)

GIST:  "Rap music was created, in large part, as a response to social marginalization and police oppression, and it has had a contentious relationship with the legal system— perhaps more than any other music genre. Although during its early years, rap music’s distribution was limited by legal sanctions and police disruption due to the perceived threatening nature of the music, today we see a shift from censoring rap to using rap lyrics as evidence in criminal cases across the country. In these cases, rap lyrics—especially gangsta rap lyrics—are treated as autobiographical confessions rather than art or entertainment. Cases where lyrics are introduced typically involve aspiring rappers—mostly young black men from impoverished backgrounds—who are seeking commercial success by mimicking the lyrical style and content of more famous rappers. For example, in one recent case, university student and aspiring rapper, Olutosin Oduwole, was charged with making a terrorist threat because of scribbled rap lyrics found in his car. In another case, prosecutors introduced rap lyrics to prove that Clyde Smith was illegally selling prescription medicine. Both young men explained that their lyrics were fictional, but were convicted. Similar outcomes have occurred in cases where the defendant was accused of murder and participating in gang activities. Other music genres frequently feature violent and misogynistic lyrics, but the practice of introducing lyrics as evidence of criminal intent or as confession evidence is virtually unheard of for any other genre except rap. This practice raises questions about whether prosecutors, judges and jurors may be relying on stereotypes about rap music to inform their evaluations of the lyrics and those who write them, which may affect trial outcomes. Only a handful of studies have empirically examined concerns about this practice. One, for example, examined the public reaction to violent rap lyrics such as Ice T’s “Cop Killer.” Another looked at gangsta rap lyrics written by a defendant in a murder trial. But such studies are methodologically limited and becoming increasingly outdated. My research addresses these limitations, and builds upon this small but important line of research.".........Collectively, these findings highlight the possibility that rap lyrics could inappropriately influence jurors when admitted as evidence to prove guilt. In particular, the findings suggest that rap lyrics might influence jurors’ decisions independent of their actual content..........Judges must consider and weigh potential prejudicial impact against probative value when deciding whether to admit rap lyrics as evidence. In other words, the mere label of “rap” is sufficient to induce negative evaluations, even when holding constant the actual lyrics. This has direct implications for judges who must consider and weigh potential prejudicial impact against probative value when deciding whether to admit rap lyrics as evidence. More to the point, the findings suggest that judges might underappreciate the extent to which the label of lyrics – and not the substantive lyrics themselves – impact jurors’ decisions.Our research suggests that judges should consider limiting the introduction of rap lyrics to instances in which the lyrics are highly probative of some relevant legal issue. The findings also raise other questions that merit attention. For example, there is a concern that jurors might make negative inferences about the author of rap lyrics, in large part, because of rap-specific stereotypes. If jurors use rap lyrics to determine whether a defendant is the “type of person” who would commit a crime—assumptions jurors are not allowed to make—the lyrics are potentially excludable evidence. In fact, results from ongoing research reveal that when violent lyrics are described as rap, individuals, on average, are more likely to view the songwriter as being in a gang and having a criminal disposition, compared to when identical lyrics are described as country, punk, or heavy metal. In other ongoing research I am exploring the specific adjudicative consequences of using rap lyrics as evidence in a criminal trial. This research comes at a time when scholars are attempting to understand continued racial disparities in criminal justice outcomes in spite of declines in reported overt racism. This research offers one example of a novel way that race and the criminal justice system may interact. As my studies reveal, it is important to expand research to explore how other cognitive processes shape inferences of criminality, especially those that disproportionately impact people and communities of color."




