Sunday, May 1, 2016

Ethics and the Forensic Expert: A fascinating post by one of my favourite 'forensic' Bloggers, Dr. Judy Melinek, (Forensic Pathology Forum), raising some of the ethical questions that confront forensic experts; A highly experienced board-certified pathologist, Dr. Melinek often focuses on the need for forensic pathologists to act independently and professionally in the criminal justice process, as is evident in the following post from her Blog.


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Dr. Judy Melinek's Blog 'Forensic Pathology Forum'  is a breath of fresh air. A highly experienced board-certified pathologist who  blogs about forensic pathology and science in the news,  she often  focuses on the need for forensic pathologists to act independently and professionally  in the criminal justice process- as is evident in the following post; 

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

POST: "Ethics and forensic experts" by Dr. Judy Melinek, as published on her Blog 'Forensic Pathology Forum'  on April 26, 2016. (Dr. Melinek is a ABP board-certified forensic pathologist practicing forensic medicine in Alameda county and San Francisco, California and CEO of PathologyExpert Inc. Dr. Melinek trained as a forensic pathologist at the New York City Medical Examiner's Office from 2001-2003, which is the subject of her memoir, co-authored with T.J. Mitchell, "Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner." She has consulted and testified in criminal and civil cases in New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, Oregon and California. Dr. Melinek has been qualified as an expert witness in forensic pathology, neuropathology and wound interpretation. She has had subspecialty training in surgery and has published and consulted on cases of medical errors and therapeutic complications. She trains doctors on forensic pathology, proper death reporting and certification.)

GIST: "Forensic science is popular on television, yet we don't often hear about the ethical challenges that vex forensic experts. One of the few that gained attention in the press in the past year was a story out of Boston in which an assistant district attorney allegedly tried to influence the testimony of a forensic pathologist in a child abuse case. The pathologist felt "bullied" by the attorney to stick to his original determination of homicide, even though the scientific literature and new evidence in the case did not support it. He memorialized his impression in a note in the Medical Examiner's chart, which was eventually released to the defense; he amended the manner of death, and the ADA dropped the charges, but in another child death case the same ADA was barred by a judge from contacting and attempting to influence another medical examiner."
(Full article here: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/10/12/medical-examiner-notes-suggest-was-bullied/vtEQVvFXJSIzugGayyJvUN/story.html)

The entire post can be found at: 

http://pathologyexpert.blogspot.ca/2016/04/ethics-and-forensic-expert-what-would.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+ForensicPathologyForum+%28Forensic+Pathology+Forum%29

Check into  Dr. Melinek's Blog at the link below:

http://pathologyexpert.blogspot.ca/

PUBLISHER'S NOTE:

I have added a search box for content in this blog which now encompasses several thousand posts. The search box is located  near the bottom of the screen just above the list of links. I am confident that this powerful search tool provided by "Blogger" will help our readers and myself get more out of the site.

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;

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Tammy Marquardt: William Mullins-Johnson: Two of former doctor Charles Smith's victims subject of CBC News on "Justice Denied:" 5 times indigenous people were wrongfully convicted in Canada; The others; Connie Oakes; Donald Marshall Jr; Wilson "Willie" Nepoose; "..."Indigenous people are not only more vulnerable to being wrongfully convicted, but also less likely to get help after they've been wrongfully convicted," said Amanda Carling, who works with the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC) in Toronto. The AIDWYC has helped exonerate 21 innocent people, including high-profile cases involving Steven Truscott, David Milgaard, Kyle Unger, Guy Paul Morin and Thomas Sophonow. According to Carling, the group is currently reviewing the cases of 80 people who claim they have been wrongly convicted. Of those, she said approximately 20 applicants have self-identified as First Nations. Carling — who is Métis — said the reasons Indigenous people are vulnerable to wrongful convictions include language barriers, mistrust of the legal system — which means Indigenous people don't seek help or don't know how — and institutional racism. She also says that alleged offenders with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) might simply confess to a crime without fully understanding what it means, a concern echoed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. "After you've been wrongfully convicted of something, why would you turn to a system that you already don't trust and look for a remedy from that system?" she said. "If in fact you even know that it's possible to get a remedy." (Must Read. HL);


STORY: ""Justice Denied": 5 times indigenous people were wrongfully convicted in Canada;  wrongfully convicted in Canada," by reporter Tim Fontaine, published by CBC News on April 30, 2016.

