Tuesday, September 19, 2017

George Powell 111: Texas; Was bad science (faulty forensic video analysis as to height) a factor in his conviction? Temple Daily Telegram (TDT) backgrounder for on-going hearing. (An Innocence Project of Texas case)...Reporter Deborah McKeon; September 16, 2017; "The store clerk told people the robber was about 5 feet, 6 inches tall, but she picked Powell out of a phone lineup. Powell is 6 feet, 3 inches tall..."The Bell County District Attorney’s office called on Michael Knox, a former Florida police officer, to explain the disparity in heights. Knox, using photogrammetry, estimated the robber was at least 6 feet, 1 inch tall. The Texas Forensic Science Commission in 2014 started investigating Knox’s determination of the suspect’s height and, in 2016, used Powell’s case to raised questions about the reliability of the video analysis performed by Knox."


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: This is an important case on  use of expert forensic video analysis to explain  disparity of heights in identification evidence. As the Temple Daily Telegram reports in a backgrounder published before the hearing began on Monday: "The executive director of the Innocence Project of Texas, Michael Ware, will be in the Bell County 27th District Court courtroom at Judge Jon Gauntt at 9 a.m. Monday to bring up information he strongly believes will clear his client. Ware is advocating for George R. Powell III, convicted in 2009 for aggravated robbery and sentenced to 28 years in prison. Powell’s been in prison for almost 10 years.........A man wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap in June 2008 went into a 7-Eleven in Killeen, pointed a gun and demanded money. Police suspected that man of similar robberies at other area stores, and a surveillance video captured the robbery. The video went on the evening news, and a phone tip led them to Powell. The store clerk told people the robber was about 5 feet, 6 inches tall, but she picked Powell out of a phone lineup. Powell is 6 feet, 3 inches tall. The arrest affidavit gave few additional details other than what the robber wore. He had on a white baseball cap and sunglasses and showed the clerk a silver handgun. In response to his demands, the clerk gave the man money from the register and cartons of cigarettes. The man left the store. The clerk immediately identified Powell as the man she said who robbed her at gunpoint, the affidavit said. She said that she was positive of her identification. The Bell County District Attorney’s office called on Michael Knox, a former Florida police officer, to explain the disparity in heights. Knox, using photogrammetry, estimated the robber was at least 6 feet, 1 inch tall. The Texas Forensic Science Commission in 2014 started investigating Knox’s determination of the suspect’s height and, in 2016, used Powell’s case to raised questions about the reliability of the video analysis performed by Knox. A woman who believed in Powell’s innocence persuaded Powell’s family to hire two men to examine the video. Their analysis said the robber was actually 5 feet, 7.5 inches — and that ruled out Powell. A new analyst, Grant Fredericks, taught video analysis at the FBI National Academy in Quantico. His examination said that the man in the video was between 5 feet, 5.8 inches and 5 feet, 9.4 inches. Knox re-examined the evidence, used new photos of the scene and changed his measurements to at least 5 feet, 10.4 inches. Ware said Thursday that Knox’s measurement was about six inches off. Another key element in Powell’s conviction was the testimony of Demetric Smith, who said that Powell, a fellow inmate at the Bell County Jail, admitted to robbing the 7-Eleven and other stores and gas stations. However, in April 2016, Smith recanted in a handwritten, sworn and notarized statement sent to Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza. He said that he lied on the stand to try and get a better plea deal on a burglary charge he faced." The entire backgrounder can be found at:
http://www.tdtnews.com/news/article_b437a7e4-9b35-11e7-acf6-5f09dd3414bf.html

