Thursday, December 8, 2016

Flawed Forensics: Georgia State University Dean Jessica Gabel Cino observes that 'forensic science is largely not supported by sound science' - and asks 'now what?'..." As it’s risen to ubiquitous celebrity status, forensic science has become shrouded in a cloak of infallibility and certainty in the public’s imagination. It seems to provide definitive answers. Forensics feels scientific and impartial as a courtroom weighs a defendant’s possible guilt – looking for proof beyond a reasonable doubt. But the faith the public and the criminal justice system place in forensic science far outpaces the amount of trust it deserves."..."When forensic methods are not validated but nevertheless perceived as reliable, wrongful convictions happen. For example, the field of forensic odontology presumes that everyone has a unique bite mark. But there’s no scientific basis for this assumption."..." Reliance upon the adversary system to prevent wrongful convictions and weed out junk science requires a leap of faith that ultimately undermines the integrity of the criminal justice system. Counting on cross examination as an effective substitute for scientific rigor and research can’t be the answer (although it has been for more than a century)."Dean JesForensic evidence largely not supported by sound science – now what?


QUOTE OF THE DAY:"Reliance upon the adversary system to prevent wrongful convictions and weed out junk science requires a leap of faith that ultimately undermines the integrity of the criminal justice system. Counting on cross examination as an effective substitute for scientific rigor and research can’t be the answer (although it has been for more than a century)."

COMMENTARY: : "Forensic evidence largely not supported by sound science – now what? ," by Jessica Gabel Cino, published by The Conversation, on December 6, 2016. ( Jessica Gabel Cino is Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Law, Georgia State University; Disclosure statement:  Dean  Cino has received a grant from Georgia Institute of Technology to examine wrongful convictions (2010). She also serves on the American Academy of Forensic Science's Standards Boards for DNA and fingerprints.

GIST:  "Forensic science has become a mainstay of many a TV drama, and it’s just as important in real-life criminal trials. Drawing on biology, chemistry, genetics, medicine and psychology, forensic evidence helps answer questions in the legal system. Often, forensics provides the “smoking gun” that links a perpetrator to the crime and ultimately puts the bad guy in jail. Shows like “CSI,” “Forensic Files” and “NCIS” cause viewers to be more accepting of forensic evidence. As it’s risen to ubiquitous celebrity status, forensic science has become shrouded in a cloak of infallibility and certainty in the public’s imagination. It seems to provide definitive answers. Forensics feels scientific and impartial as a courtroom weighs a defendant’s possible guilt – looking for proof beyond a reasonable doubt. But the faith the public and the criminal justice system place in forensic science far outpaces the amount of trust it deserves. For decades, there have been concerns about how the legal system uses forensic science. A groundbreaking 2009 report from the National Academy of Sciences finally drew the curtain back to reveal that the wizardry of forensics was more art than science. The report assessed forensic science’s methods and developed recommendations to increase validity and reliability among many of its disciplines. These became the catalyst that finally forced the federal government to devote serious resources and dollars to an effort to more firmly ground forensic disciplines in science. After that, governmental agencies, forensic science committees and even the Department of Defense responded to the call. Research to this end now receives approximately US$13.4 million per year, but the money may not be enough to prevent bad science from finding its way into courtrooms. This fall, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released its own report on forensic science. It’s a more pronounced acknowledgment that the discipline has serious problems that require urgent attention. Some scientific and legal groups are outraged by or doubtful of its conclusions; others have praised them. As someone who has taught forensic evidence for a decade and dedicated my legal career to working on cases involving forensic science (both good and bad), I read the report as a call to address foundational issues within forensic disciplines and add oversight to the way forensic science is ultimately employed by the end user: the criminal justice system. Is any forensic science valid? The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology recognized ongoing efforts to improve forensic science in the wake of the 2009 NAS report. Those efforts focused on policy, best practices and research around forensic science, but, as with any huge undertaking, there were gaps. As PCAST noted, forensic science has a validity problem that is in desperate need of attention. PCAST focused on what’s colloquially termed “pattern identification evidence” – it requires an examiner to visually compare a crime scene sample to a known sample. PCAST’s big question: Are DNA analysis, bite marks, latent fingerprints, firearms identification and footwear analysis supported by reproducible research, and thus, reliable evidence?........All these types of evidence are widely used in thousands of trials each year. Many additional cases never even go to trial because this supposedly definitive evidence seems damning and compels defendants to plead guilty. But the lack of reliable science supporting these disciplines undermines the evidence which, in turn, undermines criminal convictions. Risks of lacking validity: When forensic methods are not validated but nevertheless perceived as reliable, wrongful convictions happen. For example, the field of forensic odontology presumes that everyone has a unique bite mark. But there’s no scientific basis for this assumption. A 2010 study of bite marks from known biters showed that skin deformations distort bite marks so severely that current methods of analysis could not accurately include or exclude a person based on the pattern left by their teeth. In 1986, Bennie Starks was convicted of rape and other crimes after forensic odontology experts testified he was the source of a bite mark on the victim. In 2006, DNA test results showed Starks could not have been the perpetrator. Starks spent 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commit because of faulty evidence from an unreliable discipline. More recently, the Texas Forensic Science Commission recommended a flat-out ban on bite mark evidence..........Like in Starks’ case, questionable forensic evidence plays a significant role in at least half of overturned convictions, according to the Innocence Project. Once a verdict comes in, it becomes a Sisyphean task to undo it – even if newly discovered evidence undermines the original At the moment, only two states (Texas and California) permit a defendant to appeal a conviction if the scientific evidence or the expert who testified is later discredited. More laws like these are needed, but it’s politically a hard sell to grant more rights and avenues of appeal to convicts. So even if the science is undermined or completely discredited, a prisoner is often at the mercy of a court as it decides whether to grant or deny an appeal. What should be admissible? The PCAST report recommended judges consider both the foundational and applied validity of the forensic discipline that produced any evidence before admitting expert testimony. This includes ensuring experts testify to the limitations of the analysis and evidence. For example, the justice system traditionally considers fingerprint evidence as an “identification” – for instance, the thumbprint recovered from the crime scene was made by the defendant’s thumb. No one ever testifies that there are little scientific data establishing that fingerprints are unique to individuals. The same holds true for other types of pattern identification evidence such as firearms, toolmarks and tire treads. The National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) was critical of the PCAST report. It countered that there actually is scientific data validating these forensic fields, but members of PCAST did not adequately consult subject-matter experts. The NDAA also worried that if courts required stronger scientific validity before allowing evidence into court, it would hamstring the entire investigative process. The NDAA concluded that judges should continue to be the ones who decide what makes evidence reliable and thus admissible. It asserted that the stringent requirements to become expert witnesses, along with the ability to cross-examine them in court, are enough to guarantee reliable and admissible evidence. But should the admissibility of scientific processes – which ought to be grounded in their proven ability to produce reliable evidence – be determined by people who lack scientific backgrounds? I would argue no. Pattern identification evidence shouldn’t be excluded from cases wholesale, but forensic evidence needs to be placed into context. When the human eye is the primary instrument of analysis, the court, the attorneys and the jury should be fully aware that certainty is unattainable, human error is possible, and subjectivity is inherent. Reliance upon the adversary system to prevent wrongful convictions and weed out junk science requires a leap of faith that ultimately undermines the integrity of the criminal justice system. Counting on cross examination as an effective substitute for scientific rigor and research can’t be the answer (although it has been for more than a century). The PCAST report is yet another wake-up call for the criminal justice system to correct the shortcomings of forensic science. We demand that guilt be proven beyond a reasonable doubt; we should also demand accurate and reliable forensics. Without improvement, we can’t trust forensic science to promote justice."