The entire commentary can be found at:
https://thecrimereport.org/2017/08/07/rap-on-trial-do-violent-lyrics-prove-a-crime/

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;

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Greg Kelley: Texas: New evidence to prove his innocence presented by his lawyers...."According to a search warrant recently released by Texas Rangers, there are three primary suspects who may have sexually assaulted the young boy back in 2014. One of these is Greg Kelley. After the Williamson County District Attorney reopened the case against Kelley, all case information was reviewed by the Texas Rangers. In the recently released documents, the Texas Rangers listed the reasons which have prevented the ability to rule Greg Kelley out as a suspect."........." According to Kelley's attorney Keith Hampton, none of the sites that were visited by Kelley have child pornography on them and that the sites are typical of what a teenage boy would look at. According to Hampton, the information was known to everyone in the case and it should not factor into Kelley's request to be released from jail on bond. Other documents were also obtained by FOX 7 regarding one of the other suspects, Johnathan McCarty. According to those documents, investigators also found that McCarty visited pornographic websites. Investigators also discovered text messages about delivering drugs as well as others that highlighted McCarty's sexual preference was deviant in nature."


STORY: "New documents released by Texas Rangers for Greg Kelley hearing," by reporter Lauren Reid, published by FOX7  on August 17, 2017.

GIST: New documents related to the case against Greg Kelley have been released by the Texas Rangers. Greg Kelley was in a Williamson County court earlier this month for a three day hearing where Kelley's lawyer presented new evidence to prove Kelley's innocence. 22-year-old Kelley was convicted of assaulting a young boy at an in home daycare in Cedar Park in 2014. Judge King is giving the prosecution and Kelley's attorneys until August 18 to deliver findings of fact to her. She will then decide whether to let Kelley out on bond. According to a search warrant recently released by Texas Rangers, there are three primary suspects who may have sexually assaulted the young boy back in 2014. One of these is Greg Kelley. After the Williamson County District Attorney reopened the case against Kelley, all case information was reviewed by the Texas Rangers. In the recently released documents, the Texas Rangers listed the reasons which have prevented the ability to rule Greg Kelley out as a suspect. Some, but not all of the reasons, include: Kelley was named by the victim, Kelley had opportunity and access, and Kelley admitted to wearing the clothing that the child victim described his attacker wearing during the assault. While re-analyzing Kelley's cell phone, a Texas Ranger claims to have found pornography on the phone as well as browser history that suggested Kelley visited hookup sites for adults. Some, but not all of the reasons, include: Kelley was named by the victim, Kelley had opportunity and access, and Kelley admitted to wearing the clothing that the child victim described his attacker wearing during the assault. While re-analyzing Kelley's cell phone, a Texas Ranger claims to have found pornography on the phone as well as browser history that suggested Kelley visited hookup sites for adults.Some of the websites were visited 22 days before the out cry by the child victim. According to Kelley's attorney Keith Hampton, none of the sites that were visited by Kelley have child pornography on them and that the sites are typical of what a teenage boy would look at.  According to Hampton, the information was known to everyone in the case and it should not factor into Kelley's request to be released from jail on bond. Other documents were also obtained by FOX 7 regarding one of the other suspects, Johnathan McCarty. According to those documents, investigators also found that McCarty visited pornographic websites. Investigators also discovered text messages about delivering drugs as well as others that highlighted McCarty's sexual preference was deviant in nature.

The entire story can be found at:
http://www.fox7austin.com/news/local-news/274476363-story

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;

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Susan Neill-Fraser: (Australia): More extraordinary developments; (Reported by The Mercury): High profile Queen's Counsel calls on state government to launch an independent inquiry - and revelation that one of Neill-Fraser's previous defence lawyers Hobart lawyer (Jeffrey Ian Thomson) has been charged with perverting justice in relation to the case..."A police spokeswoman said that during an unrelated investigation in early February, police were given information alleging a possible conspiracy to pervert justice by falsifying evidence in support of Neill-Fraser’s appeal, which is currently before the court. The word from inside the force is there will more charges to follow. Outside court after Mr Thompson’s appearance on Wednesday, Neill-Fraser’s daughter Sarah Bowles said her mother would be “shocked and in disbelief with regard to this latest development”. Renowned barrister Tom Percy QC, who is representing Neill-Fraser pro bono, declined to comment on developments this week, saying he “might have more to say” on Wednesday when the case heads to the Supreme Court in Hobart for a mention. Melbourne criminal law specialist Paul Galbally has confirmed he is still on the defence team but declined to comment further. Legal reform activist Bob Moles — who runs a project investigating alleged wrongful convictions in South Australia — believed the appeal could go ahead despite the charges. “I’m of the view that the Neill-Fraser appeal could and would be successful if the appeal court was informed of the errors which had occurred at trial,” he said. “They have nothing whatever to do with the current events.” Dr Moles highlighted the court’s decision to allow evidence about luminol — a screening test for blood but not a conclusive one — to be heard at the trial. But former Tasmanian DPP Tim Ellis SC, who prosecuted Neill-Fraser, said the defence claims surrounding luminol were baseless. “I never claimed it was blood in there. I said it was tested with luminol but then it was examined for blood ... our witness said that she couldn’t say it was blood. The jury was never addressed on the basis it was blood in there, it’s a complete non-issue,” he said."