See the TDT report on yesterday's hearing 'Hearing starts to determine if man wrongfully convicted', by reporter Deborah McKeon) at the link below: "George Powell III walked into a Bell County courtroom Monday morning, already a convicted man serving a 28-year sentence for allegedly committing several 2008 armed robberies. Powell still maintains his innocence, and the Innocence Project of Texas believes him. Monday’s hearing at 9 a.m. with state District Judge John Gauntt officiating was full of twists and turns, and Powell’s future wasn’t determined by the evening.
 In 2009, Demetric Smith testified at Powell’s trial that Powell admitted to him while they were both inmates in the Bell County Jail that he was guilty of several robberies in Bell and Coryell counties.
Smith, scheduled to testify Monday through a video conference walked out of the room in which he was held and refused to cooperate. Smith didn’t testify, possibly because he fired his attorney Friday when he learned he could be charged with perjury for submitting two very different accounts, Innocence Project attorney Walter Reaves pointed out. Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza received a sworn and notarized affidavit in April 2016 from Smith that said he’d lied about Powell to get a better deal on his own burglary of a habitation charge, which should have been enhanced because of his many criminal convictions. When he took the stand in 2009, Smith lied and said he wasn’t benefitting from his testimony about Powell, Reaves said. The Innocence Project attorneys later revealed through questioning Assistant District Attorney Mike Waldman that Smith was offered consideration for his cooperation but no upfront deal. Because Smith was called the “best snitch they ever had” by some investigators and because of his cooperation with the district attorney’s office and the Killeen Police Department in other cases, he was sentenced to only two years in jail instead of the 5- to 99-year sentence he could have received. Waldman abandoned the enhancement paragraphs, he said. He said that is a typical kind of arrangement made through the district attorney’s office. A lot of Monday’s testimony centered on the height of the man who committed the Bell and Coryell robberies in 2008. Different witness accounts and height estimates were discussed, as well as the method used to determine the robber’s height. The general opinion was that the robber was 5 feet, 5 inches to 5 feet, 7 inches, and Powell is 6 feet, 3 inches tall. An affidavit by Smith’s mother, Diane Smith, was read by Innocence Project Executive Director Michael Ware. She said that her son admitted to her in a phone conversation that he was going to lie about Powell’s guilt to get a better deal.  The admission of an audio question-and-answer session with Smith, during which he allegedly admitted lying, wasn’t admitted into testimony yet because it must be authenticated and Gauntt must decide on its admissibility. The final person called to the stand by Assistant District Attorney Sean Proctor was Fred Burns, another Bell County assistant district attorney who once prosecuted Smith. Burns described Smith as a sociopath and a career criminal, as well as a prolific letter writer who frequently wrote motions regarding his case. Burns said he believes Smith sent the affidavit as a desperate effort to undermine the prosecution. He also described Smith’s mother as someone who would lie for her son. The hearing recessed for the day at 4:50 p.m. and will continue on another day that wasn’t yet determined Both the state and defense attorneys gave their opinions of the day’s hearing to a Temple Daily Telegram reporter. “It’s going as I expected,” Proctor said. “I haven’t been surprised so far by anything from the witnesses who took the stand. It’s kind of been a repeat of the 2009 trial with more bells, whistles and experts.” Proctor’s final analysis was that the decision should have been left with the jury’s decision and not the opinions of experts. “It’s become more about forgetting the eyewitnesses and the facts and, instead, giving weight to the experts.” Ware had his own slant on Monday’s proceedings. “I think it’s ironic that the state is putting on evidence that their star witness is a pathological liar after they used him to get a conviction,” Ware said.
 http://www.tdtnews.com/news/article_295b540a-9cce-11e7-8fd3-5b4f53796327.html

See previous post of this Blog: (November 20, 2016) at the link below: "George Powell III: Texas: Reporter Chuck Lindell focuses on his case in a compelling story headed: 'Bad science: Was the conviction of a Central Texas man built on bad science, lies?..."Powell’s conviction hinged on a dispute over the height of the robber. The clerk at the 7-Eleven told police that the man wearing sunglasses and a ball cap who pointed a gun at her was about 5-foot-6. Powell, however, stands 6-foot-3. To account for the discrepancy, prosecutors called to the stand an expert who examined video footage of the robber as he walked past the height-measurement strip next to the store exit. Michael Knox, introduced as an expert in forensic video analysis, testified that the 7-Eleven surveillance video showed a suspect at least 6-foot-1. Although Knox “had never before estimated height based on photos or videos,” the appeal said, jurors convicted Powell of aggravated robbery. In 2014, however, the Texas Forensic Science Commission voted to examine Knox’s determination as part of its role in helping judges, prosecutors and lawyers better use forensic evidence at trial. The commission hired a national leader in forensic video analysis who — using industry-standard methods that Knox did not, including three-dimensional laser scanning and measurement scale analysis — determined that the robber was no taller than 5-foot-9, and could have been as short as 5-foot-6."
https://smithforensic.blogspot.ca/search?q=powell

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.

False Confessions (3): Another perspective on the Netflix ‘Confession Tapes’: Jonathan Vankin in Inquisitr: 'Are Sebastian Burns And Atif Rafay Innocent? Facts Behind Chilling Docu-Series."..."Despite the fact that Rafay’s family members were killed in extraordinarily violent fashion — the killer mercilessly bludgeoning the three to death with a baseball bat — no traces of blood or other evidence of the crime were found on either suspect despite five days of forensic testing. Since 2015, despite losing their final appeal, Rafay has fought to have the case reopened saying that the RCMP investigators whom he believed were organized crime members pressured him into the confessions with their threatening demeanor.“It would seem very possible after watching Goodfellas that Mr. Big would simply kill me because I was potentially a threat to him,” Rafay said in a 2015 interview with Canadian television. “That seemed completely convincing – in a way that would only be convincing to an 18-year-old kid.” In addition to the lack of physical evidence against them, Rafay and Burns had an apparently unshakeable alibi."


STORY: 'Netflix Confession Tapes'; Are Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay Innocent? Facts behind chilling docu-series, by Jonathan Vankin, published by Inquisitr on September 11, 2017. (Inquisitr is an aggregate news and media website owned by Daniel Treisman, an Israeli businessman who relaunched the website in 2011. The site views itself as a 'multi-news aggregator' that publishes both trending news and original articles. The news website caters to a global audience, and its newly introduced slogan is "News Worth Sharing.")

