Sunday, May 29, 2016

Rodricus Crawford: Louisiana: Death Row; Part Three: The Innocence Network files an Amicus Brief urging the US Supreme Court to reverse his conviction - asserting that the victim’s death resulted not from suffocation, but from a fatal illness..."The Innocence Network explains that the prosecution’s evidence was based on biased witnesses and junk science. In fact, the well-established medical literature strongly indicates that the victim died of sepsis as caused by pneumonia, and that simple tests could have proven that at trial. The Innocence Network urges the Supreme Court to reverse Mr. Crawford’s conviction and death sentence."...(From the Innocence Neworks Amicus brief):..."How could Dr. Traylor and Dr. Thoma (the prosecutions's expert witnesses) be so wrong? The scientific literature explains that as well. Forensic testimony is prone to error because medical experts are susceptible to confirmation bias, a condition where experts begin an investigation with preconceived expectations and theories, and, as a result, focus only on evidence that supports those theories, ignoring or explaining away evidence to the contrary. That is what happened here. Dr. Traylor reached his erroneous conclusion before he viewed the tissue slides showing that Roderius was suffering from pneumonia and before he received the lab results establishing the presence of a blood infection. The result was that both doctors' opinions were tainted by the sort of bias that has resulted in the conviction and even the execution of innocent defendants. But in this case, the prosecution's medical witnesses were not merely prone to bias, they admitted to it. Dr. Traylor went into the autopsy "thinking" that the death was a homicide and concluded that Roderius' tragic death was a homicide before he had all the facts. Dr. Thoma started with that presumption and never re-examined it when evidence to the contrary came in."


POST: "The Innocence Network files Amicus Brief urging Supreme Court to reverse Crawford conviction," published by 'The Promise of Justice Initiative' on September 25,  2015.  (The Promise of Justice Initiative is a private, non-profit organization that advocates for humane, fair, and equal treatment of individuals in the criminal justice system. Our organization is composed of dedicated board members, staff and volunteers who are committed to our Constitution’s promises of justice and dismayed by society’s shortcomings in making good on them.)

GIST: The Innocence Network, the leading national advocate for the wrongfully convicted, has filed an amicus brief in the case of Rodricus Crawford, asserting that the victim’s death resulted not from suffocation, but from a fatal illness. The Innocence Network explains that the prosecution’s evidence was based on biased witnesses and junk science. In fact, the well-established medical literature strongly indicates that the victim died of sepsis as caused by pneumonia, and that simple tests could have proven that at trial. The Innocence Network urges the Supreme Court to reverse Mr. Crawford’s conviction and death sentence.