STORY: "High-profile Queen’s Counsel Robert Richter met with Premier Will Hodgman over murder case," by reporter Patrick Billings, published by The Mercury on August 18, 2017.

GIST:" One of Australia’s most prominent silks, Robert Richter QC, has called on the State Government to launch an independent inquiry into the Susan Neill-Fraser case. The request was made in a behind-closed-doors meeting with Premier Will Hodgman, Tasmania’s Acting Attorney-General Matthew Groom and Solicitor-General Michael O’Farrell on May 11 this year.  At the meeting, Mr Richter, who lists Mick Gatto and mass killer Julian Knight as past clients and is representing Cardinal George Pell over historical sex abuse charges, pressed for the independent probe. Neill-Fraser is serving 23 years for the 2009 killing of partner Bob Chappell on their yacht on the River Derwent. The 62-year-old is fighting the conviction under landmark legislation that allows for new appeals if “fresh and compelling” evidence emerges. Mr Richter has previously questioned Neill-Fraser’s conviction, which was upheld on appeal, writing to former attorney-general Brian Wightman about the matter in 2013. At the May meeting, attended by two other unnamed people, Mr Richter argued for Meaghan Vass to be granted indemnity from prosecution. Ms Vass was a then homeless 15-year-old who was called to give evidence at Neill-Fraser’s murder trial, after her DNA was found on the couple’s yacht. Ms Vass denied ever being on the Four Windsand prosecutors argued her DNA was likely transferred from elsewhere to the yacht. The Mercury understands Ms Vass has since provided a statutory declaration claiming Neill-Fraser was not on the boat the day Mr Chappell, whose body has never been found, disappeared. She is understood to have put two other suspects in the frame. Her evidence was part of the dossier Mr Richter gave the Government in a bid to launch an inquiry. Mr Richter and his companions asked that any inquiry be held by an interstate former judge or director of public prosecutions. But they were told there would be no inquiry and any application for immunity should be made to Tasmania’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Daryl Coates SC. The Government confirmed the meeting but would not comment further on it. “A meeting was held at the request of Mr Richter. It would be inappropriate to comment on the topics of discussion,” a Government spokesman said. News of the meeting comes in the wake of a chaotic few weeks for the case. The charging of Karen Patricia Nancy Keefe, 41, on August 9, with perverting justice and corrupting a witness kicked off a demoralising week for Neill-Fraser and her supporters. Police allege Ms Keefe provided false evidence in the form of an affidavit including evidence relating to Neill-Fraser and Ms Vass. On the corrupting a witness charge, police allege Ms Keefe agreed to receive $3000 cash in property, a $40,000 reward and a $50,000 education fund for herself and her children “in consideration for an understanding that Meaghan Vass be called as a witness, in a judicial proceeding, to provide false evidence”. A few days later, police arrested Stephen John Gleeson, 57, and will charge him on summons with perverting justice. Police said they will allege the man provided false evidence in an application by Neill-Fraser to appeal her 2010 conviction. Then on Wednesday, another bombshell — Hobart lawyer Jeffrey Ian Thompson was charged with perverting justice in relation to the case. Police allege Mr Thompson, who was working with Neill-Fraser’s former defence solicitor Barbara Etter at the time, deliberately influenced Mr Gleeson and prejudiced photographic evidence in support of Neill-Fraser’s appeal. The Mercury does not suggest Ms Etter, who left the defence team in June and could not be reached, is guilty of any wrongdoing. In the wake of Mr Thompson’s arrest, police for the first time talked about an alleged “conspiracy” to pervert the course of justice that had began in November. A police spokeswoman said that during an unrelated investigation in early February, police were given information alleging a possible conspiracy to pervert justice by falsifying evidence in support of Neill-Fraser’s appeal, which is currently before the court. The word from inside the force is there will more charges to follow. Outside court after Mr Thompson’s appearance on Wednesday, Neill-Fraser’s daughter Sarah Bowles said her mother would be “shocked and in disbelief with regard to this latest development”. Renowned barrister Tom Percy QC, who is representing Neill-Fraser pro bono, declined to comment on developments this week, saying he “might have more to say” on Wednesday when the case heads to the Supreme Court in Hobart for a mention. Melbourne criminal law specialist Paul Galbally has confirmed he is still on the defence team but declined to comment further. Legal reform activist Bob Moles — who runs a project investigating alleged wrongful convictions in South Australia — believed the appeal could go ahead despite the charges. “I’m of the view that the Neill-Fraser appeal could and would be successful if the appeal court was informed of the errors which had occurred at trial,” he said. “They have nothing whatever to do with the current events.”