GIST: "The Confession Tapes, a chilling new Netflix true crime documentary series, debuted on the streaming service September 8, and the first two episodes take up the shocking case of Sebastian Burns (pictured above right) and Atif Rafay (above left), two Canadian teenagers who were accused and eventually convicted of the brutal and shocking murders of Rafay’s parents and sister in Bellevue, Washington, on July 13, 1994. The two friends, now in their early 40s, have been serving three consecutive life terms each, with no possibility of parole, since their convictions in 2004 — a decade after the crimes. In The Confession Tapes, documentary director Kelly Loudenberg makes a compelling case that Burns and Rafay are innocent of the horrifying murders. The remainder of this article may contain SPOILERS for Episodes 1 and 2 of The Confession Tapes. Though the facts of the case are a matter of public record, readers unfamiliar with the story may want to stop reading and come back to this article after watching the two-part episode, titled “True East.” But if they didn’t do it, why did Burns and Rafay confess, apparently in great detail, to the crimes? Who would confess to a crime — particularly a gruesome triple murder — that he did not commit? False confessions are the theme of the entire Confession Tapes series, with each episode documenting a case in which confessions were obtained by police using questionable and even blatantly deceptive methods — calling into doubt the guilt of the suspects who often end up convicted and sentenced on the basis of their confessions alone. The surprising conclusion viewers may draw from the series is that false confessions are much more common than generally believed. In the case of Burns and Rafay, their confessions were elicited by undercover detectives from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) — Canada’s equivalent of the United States FBI — using a controversial technique known as “Mr. Big,” a method that was and remains illegal in the United States.The undercover investigators posed as Mafia mobsters, attempting to recruit the two desperate and naive young men — whose lives had already been effectively ruined by the murder accusations — into their enterprise. But the phony mobsters told Burns and Rafay that first, they needed to know everything about their involvement in the murders. According to Innocence Project expert Ken Klonsky, who has taken up the Burns and Rafay case, Burns — who was approached first — denied repeatedly that he was in any way involved with the savage triple murder. “Their confessions to the RCMP mobsters took many months of heavy handed interviews to obtain,” Klonsky wrote in a blog post about the case. “No juror was shown video evidence of Sebastian’s constant denials that he had anything to do with the crime, while the RCMP has disposed of almost the entire taped interrogation. What remains are the sessions that implicate Burns and Rafay.” Burns finally “confessed” to the men he believed were mobsters, constructing a story from what he had absorbed from news media accounts of the killings, according to Klonsky. Rafay mainly echoed his friend’s “confessions.” According to Klonsky, outside of the supposed confessions, “no hard or scientifically gathered evidence ties (Burns and Rafay) to the crime.” Despite the fact that Rafay’s family members were killed in extraordinarily violent fashion — the killer mercilessly bludgeoning the three to death with a baseball bat — no traces of blood or other evidence of the crime were found on either suspect despite five days of forensic testing. Since 2015, despite losing their final appeal, Rafay has fought to have the case reopened saying that the RCMP investigators whom he believed were organized crime members pressured him into the confessions with their threatening demeanor.“It would seem very possible after watching Goodfellas that Mr. Big would simply kill me because I was potentially a threat to him,” Rafay said in a 2015 interview with Canadian television. “That seemed completely convincing – in a way that would only be convincing to an 18-year-old kid.” In addition to the lack of physical evidence against them, Rafay and Burns had an apparently unshakeable alibi. They were seen and positively identified watching a movie at a Bellevue theater at 10 p.m. on the night of the murders. But neighbors specifically recalled hearing loud thumping noises from inside the Rafay home at 9:50 p.m., ruling out the presence of the two then-teens at the site as the killings were taking place, as the theater was too far from the Rafay home to be reached in 10 minutes flat — even assuming that Rafay and Burns did not stop to thoroughly cleanse themselves of any blood evidence. But prosecutors simply called into question the neighbors’ memories of the time. In fact, the evidence against them was so inconclusive, that it took investigators in Washington six months to name Burns and Rafay as suspects in the murders."

The entire story can be found at:
https://www.inquisitr.com/4491044/netflix-confession-tapes-sebastian-burns-atif-rafay-innocent/

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, September 18, 2017

False confessions (2): ‘The Confession Tapes; ’ Film Critic Nick Schager says "The Confession Tapes provide a harrowing look at false murder confessions; "After ‘Making a Murderer’ and ‘The Keepers,’ Netflix’s reign over the true-crime genre continues with ‘The Confession Tapes."..."To recount these cases, Loudenberg marries her grainy VHS confession tapes to archival footage, new interviews with primary players and evocative dramatic imagery (a tour through a crime-scene garage, close-ups of broken glass, a bloody dollar bill, and a polygraph machine scribbling lines on a piece of paper). It’s a style that diligently follows the Errol Morris book of true-crime filmmaking, and yet its lack of formal adventurousness is offset by the precision of the director’s technique, as well as by an overarching air of despair."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "The Confession Tapes’ various tales feature recordings of men and women denying responsibility for hours on end, only to eventually succumb to the narratives fed to them by cops. That, in almost every instance, there’s no corroborating evidence to back up these statements—save for circumstantial tidbits that hardly rise to a “reasonable doubt” standard—means that these people have been put away for crimes based solely on their own admissions. It’s a portrait of dubious law enforcement methods resulting in legal railroading, and one whose outrageousness is amplified by the fact that, after the verdict, there’s very little recourse to be undertaken on behalf of the convicted."

COMMENTARY:  ‘The Confession Tapes’ Provides a Harrowing Look at False Murder Confessions, by Nick Schager, published by The Daily Beast on September 17, 2017. (Nick Schager is a NYC-area film critic and pop-culture writer whose work also appears in The Village Voice, Esquire, New York Magazine’s Vulture, Maxim, Complex and The A.V. Club.)