The entire commentary can be found at:

http://theconversation.com/forensic-evidence-largely-not-supported-by-sound-science-now-what-67413

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, December 7, 2016

Anthony Ball: Bulletin: Ongoing trial: Prosecution case: Day two of jury trial: Second day of jury trial..."Anthony Ball denied several times he fatally injured his girlfriend's daughter nearly two years ago. Two police investigators testified Wednesday that Ball said he found Athena Ramey unconscious on a futon and didn't know how she suffered a serious head injury."Battle Creek Enquirer; Reporter Trace Christenson. December 7, 2016;


"Anthony Ball denied several times he fatally injured his girlfriend's daughter nearly two years ago.
Two police investigators testified Wednesday that Ball said he found Athena Ramey unconscious on a futon and didn't know how she suffered a serious head injury. "He said he didn't know what happened to the child," Calhoun County Sheriff Department Detective Steve Hinkley said. "But his story changed after an interview by telling me Brianna (Richards) shook the child at 9 a.m. He had said she didn't do anything to the child." The 20-month-old daughter of Richards was found by Ball unconscious on Dec. 18, 2014, in their Marshall home. She died the next day at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo of what doctors and investigators said was a severe brain injury. Ball, 30, was later charged with felony murder and first-degree child abuse and faces life in prison without parole if convicted on both charges. Testimony from the detectives came Wednesday, on the second day of the jury trial before Circuit Judge John Hallacy. The trial continues Thursday with the first of several medical witnesses discussing the cause of death. The trial is expected to continue into next week." Hinkley said he was called to begin the investigation about two hours after the child was taken to the hospital. He said the county's Major Crimes Task Force was activated so several detectives were working on the case. At the hospital Hinkley said he found Richards crying and upset, but Ball "didn't seem to have any emotion. He didn't seem to be upset at all." Ball told the detective he was caring for the child and his two daughters at their apartment in the 500 block of West Michigan Avenue in Marshall while Richards was working at an an adult care foster home south of the city. In his interview with Hinkley, Ball said he was fixing dinner for the children after putting a sleeping Athena on the futon. But about 90 minutes later he was unable to wake her and said her lips were blue. Ball told the detective that Athena had a respiratory infection, had bumped her head earlier that day on a table, had fallen and had been in a car with her grandfather, Darrin Martin, that struck a deer on Dec. Martin testified his granddaughter was in a car seat and was not injured and Ball acknowledged to police that Athena didn't show any symptoms from the fall or bumping into the table. The day after Athena was injured, Ball was interviewed by Lt. Marco Hernandez of the Michigan State Police in Lansing. Hernandez said Wednesday he pushed Ball, saying only he or Richards could have injured the child. "He denied Bri did anything," Hernandez said, until Ball was told that the child died.  "He put his head in his hands and appeared to cry but not very long," Hernandez said, and eventually said he observed Richards, who was pregnant with his child, shake Athena about 9 a.m. on the day the little girl was injured. He told investigators he didn't tell them about the shaking because he wanted to protect Richards. Hernandez said Ball showed him how Richards shook the little girl but when the officer said that would not be enough force, Ball demonstrated again only harder."
http://www.battlecreekenquirer.com/story/news/local/2016/12/07/defendant-said-he-found-girl-unconscious/95094442/