The entire story can be found at:

http://www.themercury.com.au/subscribe/news/1/index.html?sourceCode=TMWEB_WRE170_a_GGL&mode=premium&dest=http:%2F%2Fwww.themercury.com.au%2Fnews%2Ftasmania%2Fhighprofile-queens-counsel-robert-richter-met-with-premier-will-hodgman-over-murder-case%2Fnews-story%2F959fff4981f095b99a7f6401c3feed28&memtype=anonymous

See  Mercury commentary  by veteran TV reporter and columnist Charles Wooley for TAS Weekend  at the link below;  "Robert Richter QC is one of Melbourne’s most eminent barristers and yet another interstate legal expert urging for a judicial inquiry into the Susan Neill-Fraser murder conviction. On May 11, Mr Richter and two others made a personal representation to the Tasmanian Government, meeting in the Premier’s Murray St office with Will Hodgman, acting Attorney-General Matthew Groom and Solicitor-General Michael O’Farrell. Mr Richter QC expressed his concern that there had been a miscarriage of justice. He offered the Tasmanians a detailed investigative dossier exonerating Neill-Fraser and naming the two men his team believed killed Bob Chappell. It also named the young woman Meaghan Vass whom it says had been aboard the Four Winds at the time of the murder and who was “in danger and required protection as well as witness indemnity”. Mr Richter QC requested the Government institute a judicial inquiry, even a Royal Commission if they preferred. He presented the Tasmanian political leaders with the dossier and suggested recruiting investigators with more experience in complex murders than could be expected in Tasmania. He suggested the inquiry be led by someone removed from local pressures, possibly a Director of Public Prosecution from another state. One of Mr Richter’s team told me that neither the dossier nor the advice was well received. “The three of them looked like they had consumed sour milk,” he said. “They were very dismissive. Anywhere else in Australia when Richter QC walks into a room he is the centre of attention. This was an unusual reaction.” Four months on, the Richter dossier has not surfaced. Nor is it likely to in any greater detail than reported here. Issues of contempt of court limit the extent of public statements about legal proceedings before the courts. The mechanism is fair enough where it protects a charged person from prejudgment, but not so desirable when it stops reportage and fair comment in the public interest on a vital, confounding issue of justice. In the light of the recent extraordinary and arresting events in the long-running Susan Neill-Fraser affair, the darker it gets, the more difficult it is to report. Initially, there was a degree of public and legal unease that a murder conviction could be so easily secured in the absence of a body, a weapon and any witness. Later the forensics were revealed to be misleading and we learned the crime scene, by the police’s own confusing admission, was contaminated by DNA tracked on to the yacht Four Winds on the investigator’s boots. Since, we have seen a growing public and expert legal apprehension concerning aspects of the investigation of Bob Chappell’s death. But in the past 10 days have come dramatic events that now seem to compromise the integrity of Neill-Fraser’s long-running appeal. The Mercury newspaper and this columnist are legally constrained in what we can report of this week’s arrest of a Hobart lawyer. It closely follows last week’s charges against two would-be witnesses who allegedly intended to give false evidence in Neill-Fraser’s appeal. In the interest of shedding light in a dark place and in maintaining public faith in the justice system, now is time for Mr Richter’s independent judicial inquiry into the investigation and conviction of Neill-Fraser. As with Mr Richter QC, much of the legal concern over the conduct of the Neill-Fraser case has predictably come from outside of Tasmania. Australian expert on miscarriages of justice, Bob Moles, says the Neill-Fraser conviction is “Australia’s worst miscarriage of justice since Lindy Chamberlain”. Mr Robert Richter QC does not disagree. It may be the Tasmanian Government was not aware of the reputation of the eminent Richter QC. If so, he is no trendy Lefty do-good lawyer. He has defended corporate heavyweights like John Elliott and Ray Williams, and also is representing George Pell. What he offered our Premier and law officers besides a detailed dossier on the murder case was a quite conservative way out of this imbroglio."