Sunday, September 17, 2017

Bulletin: Krystal Voss: Colorado: Child death case dismissed after prosecutor cites "lack of resources and evidence deteriorated with time - in case where the defence contended that the child’s fatal injuries could have been deemed accidental rather than intentional... Last month Judge Swift granted a new trial for Voss on the basis that her initial trial counsel did not adequately explore the defense argument that the child’s fall off Ramirez’s shoulders could have resulted in his death. In her September 7 motion asking the judge to dismiss the case, Newmyer-Olsen referred to the delay between the two trials and the lack of resources in her office in coming to the decision to seek dismissal. “While many of the physicians who treated the child victim in this case remember the child and his injuries very clearly, some of the medical records no longer exists,” Newmyer-Olsen stated. “The quality and quantity of evidence tends to erode over time in most cases.” Since the prosecution carries the burden of proving the case, deteriorated or unavailable evidence would weaken the case, Newmyer-Olsen explained in her motion. In addition, Newmyer-Olsen stated that her office was “grossly understaffed, with each attorney carrying a caseload that is at least double — some triple — the generally advisable caseload for a prosecutor.” 17 September, 2017; Alamosa News. Valley Courrier; Reporter Ruth Heide.


QUOTE OF THE DAY: (After dismissing the charge): “Have a great day, great life, one and all.”

District  Judge Martin Gonzalez .

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"Citing a lack of resources and evidence deteriorated with time, 12th Judicial District Attorney Crista Newmyer-Olsen asked District Judge Martin Gonzales to dismiss the 2003 child death case against Krystal Voss, 43. Judge Gonzales dismissed the case on Friday. Earlier this summer Chief District Judge Pattie Swift had granted a new trial for Voss, who had been convicted by a jury in November 2004 of felony child abuse resulting in death in connection with her son Kyran’s 2003 death. Judge Gonzales had scheduled the new trial for January 2018. Voss had been serving a 20-year sentence in the case, which had alleged that she was responsible for the traumatic head injuries that resulted in her 19-month-old son’s death. She had been scheduled for a parole hearing in May of 2018, with her mandatory release date July 14, 2020. Kyran Voss was admitted to the Alamosa hospital on January 31, 2003, with a head injury that Krystal Voss and her friend Patrick Ramirez initially said was caused by Kyran falling off Ramirez’s shoulders while the child was in his care. Kyran died a few months later on March 24, 2003. Ramirez later changed his story to place the blame for the injuries on Voss. Voss’ attorneys during her initial trial argued that Ramirez was to blame, and expert witnesses during appellate hearings before Judge Swift in late 2015 and early 2016 argued that the child’s fatal injuries could have been deemed accidental rather than intentional. Last month Judge Swift granted a new trial for Voss on the basis that her initial trial counsel did not adequately explore the defense argument that the child’s fall off Ramirez’s shoulders could have resulted in his death. In her September 7 motion asking the judge to dismiss the case, Newmyer-Olsen referred to the delay between the two trials and the lack of resources in her office in coming to the decision to seek dismissal. “While many of the physicians who treated the child victim in this case remember the child and his injuries very clearly, some of the medical records no longer exists,” Newmyer-Olsen stated. “The quality and quantity of evidence tends to erode over time in most cases.” Since the prosecution carries the burden of proving the case, deteriorated or unavailable evidence would weaken the case, Newmyer-Olsen explained in her motion. In addition, Newmyer-Olsen stated that her office was “grossly understaffed, with each attorney carrying a caseload that is at least double — some triple — the generally advisable caseload for a prosecutor.”........ “After full evaluation of the case, the possible outcomes, and the limited resources of the Office of the District Attorney, and the unique challenge presented by the procedural posture of this case, the People assert that it is necessary that this case be dismissed,” Newmyer-Olsen concluded in her motion. mJudge Gonzales had scheduled a status hearing on Friday. Voss’ new defense attorneys and Voss were present via telephone for the hearing and obviously had no objection to the judge granting the DA’s motion to dismiss the case. “I will sign off on the order. The case is dismissed,” Judge Gonzales said. “Thank you so much,” Voss said. The judge concluded, “Have a great day, great life, one and all.”
https://alamosanews.com/article/voss-child-death-case-dismissed

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.

Bulletin: Greg Kelley: Texas: Statesman report: Judge Donna King could need several more weeks, but possibly as long as December, before providing written recommendations about whether to uphold Kelley’s conviction, whether he should be granted a new trial or whether he should be declared innocent..."The validity of Kelley’s 2014 conviction has been at issue for months, since Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick reopened the investigation this spring and named an alternative suspect. A Texas Ranger testified at an August hearing that the police investigation of Kelley was full of holes and cited a litany of problems with it. The judge’s deadline is Monday for providing a recommendation to the Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest criminal court in Texas."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "The validity of Kelley’s 2014 conviction has been at issue for months, since Dick reopened the investigation this spring and named an alternative suspect. A Texas Ranger testified at an August hearing that the police investigation of Kelley was full of holes and cited a litany of problems with it."

STORY:  "Judge seeks extension in Greg Kelley sex assault case," by reporters Tony Plohetski and Andrea Ball. published by The Statesman on September 13, 2017.