SUB-HEADING:  "Indigenous people 'less likely to get help after they've been wrongfully convicted,' says lawyer."

SUB-HEADING:  "The Alberta Court of Appeal initially ordered a new trial for Connie Oakes but the Crown has since opted to stay the charges."

GIST:  William Mullins-Johnson;  "William Mullins-Johnson spent 12 years in prison after he was convicted in 1994 on evidence from disgraced pathologist Charles Smith, who suggested he had raped and strangled his niece. Mullins-Johnson was exonerated by the Ontario Court of Appeal  in October 2007 after it was determined the child died from natural causes. Tammy Marquardt: An Ontario court overturned Tammy Marquardt's second-degree murder conviction in the death of her son Kenneth. (CBC) ​Tammy Marquardt spent 13 years in prison after she was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of her two-year-old son Kenneth Wynne in 1995. But the conviction was based on evidence from disgraced pathologist Charles Smith, who has since been stripped of his medical licence for professional misconduct and incompetence. Connie Oakes;  A Cree woman from Alberta is free after a years-long ordeal that saw her tried and convicted of murder, in what the court called a miscarriage of justice.  But the case of Connie Oakes is far from uncommon among Indigenous people, says an advocate for the wrongly accused. "Indigenous people are not only more vulnerable to being wrongfully convicted, but also less likely to get help after they've been wrongfully convicted," said Amanda Carling, who works with the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC) in Toronto. The AIDWYC has helped exonerate 21 innocent people, including high-profile cases involving Steven Truscott, David Milgaard, Kyle Unger, Guy Paul Morin and Thomas Sophonow. According to Carling, the group is currently reviewing the cases of 80 people who claim they have been wrongly convicted. Of those, she said approximately 20 applicants have self-identified as First Nations.  Carling — who is Métis — said the reasons Indigenous people are vulnerable to wrongful convictions include language barriers, mistrust of the legal system — which means Indigenous people don't seek help or don't know how — and institutional racism. She also says that alleged offenders with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) might simply confess to a crime without fully understanding what it means, a concern echoed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. "After you've been wrongfully convicted of something, why would you turn to a system that you already don't trust and look for a remedy from that system?" she said. "If in fact you even know that it's possible to get a remedy." Still, while Carling says there are no hard figures for just how many Indigenous people have been wrongfully convicted or charged here are four other cases where the courts got it wrong: Donald Marshall Jr:  A Mi'kmaq man from Nova Scotia, Marshall was at the centre of one of Canada's most high-profile wrongful conviction cases. In 1971, Marshall received a life sentence for a murder that was later determined he had not committed.
He served 11 years in prison before he was exonerated by a royal commission in 1990 that determined systemic racism had contributed to his wrongful imprisonment.  "Wilson "Willie" Nepoose:  A member of the Samson Cree Nation, Alta., Nepoose was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Rose Marie Desjarlais in 1987. Nepoose spent four years in a federal prison before evidence surfaced that proved he wasn't even in the same city when the murder took place. According to Windspeaker News, Nepoose was found dead in 1998 of an apparent suicide. He was preparing to launch a civil suit against Corrections Canada and the RCMP for his wrongful conviction."

The entire story can be found at:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/justice-denied-5-times-indigenous-people-wrongfully-convicted-canada-1.3559644

PUBLISHER'S NOTE:

I have added a search box for content in this blog which now encompasses several thousand posts. The search box is located  near the bottom of the screen just above the list of links. I am confident that this powerful search tool provided by "Blogger" will help our readers and myself get more out of the site.

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;

Satanic ritual sexual abuse of children prosecutions: Radley Balko links them with a wave of panic over the Dungeons and Dragon's game in the 1980's..."But it was part of a larger fear of and obsession with “Satanism” and the occult that began in the 1970s, then flourished in the 1980s and early 1990s. (This Time cover story from 1972 was one of the earliest and most amusing clips from the media’s contribution to the panic.) That larger trend did have some pretty devastating fallout, particularly within the criminal justice system. It spurred dozens, perhaps hundreds, of wrongful prosecutions of adults for alleged Satanic ritual sex abuse of children that never occurred. (For a relic from that era, check out this incredible Chicago Tribune report.) Fear of the occult was behind the prosecution of the West Memphis Three and played into the death sentence given to Cameron Todd Willingham, a man most now believe was innocent." (Must Read. HL);


POST: The 'D and D' panic, by Radley Balko, published on his website 'The Watch' by the Washington Post, on April 27, 2016. (Radley Balko blogs about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post. He is the author of the book "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces.")