See previous post of this Blog at the link below: 

 http://smithforensic.blogspot.ca/2016/10/leo-ackley-michigan-anthony-ball.html

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Nuper and Rajesh Talwar: Gulf News reports that the convicted murderers of their daughter Aarushi have been putting their expertise to good use in prison prividing dental services. "Their appeal pending before the Allahabad High Court, the dentist couple, meanwhile, live a quiet life at Dasna Prison in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, about 35km from New Delhi. They eagerly look forward to days when family and friends, who have stood by them, come calling. As the nightmare continues, hiding the pain of losing their only daughter and living with the stigma of murdering her, the couple is bringing their prison stint to good use by providing succour to prison staff and inmates requiring dental care."..."Asked what the Talwars look forward to, (Prison Superintendent) Yadav said, “Knowing that truth is on their side and ultimately it has to win, they wait with faith and patience.”..."On a warm summer morning of May 16, 2008, Aarushi Talwar, a week away from her 14th birthday, was found dead with her throat slit open in her apartment at Jalvayu Vihar in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. A day after the teenager’s murder, the second body, that of Hemraj, the 45-year-old servant of the Talwars, was discovered from the terrace of their house. Though there was no Hercule Poirot to solve the murder mysteries, within a week, the Uttar Pradesh Police, who had neither cordoned off the murder site nor collected evidence, declared they had cracked the case. The police accused Rajesh for the double murders. It created furore among the public, leading the court to direct the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate the case. Unable to find any evidence, in December 2010, the CBI sought the court’s permission to close the case. But not before making several insinuations against both Nupur and Rajesh. The case would have rested there, had the couple reconciled to the fate of losing their daughter. But, as Rajesh had then said, “Finding the CBI’s insinuations appalling, we seek justice for our daughter and challenge the report. The Talwars asked for a proper investigation with the hope of proving their innocence in court against murder charges."..."The Aarushi murder case had been reported by investigative journalist Avirook Sen, who later wrote a book ‘Aarushi’ focusing on the art and science of forensics, trial by media, shoddy analysis and the insidious turns the case took due to the pressure to ‘close’ the case. Sen laid bare the details of how the CBI, expected to ‘solve’ the murder mystery, instead manipulated and distorted facts. It resorted to unethical means to frame the Talwars of murdering their child. The book provided an insight into the judiciary and its insensitivity towards the couple who stood trial with the hope of finding justice for their daughter, but were let down by the system. Seemingly, in the case of the Talwars, the lines between fiction and non-fiction began getting blurred, as they fought the case. As Sen put it, “What is shocking about this case was that daily injustices were being overlooked. The Talwars had lost the battle of perception a long time ago. In the public mind, they were — guilty. What was playing out at the trial seemed almost a formality — just the paperwork for a case that had been settled long ago. That is shocking. And unjust.”


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: It is sad to learn that Nupur and Rajesh Talwar have not yet been cleared by the Indian Courts and free of the stigma of being accused of murdering their daughter Aarushi, in a case that wreaks of pathetically incompetent investigation (if you can even call  it  'investigation') ,  botched forensics, and trial by media.  The Gulf News story  details how both Nupur and Rajesh have been running a dental clinic in their prison for prisoners, prison officials and other staff.  That says something about the sterling  character of The Talwars. But it should not divert us from the truth that Nupur and Rajesh Talwar should be utterly free, relieved of the stigma, and have the opportunity to rebuild their lives in their community, as the innocent, grieving parents, which they undoubtedly are. There are much better ways of finding people with special skills such as the Talwars -  dentists, doctors, psychologists, whatever,  to provide assistance to inmates and prison staff  - than by locking them up in prison on the flimsiest of evidence pending their appeals.   (I have read and re-read the following sentence from the story. "Their appeal pending before the Allahabad High Court, the dentist couple, meanwhile, live a quiet life at Dasna Prison in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, about 35km from New Delhi." Perhaps we should all be permitted to go to prison for years, like the Talwars, to  live 'a quiet life.' HL); It has already been eight years for the Talwars. Enough is enough.