GIST: A state district judge will ask the state’s highest court for more time before she gives it her recommendations in the Greg Kelley case, Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick said Wednesday. Dick said Judge Donna King could need several more weeks, but possibly as long as December, before providing written recommendations about whether to uphold Kelley’s conviction, whether he should be granted a new trial or whether he should be declared innocent. The validity of Kelley’s 2014 conviction has been at issue for months, since Dick reopened the investigation this spring and named an alternative suspect. A Texas Ranger testified at an August hearing that the police investigation of Kelley was full of holes and cited a litany of problems with it. The judge’s deadline is Monday for providing a recommendation to the Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest criminal court in Texas. “All parties are going to need an extension,” Dick said. “We have all worked very hard and very long to do this right, and we continue to work hard all the time. We absolutely want to make sure we get this right and we are diligently going through the record.” Dick said the work has been further delayed as King considers whether to release affidavits from Kelley’s attorney, Patricia Cummings, in which she discusses her defense strategy in Kelley’s trial, which ended with a 25-year prison sentence. Keith Hampton, who represents Kelley now, said, “We want the judge to take the amount of time she needs to complete her task as a trial judge.” Kelley was released on bond last month as his appeals process continues."

The entire story can be found at:
Bulletin: http://www.statesman.com/news/crime--law/judge-seeks-extension-greg-kelley-sex-assault-case/4fEsgJQLVgroZfprbf1a1M/

See also Statesman story -by the same authors -  on what draw's 'true believers' to Greg Kelley, at the link below:  "Standing on the back of a pickup at Leander High School with a Radio Shack megaphone in his hand and hundreds of people staring at him, Jake Brydon realized he had just done something either really good or really, really bad. It was the summer of 2014, and the Williamson County construction company owner had kick-started an effort to help convicted sex offender Greg Kelley. Brydon didn’t know Kelley. He didn’t know Kelley’s family. He didn’t know if Kelley had actually committed the crime for which he had been jailed. But the more he learned about the case, the more it bothered him. So Brydon, who knew some of Kelley’s supporters, got involved. That July 2014 night, while meeting with about 500 of Kelley’s supporters at the school, Brydon decided to put himself on the line to make sure, he says, that justice had been done. “I still didn’t know if he did it, but I felt called to it,” said Brydon, 32, who has spent more than three years leading the effort to free Kelley and has personally covered some of Kelley’s legal bills (he won’t publicly say how much he has given). “I can’t explain it. I’ve never been called to anything. It’s like somebody sitting on my chest. It’s like a constant pressure.” That magnetic pull has made Brydon a key figure in another blockbuster legal saga from the Williamson County criminal justice system that produced the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton, who spent 25 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Brydon is one of countless people with no previous connection to Kelley who hold deeply rooted beliefs that he’s either a child molester rightly sent to prison or a wrongly convicted man railroaded through the system. The movement has not waned in the past four years. Supporters maintained their vocal energy throughout Kelley’s trial in 2014, but the revelations of recent months have heightened their momentum. The social media campaign.' Each year, tens of thousands of child sexual assault abuse cases quietly churn through Texas courts, and sometimes, they also lead to appeals similar to that of Kelley, who is seeking to have his conviction and mandatory 25-year prison sentence overturned. But rarely do they receive fanfare, garner public interest or see the defendant elevated into near-hero status. Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick said during his decade as a defense attorney, it was rare for a child sexual assault defendant to muster more than a handful of supporters — much less hundreds — or for anyone other than a victim’s family to closely monitor the case. But in the four years since his arrest, Kelley’s case has sparked endless public fascination, bitter feuds among the players that have reached well beyond the courtroom and social media wars between complete strangers who tangle over whether a single fact or sliver of evidence proves their side. Once, Kelley critics created a Twitter slideshow of mug shots of Kelley supporters who had been arrested for unrelated offenses. Brydon was featured because of his arrest for driving with a broken tail light. Inevitably, reporters covering the case have been hit with a few social media blasts, too. Kelley supporters, for example, were incensed the American-Statesman covered a Texas Ranger’s search warrant that stated Kelley has given conflicting statements to investigators. Ranger Cody Mitchell also reported that Kelley regularly viewed pornography with “deviant” material in the weeks before the boy told his parents that he had been assaulted. And at one point during the case, Cedar Park Police Chief Sean Mannix, angered by what he considered an assault on his department’s work, branded Kelley’s team a “cult-like group.” While Kelley’s legal case has played out in the courts, it’s cyberspace that has kept his mass of supporters together for the last three years. Since 2014, the GRK Foundation (a group made up of Kelley supporters) has updated its Facebook page with voluminous posts and videos updating 9,000-plus followers on the status of the case. Brydon has regularly recorded himself telling people to show up for rallies or thanking them for their support. Kelley embraced the medium as soon as he could. A video he posted in the car after being released from the Williamson County Jail was viewed 40,000 times.  The video he made the next day — one in which he criticized his trial attorney — has been viewed 63,000 times. Most recently, Kelley’s supporters hosted a “welcome home” party with hundreds of members of the public showing up to meet or take selfies with Kelley after he was released on bond. That move inflamed his detractors, who questioned how anyone could celebrate a man still convicted of child molestation and who has not been cleared of any wrongdoing. After months of investigating, Mitchell testified that Kelley remains one of three suspects in the case. Because of the intense and steadfast public attention that has spanned years, observers have called Kelley’s case a local version of O.J. Simpson’s, or more recently, that of Casey Anthony, a Florida mother found not guilty of killing her 2-year-old daughter. Riveted, and riled up; Social scientists have studied cases similar to Kelley’s and what it is about them that attracts followers bent on consuming every detail. “We are primed every single day with fictional TV shows, movies, news shows, and they are moving us all toward a pretty extreme emphasis on true crime,” said Katherine Ramsland, a forensic psychology professor at DeSales University near Allentown, Pa. Kelley is appealing for several obvious reasons, they say. He is handsome, a high school football star in a state where football is king, and a devout Christian who has the unwavering support of his lovely high school sweetheart. Just before his release on bond, there was persistent talk of a wedding proposal right outside the jail in Georgetown. “It’s human nature,” said Scott Bonn, a criminology professor at Drew University in Madison, N.J., who has written books on the issue. “We are drawn to attractive people.” For some, these cases become an extreme sort of entertainment.........“Sometimes something is missing in their own lives,” Bonn said. “It’s a distraction, and there are individuals for whom it becomes almost a passion or hobby. They sometimes go from one criminal case to the next.”
Ramsland said, “People invest themselves because sometimes they identify with certain aspects of it. They get obsessed and they need to master the facts, even if they aren’t correct. People also don’t like mysteries hanging in the air, and they want these things resolved and explained to their satisfaction.”
Others likely have followed the case because they worry for the abused child. The public often feels compelled to protect those who can’t defend themselves from violent acts, experts say.........Drawn to injustice; Brydon admits that Kelley’s appearance might make some people do a double take, but he says that’s not what keeps supporters committed. What drew him to help Kelley, Brydon said, was outrage over what he sees as injustice. “I think the biggest log we have on the fire is when you look into this case, you see how screwed up it was on every level,” Brydon said. That’s what convinced Fran Keller — who, along with her husband, Dan, spent more than 21 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of child molestation — that Kelley is innocent. She and Dan attended court hearings to support Kelley and were present when he walked out of jail on bond in August. “They have just ruined that boy’s life,” Keller said. The case against Kelley started in 2013 when a 4-year-old boy told his mother that he had been sexually abused at an in-home day care facility run by Shama McCarty in Cedar Park. Kelley was living in the house because his parents were sick and because he was friends with Shama McCarty’s son, Johnathan. In 2014, Kelley was convicted of super aggravated sexual assault of a child and sentenced to 25 years in prison. ........ Still, Brydon let it go until after Kelley’s conviction, when a friend who had followed the trial told Brydon he believed Kelley had been railroaded. Brydon called David Anderson for more details. The bottom line, Brydon remembers, was that Kelley’s supporters had given up hope because Kelley had signed away his right to appeal the case when he took a deal for a 25-year-sentence, the minimum. Brydon refused to accept that. “There is always a way, but you’re going to have to fight like hell,” he said."
http://www.mystatesman.com/news/crime--law/hundreds-true-believers-drawn-greg-kelley-sex-assault-case/c4KE41i1U2p9tUzX35aZnI/