GIST: "Great short video from Retro Report on the great Dungeons & Dragons panic of the 1980s. The direct consequences of this particular moral panic weren’t as severe as some others. It mostly involved efforts to ban the game and, of course, led to ostracizing the kids who played it. (Not a small thing, given that, as the video points out, these kids tended not to fit in to begin with.) But it was part of a larger fear of and obsession with “Satanism” and the occult that began in the 1970s, then flourished in the 1980s and early 1990s. (This Time cover story from 1972 was one of the earliest and most amusing clips from the media’s contribution to the panic.) That larger trend did have some pretty devastating fallout, particularly within the criminal justice system. It spurred dozens, perhaps hundreds, of wrongful prosecutions of adults for alleged Satanic ritual sex abuse of children that never occurred. (For a relic from that era, check out this incredible Chicago Tribune report.) Fear of the occult was behind the prosecution of the West Memphis Three and played into the death sentence given to Cameron Todd Willingham, a man most now believe was innocent."

 
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2016/04/27/the-dd-panic/

PUBLISHER'S NOTE:

I have added a search box for content in this blog which now encompasses several thousand posts. The search box is located  near the bottom of the screen just above the list of links. I am confident that this powerful search tool provided by "Blogger" will help our readers and myself get more out of the site.

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;

Friday, April 29, 2016

Bulletin: Lonnie Franklin Jr. California; Ballistics; Prosecution's bullet matching techniques come under fire by 'grim reaper' defence witness. "The expert said his analysis confirmed that the alleged killer's only verified survivor Enietra Washington had been shot with the same .25 caliber handgun as Wright. But on Tuesday, defense witness David Lamagna said he believed that law enforcement's methods are unreliable. Examiners relied on two-dimensional comparison microscopes to analyze the unique tool marks left on bullets. But Lamagna, a forensic scientist and engineer, said he only trusts advanced technologies like 3-D mapping or electron microscopes that allow examiners to look at objects in finer detail. Amster asked Lamagna if he believed the method used by law enforcement creates conclusions that leave room for doubt. "Yes. I believe it's mostly subjective in nature at this point," Lamagna said. He noted that there had not been enough studies done to test the reliability of the tool-mark analysis and said that a forensic ballistics organization, the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners, has "no mathematical standards" for deciding a match Law enforcement lacks specific protocols, he added. Lamagna said he had traveled to different police departments around the nation and seen varied standards. "I see different examiners doing their own thing."