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

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STORY: "Convicted parents in Aarushi murder case putting expertise to good use in prison,"  by reproter Nilima Pathak, published by Gulf News on November 29, 2016.

SUB-HEADING:  "Convicted parents in Aarushi murder case provide dental aid to prison staff and inmates"

GIST: New Delhi: Nupur Talwar, who is serving life sentence along with her husband Rajesh Talwar in the Aarushi murder case, is likely to walk out of Dasna Prison this week after being granted parole by the Allahabad High Court. She had been out on parole twice earlier — in September and October — to take care of her ailing mother. The court pronounced the couple guilty on November 23, 2013 of murdering their own daughter. Their appeal pending before the Allahabad High Court, the dentist couple, meanwhile, live a quiet life at Dasna Prison in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, about 35km from New Delhi. They eagerly look forward to days when family and friends, who have stood by them, come calling. As the nightmare continues, hiding the pain of losing their only daughter and living with the stigma of murdering her, the couple is bringing their prison stint to good use by providing succour to prison staff and inmates requiring dental care. Shiv Prakash Yadav, who took over as Prison Superintendent in May 2014, told Gulf Gulf News, “During my rounds and discussions with the prison’s medical staff and inmates, I realised the lack of awareness towards oral hygiene and care, which was leading to dental issues. We had rudimentary dental facility, which provided symptomatic relief from pain and that too was attended to by dental students from a nearby dental college once a week.” While only in some cases, inmates requiring dental treatment were sent to the district hospital, needs of others were largely neglected. Such constraints affected their general health and well being.
Yadav decided to set up a well-equipped dental clinic inside the prison in a 200 square feet area in consultation with the Talwars and senior medical consultant of Dasna, Dr Sunil Tyagi. The clinic, furnished with modern equipment, enables Rajesh, a prosthodontist, to carry out all sorts of dental procedures five days a week and Nupur, an orthodontist, treats women inmates once a week.
“We ensured that the Talwars were provided with all facilities, which doctors of their calibre deserve for the betterment of inmates. Not only that, even prison officials and other staff, who have to put in long hours of duty, find it convenient for their family and themselves to be treated by them in the vicinity of the prison,” Yadav added.........Asked what the Talwars look forward to, Yadav said, “Knowing that truth is on their side and ultimately it has to win, they wait with faith and patience.”... On a warm summer morning of May 16, 2008, Aarushi Talwar, a week away from her 14th birthday, was found dead with her throat slit open in her apartment at Jalvayu Vihar in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. A day after the teenager’s murder, the second body, that of Hemraj, the 45-year-old servant of the Talwars, was discovered from the terrace of their house. Though there was no Hercule Poirot to solve the murder mysteries, within a week, the Uttar Pradesh Police, who had neither cordoned off the murder site nor collected evidence, declared they had cracked the case. The police accused Rajesh for the double murders. It created furore among the public, leading the court to direct the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate the case. Unable to find any evidence, in December 2010, the CBI sought the court’s permission to close the case. But not before making several insinuations against both Nupur and Rajesh. The case would have rested there, had the couple reconciled to the fate of losing their daughter. But, as Rajesh had then said, “Finding the CBI’s insinuations appalling, we seek justice for our daughter and challenge the report.” The Talwars asked for a proper investigation with the hope of proving their innocence in court against murder charges. Finally the couple were declared guilty of the two murders. Eight years on, the murder case stands faded from media and public memory...The Aarushi murder case had been reported by investigative journalist Avirook Sen, who later wrote a book ‘Aarushi’ focusing on the art and science of forensics, trial by media, shoddy analysis and the insidious turns the case took due to the pressure to ‘close’ the case. Sen laid bare the details of how the CBI, expected to ‘solve’ the murder mystery, instead manipulated and distorted facts. It resorted to unethical means to frame the Talwars of murdering their child. The book provided an insight into the judiciary and its insensitivity towards the couple who stood trial with the hope of finding justice for their daughter, but were let down by the system.
Seemingly, in the case of the Talwars, the lines between fiction and non-fiction began getting blurred, as they fought the case. As Sen put it, “What is shocking about this case was that daily injustices were being overlooked. The Talwars had lost the battle of perception a long time ago. In the public mind, they were — guilty. What was playing out at the trial seemed almost a formality — just the paperwork for a case that had been settled long ago. That is shocking. And unjust.”

The entire story can be found at

ulfnews.com/news/asia/india/convicted-parents-in-aarushi-murder-case-putting-expertise-to-good-use-in-prison-1.1934291

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.