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.

Shaken Baby Syndrome: (Alarming, believable story. HL;) Guardian reports that "unfeeling" U.S. child protection agencies are confiscating children from young Indian couples travelling to the United States on short to mid-term job assignments...."Legal experts, doctors, researchers and investigative journalists this reporter talked to claimed that cultural difference is the biggest hurdle that these aggrieved Indian parents face in courts. The style of marriage combined with religious and cultural beliefs, and linguistic barrier make it harder for Indian parents to challenge the experts favouring child protection agencies in the courtroom. “Indian parents have a difficult time explaining their cultural aspects to the investigating officers. As the result of a language gap, there’s a broken understanding of the situation. The investigators level accusations of child abuse against them, not satisfied with the explanations given by the accused Indians,” Professor Vivek Sankaran, who is a part of the University of Michigan Innocence Project, which is appealing SBS convictions, told this reporter. In many of the cases, as noted by Aiyar in her report, parents have alleged that the investigators and prosecutors have cultural biases against them. In one such case, the investigator accused the parents of child abuse because the couple had an arranged marriage."..."“The problems started when funds started flowing from Washington DC to the states for ensuring that no child is abused. Over the years, the entire industry has developed around it,” Susan Goldsmith, an investigative journalist from Oregon, told this newspaper. Susan has made a documentary called The Syndrome, showcasing the evidence that SBS is a mistaken theory and only ends up sending innocent parents to jail. Goldsmith further said that the group or lobby defending SBS theory comes down heavily on experts and doctors who oppose or challenge them. “Sweden-based SBU (Statens Feredning för Medicinsk Och Social Utvärdering) analysed over 3,700 documents on SBS and found only two to be of modest scientific standards. Child abuse paediatricians have opposed their findings and even threatened the publication of the review,” she claimed. Experts have alleged that the systematic failure of child protection agencies to register legitimate cases is due to the federal funding stream."


QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Every year, the children of many Indian families are snatched by the authorities, based on false accusations. They lose their children to foster care homes and have to fight long legal battles against prosecutors, investigators and child protection social workers, who have cultural biases against Indian families."