http://www.themercury.com.au/news/tasmania/highprofile-queens-counsel-robert-richter-met-with-premier-will-hodgman-over-murder-case/news-story/959fff4981f095b99a7f6401c3feed28

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;

Book Review: Willie Grimes: North Carolina: 'Ghost Of The Innocent Man: A true story of trial and redemption.'... Martha Ann Toll chronicles justice too long delayed..."Deploying the same precision with which he documents Grimes' prison life, Rachlin recounts the arduous and complex work to move the wheels of justice. 19 years after Grimes' arrest, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill to establish an Innocence Inquiry Commission; Chris Mumma's fingerprints were all over it. Read Rachlin's Ghost of the Innocent Man to follow the twisted path that led Chris Mumma to pick up Grimes' file, ultimately exposing the use of outdated photos to misidentify the perpetrator, the failure to fingerprint relevant parts of the crime scene, exculpatory evidence destroyed, contorted "science" involving a single hair, and more."


BOOK REVIEW: "Ghost of the Innocent Man: A true story of trial and redemption," by Benjamin Rachlin,  reviewed by Martha Anne Toll on August 13, 2017. ("Martha Anne Toll is the Executive Director of the Butler Family Fund.)

GIST: "Innocence cases spotlight the many corruptions of our justice system: Mistakes beget mistakes — some intentional, some not. An epic bureaucracy protects a deeply flawed system. Thousands are wrongfully convicted. The National Registry of Exonerations calculates that over 18,000 years have been lost by innocent people serving time. How to convey those hopeless years behind bars for crimes not committed; evidence unlawfully withheld, botched police investigations, mistaken identity, false testimony, racial bias skewing every level of the process, errors compounding errors? Benjamin Rachlin's Ghost of the Innocent Man tackles this challenge through the case of Willie J. Grimes. A crisply written page turner, Rachlin's book reports from two perspectives: Grimes' personal tragedy, and the story of North Carolina's criminal justice system sluggishly lumbering toward the acknowledgment that innocent people might be incarcerated. In 1987 Grimes was a textile worker who had a second job delivering furniture. He had no money, but his life was far from impoverished. He was close to family and friends, and had a long-term girlfriend. Then, a 69-year-old widow named Carrie Elliott was raped in her Hickory, N.C. home. With the incentive of a $1,000 reward, Elliott's neighbor falsely accused Grimes; despite a seemingly airtight alibi and no record of violent crime, he was arrested and charged. His physical features didn't match the victim's description: Grimes had missing fingertips, a large raised scar below his collarbone, and was 35 pounds lighter than the assailant. DNA analysis was in its infancy, and Grimes' lawyer's request for it was ignored. Grimes was convicted and sentenced to life......... Activist Christine Mumma has a hunch that all is not right with North Carolina's justice system. Like Grimes, she's in it for the long game. She goes to law school and becomes an advocate — a dog with a bone when it comes to the perils of false convictions — and finds a champion in North Carolina's conservative Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake. While Grimes languishes behind bars, there are heroes on the outside, lawyers and judges who care about the integrity and trustworthiness of the courts. They're paying attention to high profile exonerations around the country, and recognize that "an innocent person can be convicted even when no one did anything wrong." Deploying the same precision with which he documents Grimes' prison life, Rachlin recounts the arduous and complex work to move the wheels of justice. 19 years after Grimes' arrest, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill to establish an Innocence Inquiry Commission; Chris Mumma's fingerprints were all over it. Read Rachlin's Ghost of the Innocent Man to follow the twisted path that led Chris Mumma to pick up Grimes' file, ultimately exposing the use of outdated photos to misidentify the perpetrator, the failure to fingerprint relevant parts of the crime scene, exculpatory evidence destroyed, contorted "science" involving a single hair, and more."