Tyrone Noling: Ohio: How can police and prosecutorial 'tunnel vision' - "a characteristic of most wrongful incarcerations" - trump the lack of any physical and a DNA links to the crime - and a ballistics report which confirms that his gun was not the murder weapon? 'Scene' story headed, "Law Enforcement Officials Argue that Death Row Inmate Tyrone Noling is Innocent," contains a link to the video (Tyrone Noling: A case of Innocence) which may provide the answer. " The video is narrated by Raymond Towler, a Cuyahoga County exoneree who served 29 years in prison for a rape he did not commit. Watch the video below..." Much of the video revolves around an interview with co-defendant Butch Wolcott, who describes the police coercion he experienced and the tricky path toward "damning his friend to death" during Noling's murder trial. He and the other two co-defendants have long since recanted their testimony, and in fact records produced since then point to a man who confessed to the murder for which Noling was convicted. (That man allegedly confessed to his brother before being executed by the state.) Mark Godsey, director of the Ohio Innocence Project, points out that no physical or DNA evidence links Noling to the crime. A ballistics report confirmed that his gun was not the murder weapon. Godsey contends that this case is marked by investigative and prosecutorial "tunnel vision," a characteristic of most wrongful incarcerations."


STORY: "Law Enforcement Officials Argue that Death Row Inmate Tyrone Noling is Innocent," by Eric Sandy, published by Scene on December 5, 2016.

GIST:  "A new video brings together a former Portage County sheriff, a veteran homicide detective and the director of the Ohio Innocence Project to discuss the murder conviction of Tyrone Noling, a longtime death row inmate who has always maintained his innocence. Along with those sources in the video, many legal experts and observers have long insisted that the Noling conviction was an example of a botched and wrongheaded investigation, and that Noling is an innocent man. The video is narrated by Raymond Towler, a Cuyahoga County exoneree who served 29 years in prison for a rape he did not commit. Watch the video below. Much of the video revolves around an interview with co-defendant Butch Wolcott, who describes the police coercion he experienced and the tricky path toward "damning his friend to death" during Noling's murder trial. He and the other two co-defendants have long since recanted their testimony, and in fact records produced since then point to a man who confessed to the murder for which Noling was convicted. (That man allegedly confessed to his brother before being executed by the state.) Mark Godsey, director of the Ohio Innocence Project, points out that no physical or DNA evidence links Noling to the crime. A ballistics report confirmed that his gun was not the murder weapon. Godsey contends that this case is marked by investigative and prosecutorial "tunnel vision," a characteristic of most wrongful incarcerations."

The video can be accessed at the link below:

Tyrone Noling Clemency Video from Off Center Media on Vimeo.

The entire story can be found at:

 http://www.clevescene.com/scene-and-heard/archives/2016/12/05/law-enforcement-officials-argue-that-death-row-inmate-tyrone-noling-is-innocent-video

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.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Misuse of informants probe: Orange county, California: White elephant case? Grand jury conducting a previously-unknown probe into police and prosecutor's improper use of jailhouse informants. receives funds to pay two high-profile lawyers handpicked by the California Attorney General's Office as special investigators in the inquiry, The Orange County Register reports..." For years the County’s justice system has been rocked by what has come to be known as the “snitch scandal,” in which the district attorney’s office and sheriff’s department stand accused of improperly using jail informants and the withholding of evidence beneficial to the defense. The clandestine informant program was discovered by Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders while representing mass murderer Scott Dekraai and convicted killer Daniel Wozniak. The fallout has caused at least six high-profile criminal cases to be altered or overturned Over the past 1 1/2 years, the California Attorney General’s Office has been investigating Orange County’s court system and accusations by a judge that two deputies testified dishonestly. The Attorney General simultaneously has defended the District Attorney’s office in a state appeals court, arguing it should not be removed from the case of Seal Beach mass murderer Scott Dekraai over concerns that false testimony may have violated his right to a fair trial. That appeal that was shot down Tuesday, upholding Judge Thomas M. Goethals’ decision to remove the District Attorney from the case."



Image result for "white elephant"

In the years since I started publishing this Blog I have become increasingly disturbed by the 'white elephant' in the room: Sheer, unadulterated, willful   misconduct in the criminal justice system - much  of it involving forensic evidence - committed by lab technicians,  pathologists, police officers, prosecutors and others.  Think Annie Dookhan; Think Sonia Farak; Think David Kofoed; Think Charles Smith; Think Ken Anderson; Think Gene Morrison.  I have therefore decided to run this image of a white elephant at the top of every applicable post henceforth, to draw our reader's attention to   what I see as a major problem in all too many criminal justice system's - my own included.  We should not be blind to the potential of nefarious practices to seep into forensic matters from the collection or failure to collect evidence at the crime season to the pathologists testimony in court. They are pervasive. Harold Levy; Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;"Reformers have for years recommended that all forensic labs be independent from law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies' and this is a key reform promoted by The Justice Project (2008). But fixing these problems is only half the answer' because half of the wrongful convictions attributed to misleading forensic evidence involved deliberate forensic fraud' evidence tampering' and/or perjury.From "The Elephant in the Crime Lab," by co-authored by Sheila Berry and Larry Ytuarte; Forensic Examiner; Spring, 2009; http://www.t-mlaw.com/blog/post/the-elephant-in-the-crime-lab/

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STORY: "South Orange; O.C. grand jury gets 2 lawyers to help investigate jailhouse informant misuse, by reporters Jordan Graham and Tony Saavedra, published by The Orange County Register, on November 28, 2016.