 "In the trial of the accused Grim Sleeper serial killer, the prosecution has repeatedly pointed jurors to evidence matching bullets in seven victims with the same .25-caliber semiautomatic handgun. But as the case edges closer to a conclusion after beginning more than two months ago, defendant Lonnie Franklin Jr.'s attorney Seymour Amster has cast doubt on the DNA evidence used to charge his client as well as firearm examiners' methods for matching bullets. County prosecutors called several firearms experts to the stand in Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy's courtroom before resting their case in March. LAPD firearms expert Daniel Rubin testified that examiners can match bullets to a gun by analyzing tool marks on a bullet after a round is fired.   Because the machine tools used to manufacture firearms leave unique marks on the barrel, experts can determine if bullets were fired from the same gun, the jury has heard. Rubin told jurors that he matched bullets found in victims Debra Jackson, Henrietta Wright, Barbara Ware, Bernita Sparks, Mary Lowe and Alicia Alexander to the same semiautomatic handgun.  The expert said his analysis confirmed that the alleged killer's only verified survivor Enietra Washington had been shot with the same .25 caliber handgun as Wright. But on Tuesday, defense witness David Lamagna said he believed that law enforcement's methods are unreliable. Examiners relied on two-dimensional comparison microscopes to analyze the unique tool marks left on bullets. But Lamagna, a forensic scientist and engineer, said he only trusts advanced technologies like 3-D mapping or electron microscopes that allow examiners to look at objects in finer detail. Amster asked Lamagna if he believed the method used by law enforcement creates conclusions that leave room for doubt. "Yes. I believe it's mostly subjective in nature at this point," Lamagna said.  He noted that there had not been enough studies done to test the reliability of the tool-mark analysis and said that a forensic ballistics organization, the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners, has "no mathematical standards" for deciding a match  Law enforcement lacks specific protocols, he added.  Lamagna said he had traveled to different police departments around the nation and seen varied standards. "I see different examiners doing their own thing," Lamagna testified. Lamagna is the owner of American Forensic Technologies, which according to his LinkedIn page provides "forensic review and analysis of evidence in civil and criminal cases" as well as field investigations.  Franklin is accused of killing vulnerable young black women over a period that began in the mid-1980s. His victims were often sex workers, and prosecutors say he prowled the streets during the height of the crack cocaine epidemic — killing seven women during a period that ended in 1988.  Another four murders between 2002 until 2007 have been linked to the Grim Sleeper, who earned the name because of a possible fallow period during the late 1980s and 1990s — though it's believed that the alleged serial killer may have killed many more women." (Thanks to CSIDDS (Forensics in Focus) for bringing this story to our attention.)
 https://csidds.com/2016/04/29/back-and-forth-in-court-about-raising-technical-instrumentation-ballistic-standards/
http://www.courthousenews.com/2016/04/26/grim-sleeper-defense-picks-holes-in-bullet-analysis.htm

Bulletin: Carla Hughes: Mississippi: Discredited forensic pathologist Dr. Steven Hayne; Supporters are rallying behind this ex-teacher convicted of capital murder in the 2006 death of Avis Banks and her unborn child in a highly publicized case. through establishment of a 'GoGetFunding" account; The supporters site the role played in the case by forensic pathologist Dr. Steven Hayne who has fallen into disfavour in recent years. "Hayne, who lacks national board certification in forensic pathology, for many years performed most of the autopsies in the state. He drew criticism for conducting about 1,500 autopsies a year, and in 2008 the state dropped him from its list of recommended pathologists. The Mississippi Supreme Court has overturned convictions or ordered a new trial in some cases in which he testified." The Clarion Ledger;

"A GoGetFunding  account has been established for Carla Hughes, Hughes was sentenced in 2009 in Madison County Circuit Court to life in prison without parole on two counts of capital murder in the Nov. 29, 2006, slaying of Avis Banks, who was pregnant. The case generated national publicity and has been featured on national true crime shows, including "Snapped" and "Fatal Attraction." The trial was also covered by the former CourtTV. Prosecutors say Hughes, now 34, killed Banks so she could have Banks' fiance, Keyon Pittman. Hughes and Pittman were romantically involved while both were teachers at Chastain Middle School in Jackson. Banks was killed in the garage of the Ridgeland home she shared with Pittman after coming home from work. Pittman wasn't charged in the case. The  account has raised $360, so far. It was established by Hughes' mother, Lynda Hughes, who says on the site her daughter was framed, tried and convicted of capital murder. "Carla is also a victim of Dr. Steven Hayne's testimony," the site says. Also, it says Hayne was the subject of The Innocence Project's formal records request "to determine how much Hayne used state labs for autopsy misconduct." Hayne, a forensic pathologist, testified for the prosecution in Hughes' case. Hayne testified Banks was shot four times, including once in her head, and stabbed at least three times, but Hayne said he believes Banks already was dead when she was stabbed. Hayne also testified in the penalty phase of the case to decide if Hughes would get a death sentence or life in prison without parole. During the penalty phase, Hayne testified Banks would have been conscious during at least two gunshot wounds for 15 to 20 minutes, except for the last one when she was shot in the back of the head. He testified she probably was shot in the thigh first, then the left buttocks, the chest and then in the head. He testified she was shot twice when she was already down. Hayne, who lacks national board certification in forensic pathology, for many years performed most of the autopsies in the state. He drew criticism for conducting about 1,500 autopsies a year, and in 2008 the state dropped him from its list of recommended pathologists. The Mississippi Supreme Court has overturned convictions or ordered a new trial in some cases in which he testified."
http://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/2016/04/27/gofund-account-convicted-ex-teacher-carla-hughes/83589426/