The entire review can be found at: 

http://www.npr.org/2017/08/13/542062535/ghost-of-the-innocent-man-chronicles-justice-too-long-delayed

For purchase information go to the link below:

 https://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Innocent-Man-Story-Redemption/dp/0316311499/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1502830258&sr=8-1&keywords=Ghost+of+the+Innocent+Man

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, August 18, 2017

Trump Regime's Forensic Science 'Reform': (7): Veracruz Post commentary: Jefferson Sessions’ program to lock up more Americans includes abundant use of junk forensic science. Mark Sumner..."In a landmark 2009 report, the National Academy of Sciences found that nuclear DNA testing was the only reliable forensic discipline; those based on expert analysis, as opposed to laboratory testing, weren’t really science at all. "In other words, most “expert forensic opinion” is just opinion. Error rates determined by the NAS showed that the majority of such would should not be accepted as definitive evidence. But for Sessions, anything that puts more Americans behind bars is just fine. He wants more money for bad tests, and less scrutiny for how they’re used. “I don’t think we should suggest that those proven scientific principles that we’ve been using for decades are somehow uncertain,” [Sessions] said during a 2009 Senate hearing on the National Academy of Sciences report. This would make more sense if Sessions had declared that leeches have been used for centuries, and he didn’t think anyone should suggest we should stop bleeding patients to address illness."


COMMENTARY:  "Jefferson Session's program to lock up more Americans includes abundant use of junk forensic science," by Mark Sumner, published by The Veracruz Post on August 10, 2017. (Mark Sumner is the author of the nonfiction work "The Evolution of Everything" as well as several novels including "Devil's Tower.)"

GIST: "Attorney General Jefferson Session has been making proclamations about “improving” the use of forensic science, but Mother Jones reports that Sessions’ idea of improvement means ignoring mountains of evidence and appointing a new senior adviser whose claim to fame is defending junk science. The appointment of Ted Hunt, a Missouri prosecutor, came amid a broader announcement of Justice Department initiatives to improve forensic science. As the new senior forensic adviser, Hunt will oversee a “forensic science working group” to create guidelines for forensic examiners to follow in court testimony. Junk science goes beyond climate change denial and anti-vaccine madness. For years, prosecutors have complained about the evidentiary expectations raised by television series and movies in which forensic analysts run DNA tests in seconds and pick out a killer with a single hair. But it turns out the worst practitioners of forensic science aren’t on the tube. They’re in the courtroom. "In a landmark 2009 report, the National Academy of Sciences found that nuclear DNA testing was the only reliable forensic discipline; those based on expert analysis, as opposed to laboratory testing, weren’t really science at all. "In other words, most “expert forensic opinion” is just opinion. Error rates determined by the NAS showed that the majority of such would should not be accepted as definitive evidence. But for Sessions, anything that puts more Americans behind bars is just fine. He wants more money for bad tests, and less scrutiny for how they’re used. “I don’t think we should suggest that those proven scientific principles that we’ve been using for decades are somehow uncertain,” [Sessions] said during a 2009 Senate hearing on the National Academy of Sciences report. This would make more sense if Sessions had declared that leeches have been used for centuries, and he didn’t think anyone should suggest we should stop bleeding patients to address illness. What the NAS study showed was not that the opinion-based evidence Sessions and other prosecutors had been using was “proven.” What it showed was something else entirely.........President Obama followed up the report by creating a DOJ task force to deal with problems of pseudo-science in tests and improve the quality of forensic tests. Naturally, Jefferson Sessions has destroyed that task force. The department’s new efforts include scrapping a group created by the Obama administration, the National Commission on Forensic Science, which brought together prosecutors, defense attorneys, crime lab chiefs, and scientists to create recommendations for improving the field. Instead, Sessions is turning this issue over to his expert, Hunt. Why Hunt? He was one of the commissioners on the previous group, and he had a very specific record. When Obama’s commission called for forensics experts to be more exacting in the language they used to describe the certainty of tests, Hunt voted against it; When Obama’s commission called for stricter standards on accrediting forensics labs, Hunt voted against it; When Obama’s commission called for labs to show more transparency in how tests were done, Hunt voted against it;  When Obama’s commission called for a scientific review of many widely used tests, Hunt … voted against it."