SUB-HEADING: "The Orange County grand jury on Tuesday received $400,000 to continue a previously-unknown probe into police and prosecutor's improper use of jailhouse informants, using the money to pay two high-profile lawyers handpicked by the California Attorney General's Office as special investigators in the inquiry."

GIST: "County supervisors voted Tuesday to provide the Orange County grand jury with $400,000 to pay for two lawyers who will serve as special investigators in a probe into the alleged misuse of jailhouse informants by local sheriff’s deputies and prosecutors. The lawyers -- attorney Fred Woocher, an election law expert and former special counsel to the California Attorney General, and Andrea Ordin, a former U.S. attorney and sitting member of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission -- were handpicked by the Attorney General. They will aid the grand jury’s civil investigation, which hadn’t been publicly disclosed prior to Tuesday. In their roles, the investigators will assess whether policies and practices of the District Attorney’s Office and sheriff’s department are illegal and to determine how effective District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has been in implementing recommendations his handpicked investigatory committee issued in December. That report said a lack of supervision and training in his office had fostered a “win-at-all-cost” mentality among some prosecutors. The Attorney General’s office said it is rare for grand juries to request special investigative assistance. .........The office declined to comment on the criteria it considers when deciding whether to grant or deny those requests. For years the County’s justice system has been rocked by what has come to be known as the “snitch scandal,” in which the district attorney’s office and sheriff’s department stand accused of improperly using jail informants and the withholding of evidence beneficial to the defense. The clandestine informant program was discovered by Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders while representing mass murderer Scott Dekraai and convicted killer Daniel Wozniak. The fallout has caused at least six high-profile criminal cases to be altered or overturned Over the past 1 1/2 years, the California Attorney General’s Office has been investigating Orange County’s court system and accusations by a judge that two deputies testified dishonestly. The Attorney General simultaneously has defended the District Attorney’s office in a state appeals court, arguing it should not be removed from the case of Seal Beach mass murderer Scott Dekraai over concerns that false testimony may have violated his right to a fair trial. That appeal that was shot down Tuesday, upholding Judge Thomas M. Goethals’ decision to remove the District Attorney from the case."

The entire story can be found at:
http://www.ocregister.com/articles/attorney-736337-grand-jury.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.

Pedro Hernandez: New York: Bulletin: False confession case. Ongoing trial...New York Daily News: "Accused Etan Patz killer diagnosed with personality disorder that makes him prone to delusions...A psychiatrist said he diagnosed Pedro Hernandez (c.) with "schizotypal personality disorder," which makes him vulnerable to delusions. A psychiatrist said he diagnosed Pedro Hernandez (c.) with "schizotypal personality disorder," which makes him vulnerable to delusions."Reporter Shayna Jacobs: New York Daily News; December 5, 2016



"The man who confessed to murdering 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979 has a personality disorder that makes him susceptible to delusions, a psychiatrist testified Monday. Dr. Michael First said he diagnosed alleged killer Pedro Hernandez with “schizotypal personality disorder” after taking into consideration Hernandez’s recurring sightings of an imaginary “lady in white” and adopting other false beliefs...Hernandez’s lawyers say his detailed confession to the abduction and killing of Etan was also a fantasy — and one he grew to believe and would repeat several times. “Personality disorders are very subtle,” the doctor said on direct examination by defense attorney Harvey Fishbein. Prosecutors say Hernandez’s confession is reliable and point to the fact that he recited some version of it to members of a church group.
http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/alleged-etan-patz-killer-disorder-delusions-article-1.2899635


Prosecutor Shane Britton: Brown County Prosecutions Office; Texas: (Where else. HL?) White Elephant Case? Can funding local justice systems through 'donations' to the County Attorney's office be tantamount to bribery? (Especially when a "rogue" prosecutor may be making the deal); Texas Observer investigation looks at a practice which appears to be spreading through cash-starved U.S. jurisdictions in a disturbing, report by reporter Patrick Michaels headed, "Making Crime Pay and Pay and Pay… In Texas, paying for cops, courts and prosecutors with fees from defendants has become more and more popular. But what happens when the drive to do justice on the cheap collides with a rogue prosecutor?"..."Despite the cautionary rulings from the attorney general’s office, lawmakers have actually been giving more prosecutors the right to collect donations. In January, prosecutors in eight counties will have the same gift-collecting authority that Britton does. None of these prosecutors were certain why; they told me it wasn’t something they’d asked for, nor did they plan to start taking gifts. “I could see situations where it would be helpful,” Guadalupe County Attorney Dave Willborn said, “but taking money from defendants is a different story. That’s just walking where I’d fear to tread.” In practice, the difference between a fee and a bribe can depend a lot on context. “Sometimes there can be an appearance of unethical behavior any time funds are exchanged contingent on the outcome of a criminal case,” explains Texas District and County Attorneys Association spokesperson Shannon Edmonds. Good judgment over who goes to trial and who gets a deal is part of a prosecutor’s job description. And sometimes it’s a power they abuse: In 2014, prosecutors in both El Paso County and Cameron County were sentenced to federal prison for taking bribes in exchange for pretrial diversion agreements."