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Bulletin: Kamal Shah: New Jersey: Development: A judge has been assigned all cases involving this state lab technician accused of faking a test. "Shah, who worked at the lab for 10 years, was the primary lab technician in 7,827 drug cases, according to the state Attorney General’s office. He also reviewed nearly 2,600 lab reports prepared by his colleagues. Defense attorneys have argued that Shah’s alleged misconduct casts doubt on all those cases, and have asked courts to revisit the convictions and pending charges against drug defendants."


"The state Supreme Court has assigned a Bergen County Superior Court judge as a special master to handle matters relating to a State Police lab technician who was recently suspended for faking a drug test result. Prosecutors and defense lawyers on Tuesday welcomed the assignment, saying it would help streamline multiple cases and that it underscores the seriousness of the effect of the lab tech’s alleged behavior. Lawyers in Bergen, Passaic and other counties have been filing motions to have charges dismissed or convictions thrown out in cases in which the lab tech, Kamal Shah, conducted the drug tests that led to the criminal conviction of defendants. The April 25 order by the state’s highest court assigns such matters to be heard before Judge Edward Jerejian in Superior Court in Hackensack.........Shah retired from his job in January and lab officials have said he is under a criminal investigation. Shah, who worked as a forensic scientist at the Little Falls lab, was removed from work in December and was later suspended after a colleague observed him “dry-labbing” a drug sample, or writing a test result without actually conducting the test. The state Attorney General’s Office later informed all county prosecutors about Shah’s removal and instructed them to contact all defense attorneys in cases in which Shah’s lab reports were used as evidence. Drug samples seized at crime scenes are submitted to a forensic lab and are tested to make sure that the samples are indeed illegal drugs. Forensic scientists like Shah then prepare lab reports which are later used by prosecutors as evidence against narcotics defendants. A report prepared by a forensic scientist is reviewed and signed off by at least two of his or her colleagues. Shah, who worked at the lab for 10 years, was the primary lab technician in 7,827 drug cases, according to the state Attorney General’s office. He also reviewed nearly 2,600 lab reports prepared by his colleagues. Defense attorneys have argued that Shah’s alleged misconduct casts doubt on all those cases, and have asked courts to revisit the convictions and pending charges against drug defendants."
http://www.northjersey.com/news/bergen-county-judge-assigned-all-cases-involving-state-lab-tech-accused-of-faking-a-test-1.1553034

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Joseph Buffey: West Virginia: New trial date set following withdrawal of guilty pleas related to a sexual assault/ robbery case from 2001 resulting in a sentence to 70 years in prison: " Buffey was allowed to withdraw guilty pleas back in February on two counts of first-degree sexual assault and one count of first-degree robbery after a state Supreme Court ruling. He originally pled guilty to two counts of first-degree sexual assault and one count of first-degree robbery as part of a deal with the state and was sentenced to 70 years in prison, starting in 2002. However, Buffey later learned of DNA evidence —which was later used to convict another man who lived near the elderly victim– was available during the plea bargaining phase but not brought to his attention by the state because they were already in that phase. With help of the the New York-based Innocence Project and Morgantown attorney Al Karlin, Buffey mounted a successful appeal on the grounds his right to exculpatory evidence was violated."

"A new trial date has been tentatively set for Joseph Buffey, the Harrison County man permitted late last year to withdraw guilty pleas related to a sexual assault/ robbery case from 2001. Judge John Lewis Marks, who took over the case last month, scheduled for arguments to begin on October 11.
Attorneys representing Buffey also filed a motion during Tuesday’s status conference requesting modification to the terms of his release on home confinement......... After serving 14 years of his sentence, he was released on bond with the condition of electronically-monitored home confinement. Buffey now faces that charges he withdrew pleas to, plus additional charges related to a separate robbery which were dropped as part of the deal with the state. The next appearance in court for Buffey will be for the pretrial hearing scheduled for July 15 after Judge Marks worked Tuesday morning with attorneys to establish a timeline."
http://wvmetronews.com/2016/04/26/date-set-for-new-trial-of-joseph-buffey/