SURANYA AIYAR;

---------------------------------------------

STORY: "Unfeeling U.S. agencies confiscate children from Indian parents," by Siddharth Tiwari (New Delhi) , published by The Guardian on September 17, 2017. "



SUB-HEADING: "Legal experts, doctors, and investigative journalists alleged that the US child protection agencies were biased and used flawed techniques to detect abuse."

 GIST:  Young Indian couples travelling to the United States on short to mid-term job assignments are increasingly facing the menace of child confiscation by the country’s child protection agencies, who wrongly accuse them of abuse. The “child abuse” is determined using the controversial Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) indicator, the veracity of which is contested. Suranya Aiyar, a New-Delhi based lawyer, who has been providing counsel and aid to Indian families in the US, Norway and other countries to help them get back their confiscated children, recently submitted a “Report on Indian and India-Origin Children Confiscated by the United States Child Protection Agencies” to the Ministry of External Affairs. Based on her extensive case study of 12 Indian families, who were falsely accused of child abuse, her report sheds light on the US agencies’ many biases and flawed methodology. The report wants a travel advisory to be issued to young Indian families moving to the US of possible confiscation of their children as, in most cases, the victim families are not aware of what might goad the child protection agencies to initiate action against them. “Every year, the children of many Indian families are snatched by the authorities, based on false accusations. They lose their children to foster care homes and have to fight long legal battles against prosecutors, investigators and child protection social workers, who have cultural biases against Indian families,” Suranya Aiyar told The Sunday Guardian. INVESTIGATORS CULTURALLY BIASED Talking exclusively to The Sunday Guardian on the findings of Aiyar’s report, noted legal experts, doctors, researchers and investigative journalists alleged that the US child protection agencies were biased and used flawed techniques to detect abuse. They said that the use of SBS, also known as Abusive Head Trauma (AHT), as a credible indicator of child abuse is not upheld by science, and finds acceptance in the system because of a full-fledged advocacy group. Experts were unanimous in their view that even though Indian parents find a way to fight the system and get back their children, they have to go through enormous ordeal in a foreign land, with no family support and limited resources. According to Aiyar’s report, Indian parents often face “systematic cultural biases” by the investigators and the hospitals. Hospitals allegedly deny records to delay the case, while investigators have prejudices against Indian parents. Investigators, child protection social workers and even school staff are mandated to report to child protection agencies if they notice any minor injury or some discomfort in the child. Many times, even if a child is gasping for breath due to some medical condition, it is reported as suspected abuse. Moreover, co-sleeping (baby sleeping in the same bed as parents), absence of adequate toys, lack of cribs, and even the child being noisy are all accounted to “poor or inappropriate parenting” and used to establish the “incapability of the parents to raise the child according to the US standards”. TRAUMATISING LEGAL BATTLE “Indian parents are extremely child-oriented and that is why one way or the other they manage to find the right people who can put up a strong defence in court. Also, Indian families in the US are largely educated and know how to research and dig for answers. This makes their case stronger. However, there’s no doubt that with the lack of financial resources and family support, the entire experience is very traumatising for them,” Heather Kirwood, a lawyer and long time campaigner against misdiagnosis of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), told this reporter. Kirwood assists the SBS accused for free. She has helped dozens of Indian families and was one of the experts who briefed the Swedish authorities on SBS, after which the Swedes have dropped SBS as an indicator of abuse. FALSE ALLEGATIONS Five years ago, the state child protective services in New Jersey took away the one-year-old son of an Indian parent, Kumar (name changed on request), under the false allegation of child abuse. Kumar, a software engineer with a prominent multinational company, had moved to the US with the dream of a bright and prosperous future. He was still waiting for his first pay cheque when one fine day his son rolled over from bed and suffered an injury on his head. Kumar and his wife rushed their son to the hospital. But soon they lost the toddler to the child protection agency and subsequently faced a criminal investigation by the Morris County Prosecutors Office in New Jersey. “If you are an outsider here and something like this happens, you are up against a flawed, biased and a very strong system. They will not lose and if they see they are losing, they will try to negotiate,” he told The Sunday Guardian. FOSTER HOMES ACCUSED OF SEXUAL ABUSE While people like Kumar, sooner or later, prove their innocence, their children are kept in foster homes with strangers until the case is settled. During this time, the accused parents are not allowed to visit their children for more than one to two hours, once or twice a week, subjected to permission granted by the state. It took Kumar six months to prove his innocence and get back his son. Speaking to this newspaper, American lawyers and researchers claimed that if the defence is really strong it still takes six to seven months to get justice. In the case of loose defence, the process may extend to over a year, where the parents may even face the threat of their child being given up for adoption. Several media reports have regularly accused the US state foster care of sexually and physically abusing children. While the US authorities claim to do a rigorous background check before registering a foster home, parents have often complained that their children have been returned to them with bruises and nutritional deficiency, caused by neglect. “I have researched and talked to many Indian parents and realised that more often than not these foster homes do not treat the child well. In one such case, the family was vegetarian and the child was placed with a non-vegetarian family. The child was starving when she came back to her parents,” noted Aiyar. NO UNDERSTANDING OF INDIAN ETHOS Legal experts, doctors, researchers and