Image result for "white elephant"

In the years since I started publishing this Blog I have become increasingly disturbed by the 'white elephant' in the room: Sheer, unadulterated, willful   misconduct in the criminal justice system - much  of it involving forensic evidence - committed by lab technicians,  pathologists, police officers, prosecutors and others.  Think Annie Dookhan; Think Sonia Farak; Think David Kofoed; Think Charles Smith; Think Ken Anderson; Think Gene Morrison.  I have therefore decided to run this image of a white elephant at the top of every applicable post henceforth, to draw our reader's attention to   what I see as a major problem in all too many criminal justice system's - my own included.  Harold Levy; Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;
"Reformers have for years recommended that all forensic labs be independent from law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies' and this is a key reform promoted by The Justice Project (2008). But fixing these problems is only half the answer' because half of the wrongful convictions attributed to misleading forensic evidence involved deliberate forensic fraud' evidence tampering' and/or perjury.
From "The Elephant in the Crime Lab," by co-authored by Sheila Berry and Larry Ytuarte; Forensic Examiner; Spring, 2009; http://www.t-mlaw.com/blog/post/the-elephant-in-the-crime-lab/

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STORY: "Making Crime Pay and Pay and Pay… In Texas, paying for cops, courts and prosecutors with fees from defendants has become more and more popular. But what happens when the drive to do justice on the cheap collides with a rogue prosecutor?," by reporter Patrick Michaels, published by The Texas Observer. (Staff writer Patrick Michaels covers school reform and crime for the Observer.)

PHOTO CAPTION: "Salas was told to pay a $1,000 “donation” to the Brown County Attorney’s Office nine months after charges against her were dropped."

 PHOTO CAPTION: "Since 2007, County Attorney Shane Britton has made costly “donations” to his office a regular feature of deals with defendants to avoid charges."

PHOTO CAPTION: "In his quest to keep Brown County government transparent, Joe Cooksey believes he unearthed evidence of questionable payments to the county attorney’s office."

PHOTO CAPTION: "After years of hands-off management, officials in the Brown County Courthouse have recently become suspicious of County Attorney Shane Britton’s “donation” fund."