The entire commentary can be found at:

http://veracruzpost.com/2017/08/jefferson-sessions-program-to-lock-up-more-americans-includes-abundant-use-of-junk-forensic-science/

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, August 17, 2017

Reid Technique; (False confessions): Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism podcast: "Behind The Scenes Look At Controversial Police Interrogation Method."..."The then-22-year-old former Iowa City, Iowa, woman was surprised to find out that police suspected her of breaking both legs of a 15-month-old toddler. Her case reveals how a controversial method of police interrogation called the Reid Technique works, and how critics say it sometimes produces false confessions — something Varallo-Speckeen says she delivered in that July 2013 police interview. “I think we will make a great stride in reducing the rate of false confessions when we complete the move away from controversial techniques like Reid,” said Dean Strang, a Madison, Wisconsin, lawyer who has become known as one of the defense attorneys featured in the Netflix program “Making a Murderer.” That program tells the story of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man convicted of a sex assault he didn’t commit. Strang and others speak in this podcast of an IowaWatch Connection radio report that digs into the investigative method. The podcast includes portions of the recording of Varallo-Speckeen’s interrogation."

 
PODCAST:  "Behind The Scenes Look At Controversial Police Interrogation Method," by Krista Johnson with Jeff Stein,  published by The  Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism on August 7, 2017.


PHOTO CAPTION: "Nearly four years since her arrest in July 2013 for felony aggravated battery against a child, Dorothy Varallo-Speckeen stands in late spring 2017 outside her East Moline home that she and Jennifer Schafer share."

GIST: "Dorothy Varallo-Speckeen says she thought she was being called to the Moline, Illinois, police station in July 2013 to help solve a child abuse case. The then-22-year-old former Iowa City, Iowa, woman was surprised to find out that police suspected her of breaking both legs of a 15-month-old toddler. Her case reveals how a controversial method of police interrogation called the Reid Technique works, and how critics say it sometimes produces false confessions — something Varallo-Speckeen says she delivered in that July 2013 police interview.  “I think we will make a great stride in reducing the rate of false confessions when we complete the move away from controversial techniques like Reid,” said Dean Strang, a Madison, Wisconsin, lawyer who has become known as one of the defense attorneys featured in the Netflix program “Making a Murderer.” That program tells the story of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man convicted of a sex assault he didn’t commit. Strang and others speak in this podcast of an IowaWatch Connection radio report that digs into the investigative method. The podcast includes portions of the recording of Varallo-Speckeen’s interrogation. The IowaWatch Connection is a weekly program featuring IowaWatch reporting. It is aired on 20 radio stations each weekend. Steps To PEACE Interviewing; The PEACE interviewing steps are used throughout the United Kingdom and in many ways advocates techniques that are polar opposite to Reid techniques."

The entire podcast can be found at
http://iowawatch.org/2017/08/07/podcast-behind-the-scenes-report-about-controversial-police-interrogation-method/

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.