investigative journalists this reporter talked to claimed that cultural difference is the biggest hurdle that these aggrieved Indian parents face in courts. The style of marriage combined with religious and cultural beliefs, and linguistic barrier make it harder for Indian parents to challenge the experts favouring child protection agencies in the courtroom. “Indian parents have a difficult time explaining their cultural aspects to the investigating officers. As the result of a language gap, there’s a broken understanding of the situation. The investigators level accusations of child abuse against them, not satisfied with the explanations given by the accused Indians,” Professor Vivek Sankaran, who is a part of the University of Michigan Innocence Project, which is appealing SBS convictions, told this reporter. In many of the cases, as noted by Aiyar in her report, parents have alleged that the investigators and prosecutors have cultural biases against them. In one such case, the investigator accused the parents of child abuse because the couple had an arranged marriage. “Arranged marriage leads them to imagine that the husband is repressive, and hence the parents must be abusive to their children. In fact, if the baby sleeps in the same bed with its parents or parents do not provide the bay with proper toys, it works against them, and these instances are cited to prove that the parents are abusive,” Aiyar noted. DISCIPLINING SEEN AS ABUSE: In another case, a child protection social worker grilled the mother of a child over her religious and cultural beliefs, allegedly to provoke her into making some statement that might go against her and her husband. In order to come out as a good parent, the mother stated that she and her husband loved their children but at the same time were strict with them to discipline them. This was taken as an instance of abusive behaviour by the investigators. “They criticise Indian childcare habits and even traits that is common for us Indians, like children crying or making noise. These are considered to be a mental disorder and are directly associated with inappropriate parenting,” said Aiyar. BATTLE OF THE EXPERTS; In their standard formulation, the diagnosis of Shaken Baby Syndrome is based on an outdated theory that claimed that “in absence of any other sign of abuse, shaking could be proved by three neurological symptoms—bleeding in the retina, brain swelling, and bleeding beneath the outer layer of membranes surrounding the brain—also called ‘the Triad’.” Despite scores of dismissals, acquittals and reversals of convictions, child abuse paediatricians are still defending the theory and routinely snatching away babies from the parents. A Pakistani scientist, Dr Ayub Ommaya refuted the theory and claimed that “SBS falls in the realm of faith and not science”. “It is a battle among the experts. Facts are not in dispute, but the interpretations are. Toddlers tend to fall down or bump their heads. That does not mean the parents aggressively shook their kids or abused them. Science rejects the theory of SBS, but these experts defend it. In such cases, finding a right lawyer who can challenge the arguments with facts and literature is the key,” Mark D. Freeman, a Pennsylvania-based lawyer who represented several falsely accused Indian families, told this reporter. MEDICAL RACKET AND SBS According to the experts, there’s an entire branch of medicine focusing on SBS, which would largely disappear if it was found that this diagnosis is baseless. They alleged that the advocacy groups work in liaison with them and are only trying to protect their vested interest. “The problems started when funds started flowing from Washington DC to the states for ensuring that no child is abused. Over the years, the entire industry has developed around it,” Susan Goldsmith, an investigative journalist from Oregon, told this newspaper. Susan has made a documentary called The Syndrome, showcasing the evidence that SBS is a mistaken theory and only ends up sending innocent parents to jail. Goldsmith further said that the group or lobby defending SBS theory comes down heavily on experts and doctors who oppose or challenge them. “Sweden-based SBU (Statens Feredning för Medicinsk Och Social Utvärdering) analysed over 3,700 documents on SBS and found only two to be of modest scientific standards. Child abuse paediatricians have opposed their findings and even threatened the publication of the review,” she claimed. Experts have alleged that the systematic failure of child protection agencies to register legitimate cases is due to the federal funding stream. Interestingly, according to Susan’s documentary, The Syndrome, the National Centre for Shaken Baby Syndrome, which sells teaching packages for parents, made a net profit of $2,372,627 from product sales between 2011 and 2013. Meanwhile, taking a leaf from his experience, Kumar suggests that every Indian family moving to the US for short to mid-term assignments must do proper research on this topic, maintain strong community support, and immediately seek the help of a well-qualified attorney to deal with investigators. He also said that keeping the Indian embassy in the US and the Ministry of External Affairs in the loop may help in at least the repatriation of the child to India, while the case is still dragging on in court."

The entire story can be found at:

http://www.sundayguardianlive.com/news/10929-unfeeling-us-agencies-confiscate-children-indian-parents

 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.

False confessions (1): New Netflix series: 'The Confession Tapes.' Is it the new ‘Making a Murderer’?'...Interesting analysis by Jessica McBride on Heavy.com..."The series starts with two episodes about the murder case of Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay, who were convicted in the 1994 Washington State murders of Rafay’s father, mother, and sister, who were found beaten to death with a bat in the family’s home. However, just when the audience is fully engaged in the Burns and Rafay story (and it’s a very compelling one, with serious questions about their guilt), the series switches cases altogether. One couldn’t help but think that Burns and Rafay could have carried all of season 1 of The Confession Tapes themselves."

 
STORY: 'Confession Tapes' Netflix Series: The New ‘Making a Murderer’? by Jessica McBride, published by 'Heavy.com' on September 14, 2017. ("Jessica McBride is a Heavy contributor. She was a crime, government, and breaking news reporter for daily newspapers, and her award-winning work has appeared in numerous magazine, newspaper, and online publications. She has also appeared on numerous national crime shows."...