GIST: "A little after 1 a.m. on a Sunday in March 2012, Charley Salas was driving some friends home after a night out in Brownwood, a rural town midway between Austin and Abilene. Five months pregnant, Salas was the designated driver. Earlier that night, a friend had spilled beer in the backseat, so when a cop pulled her over for making a wide right turn, the smell made him immediately suspicious. He checked her ID and discovered Salas was driving with an invalid license. Though Salas pleaded that she didn’t know, she was handcuffed and taken to jail, where she spent the night.  At her court date in June, she faced either more jail time or a $2,000 penalty. As a 26-year-old single mother, Salas couldn’t afford either. But Brown County Attorney Shane Britton made her an offer: Salas could avoid the charge and go home that day if she took a “pretrial diversion,” a deal similar to probation except that the terms are dictated by a prosecutor, not a judge. Salas would have to avoid alcohol, drugs and “persons or places of disreputable or harmful character” for the next year, and pay monthly fees to the Brown County Court at Law, the Texas Department of Public Safety and to Britton’s office. Those fees added up to nearly $1,400, or about $116 a month. Salas had no idea how she’d pay, but she took the deal rather than risk a conviction, which would come with more state surcharges. “It seemed a lot cheaper to do so,” she said recently. “I didn’t have the money. I had to hurry up and go to work. I was like, ‘OK, probation period. Sign me up, let’s do it.’” Salas says she made her first payment, then began asking for extensions. She paid when she could, but then she lost her job and missed a lot more payments. She’d get letters reminding her to pay, and when she could, she’d drive to the courthouse with separate money orders for each of her fees. When she missed more than three months in a row, Salas says a woman in Britton’s office added late fees that weren’t mentioned in her agreement. At one point, Salas says, she took out a payday loan so she could afford her payments to the court. Around Christmas 2014, Britton’s office sent a letter demanding $1,000, and Salas asked for one last extension. In February 2015 — almost three years after her fateful right turn — she stood at the counter at his office and handed over two money orders, one for $600 and one for $400. About a year later, Salas got a call from a man named Joe Cooksey, who explained that he was investigating suspicious payments to Britton’s office. Her case had caught his eye. Salas didn’t know how much she’d paid over the years, but Cooksey found records showing at least her last $1,000 were deposited in two accounts designated for donations to Britton’s office. What’s more, Salas had made the payment nine months after her case had been dismissed. And there were others who had apparently been pressured into “donating” money to Britton’s office. Salas was stunned.   Hundreds of defendants have paid a combined $250,000 since 2008 to cover travel to conferences, cellphones for Britton and his staff, and advertisements in the Brownwood High School cheer calendar. Most prosecutors in Texas are barred by state law from taking gifts from people in their jurisdiction. Among the ethical questions such arrangements could raise, the most basic is that a defendant could simply buy his way out of punishment for a crime. Yet for nearly a decade, the Brown County Attorney’s Office has arguably done something similar. Britton has made “donations” from defendants the foundation of a pretrial diversion program that lets people avoid prosecution for drunk driving, driving without a license, shoplifting and other misdemeanors. In this way, hundreds of defendants have paid a combined $250,000 since 2008 to cover travel to conferences, cellphones for Britton and his staff, and advertisements in the Brownwood High School cheer calendar, according to county records. By covering other office costs with donations, Britton was even able to convince county leaders to boost salaries for himself and his staff. In Texas, paying for cops, courts and prosecutors with fees from defendants has gotten more and more popular over the years. But what happens when the drive to do justice on the cheap collides with a rogue prosecutor? Only in the last year has Britton’s office started to get critical attention from the county’s legal community. And in the tight-knit courthouse, it’s hard to miss the Texas Rangers collecting records regarding his office, or the rumors of an FBI investigation into whether donations were accepted off the books. When county leaders commissioned a forensic audit of the fund, they found huge gaps in record-keeping that suggested, at best, a casual approach to taking money from defendants. At worst, his critics allege, he ran an illegal collection scheme for over a decade that blurred the lines between fees, donations and bribes......... Such a willingness to treat defendants as ATMs has become the norm since the 1990s, when lawmakers discovered their tough-on-crime policies cost more than they were willing to pay. In response, Texas and other states hiked the fees that local courts could charge defendants and encouraged counties to get creative in balancing their budgets with less help from the state. Soon Britton’s donation fund was taking in tens of thousands a year. But the fund benefited little from “grant writing” or “criminal justice-minded nonprofit institutions,” and almost entirely from misdemeanor defendants. Here’s how it worked.........  I meet with Britton later that day in his conference room, which is lined with green bound books of case law. He explains that using the word “donation” was a mistake; the whole mess could have been avoided by simply calling it a fee. “I have no earthly idea where the word ‘donation’ came from,” he tells me, guessing it was either the Legislature or Locker’s idea. (Locker, now an assistant U.S. Attorney in Texarkana, declined an interview request.) “People that get their feathers ruffled about that program and those statutes — if it was any word in the dictionary other than the word ‘donation,’ I don’t think that they’d get upset about it.” Britton tells me his program was meant to reduce costs for poor Texans, given all the fees that come with a conviction. He points out that the Department of Public Safety’s Driver Responsibility Program demands that drivers with a DWI conviction pay $3,000 or more just to keep their license. “Prosecutors are kind of stuck in this quandary,” Britton says, “where poor people, college students, working-class folks, get these offenses and there’s really no creative way to punish them while, at the same time, not doing something to them that’s going to hurt them.”........ “Too much of our criminal justice system is funded by fees and costs assessed to the defendant,” says Mary Schmid Mergler, who directs criminal justice reform efforts at the advocacy group Texas Appleseed. “Many people just do not have the money to pay the fines and fees, and do not have a way to come up with that money. And it’s not because they’ve done anything wrong, it’s just because of where they are at that moment.” Despite the cautionary rulings from the attorney general’s office, lawmakers have actually been giving more prosecutors the right to collect donations. In January, prosecutors in eight counties will have the same gift-collecting authority that Britton does. None of these prosecutors were certain why; they told me it wasn’t something they’d asked for, nor did they plan to start taking gifts. “I could see situations where it would be helpful,” Guadalupe County Attorney Dave Willborn said, “but taking money from defendants is a different story. That’s just walking where I’d fear to tread.” In practice, the difference between a fee and a bribe can depend a lot on context. “Sometimes there can be an appearance of unethical behavior any time funds are exchanged contingent on the outcome of a criminal case,” explains Texas District and County Attorneys Association spokesperson Shannon Edmonds. Good judgment over who goes to trial and who gets a deal is part of a prosecutor’s job description. And sometimes it’s a power they abuse: In 2014, prosecutors in both El Paso County and Cameron County were sentenced to federal prison for taking bribes in exchange for pretrial diversion agreements. That same year, some Brown County law enforcement officials began questioning Britton’s motives as well......... An FBI spokesperson declined to comment, as did Texas Ranger Jason Shea. “The Texas Rangers are not a lead investigator in that deal,” he said, and suggested contacting the FBI."