THE INNOCENCE NETWORK AMICUS BRIEF: Access the entire Amicus Brief at the link below; (Here is one section, under the heading 'Preliminary Statement."... "The death of one-year-old Roderius Lott was a tragedy. But that tragedy would be compounded beyond measure if his father, Rodricus Crawford, were executed for a death that resulted not from suffocation, as the prosecution's medical witnesses claimed, but from a fatal illness. The medical literature assembled for this amicus brief establishes that Roderius' death was caused by sepsis, a sometimes fatal condition resulting from the pneumonia that infected all five lobes ofRoderius' lungs.5 That literature establishes that sepsis is a tragic and too common cause of death in infants. It establishes that, untreated, death from sepsis can occur in a matter of hours, often without warning. And the objective medical evidence from Roderius' autopsy found the signs that a pathologist would expect to find in an infant who succumbed to this disease. Employing reasoning that lacks any foundation in medical science, the prosecution's witnesses, Dr. Traylor and Dr. Thoma, rejected this obvious explanation of the cause of Roderius' death. Dr. Traylor claimed that Roderius was protected from pneumonia because Roderius had received one dose out of the three dose regimen of pneumonia vaccine. But that claim has no  basis in accepted medical science- simply put, there is a reason why three doses are required. Dr. Traylor claimed that Roderius could not have died from sepsis because Roderius did not display labored breathing or a serious fever. But the medical literature establishes that death from sepsis can result quickly, with few if any symptoms or warning. Dr. Traylor claimed that Roderius did not die of sepsis because one virulent form of bacteria, Streptococcus pneumoniae, could not be identified in Roderius' blood sample. But the medical literature establishes that four tests are required to identify Streptococcus pneumoniae; the lab ran only one. And both Dr. Traylor and Dr. Thoma claimed that Roderius did not die of sepsis because he did not display severe symptoms before he went to bed the night he died. But the medical literature establishes that sepsis can kill infants quickly and without warning. The medical literature cited in this brief can be accessed at https://goo.gl/RQ73sX. The medical literature also establishes that Dr. Traylor violated standard medical protocol: he failed to examine slides of the bruised and abraded tissue on the inner part of Roderius' lips under a microscope. This most basic of tests would have established the timing of the injuries and whether they were the result of the bathroom fall that Roderius suffered the day before he died. In short, if Dr. Traylor had simply examined the bruised tissue under a microscope, or for that matter, preserved the tissue so that the defense expeti could have done so, medical science would have established with objective evidence that the inner lip injuries were caused by a prior fall, instead of a crime. How could Dr. Traylor and Dr. Thoma be so wrong? The scientific literature explains that as well. Forensic testimony is prone to error because medical experts are susceptible to confirmation bias, a condition where experts begin an investigation with preconceived expectations and theories, and, as a result, focus only on evidence that supports those theories, ignoring or explaining away evidence to the contrary. That is what happened here. Dr. Traylor reached his erroneous conclusion before he viewed the tissue slides showing that Roderius was suffering from pneumonia and before he received the lab results establishing the presence of a blood infection. The result was that both doctors' opinions were tainted by the sort of bias that has resulted in the conviction and even the execution of innocent defendants. But in this case, the prosecution's medical witnesses were not merely prone to bias, they admitted to it. Dr. Traylor went into the autopsy "thinking" that the death was a homicide and concluded that Roderius' tragic death was a homicide before he had all the facts. Dr. Thoma started with that presumption and never re-examined it when evidence to the contrary came in. The defense medical expert, Dr. Daniel Spitz, provided the jury with accurate medical science. But he was not cross-examined on the science. He was cross-examined on his compensation, on whether he made a mistake in a single case, whether he performed more autopsies than recommended in a given year, on whether he was riding on the reputational coattails of his father, an equally renowned forensic expert. As a result, a search for the truth devolved into a grandstanding sideshow and the jury accepted demonstrably erroneous claims that came from the mouths of misguided witnesses- one of whom, Dr. Traylor, self-righteously claimed to be the "voice of the victim." Louisiana courts require that every reasonable hypothesis of innocence be excluded.6 Every reasonable hypothesis cannot be excluded here. For the reasons discussed below, it is incumbent upon this Court to exercise its obligation to review the sufficiency of the scientific evidence that lies at the heart of this case with particular care and, upon that review, vacate the conviction and assure that Rodricus Crawford is not put to death on the basis of testimony that has no basis in medical science."




State v. Crawford- Innocence Network Amicus

The entire post can be found at:

http://justicespromise.org/component/content/?view=featured

See the July 13, 2015  'Daily Kos' account of the 'Rodricus Crawford'  case by Shaun King at the link below, under the heading:  "Rodricus Crawford is on death row. Read this and O% of you will think he should be."..."Rodricus Crawford should've received counseling after the death of his son. The child's death appears much more to be a tragic accident than a cold-hearted murder. Not one person testified that they had ever witnessed any type of child abuse from Rodricus Crawford or anyone in the family. To convict a man and sentence him to death with this evidence is lynching by another name and yet another sign of the New Jim Crow."

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/7/13/1401800/-Rodricus-Crawford-is-on-death-row-Read-this-and-0-of-you-will-think-he-should-be
  
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;

Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog; 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Bulletin: Sonja Farak: Rolando Penate: Massachusetts; Dynamite exposée by "The Eye"..."Defense attorneys say withheld Farak notes implicate prosecutors," by Shawn Musgrave..."Massachusetts prosecutors withheld evidence of corrupt state narcotics testing for months from a defendant facing drug charges, and didn’t release it until after his conviction, according to newly surfaced documents and emails. The case of Rolando Penate has become a leading example for lawyers calling for further investigation into alleged misconduct by prosecutors who handled documents seized from Sonja Farak, the Amherst crime-lab chemist convicted of stealing and tampering with drug samples. Penate is seeking a new trial, contending the conviction should be reversed because of prosecutorial misconduct and evidence tainted by Farak. His is one of what lawyers say could be thousands of convictions questioned in the wake of the Farak scandal. The Farak documents indicate she used drugs on the very day she certified samples as heroin in Penate’s case. But when Penate’s lawyer tried to obtain the documents — not certain what was in them — before his client’s 2013 trial, he was rebuffed by state prosecutors who said the papers were “irrelevant” according to emails included in investigative reports unsealed earlier this month. At the time of Penate’s trial, the state Attorney General’s Office contended Farak’s misdeeds dated back only as far as 2012."..."Prosecutors have an obligation to give the defense exculpatory evidence – including anything that could weaken evidence against defendants. Compromised drug samples often fit the definition."... Defense attorney Luke Ryan describes finding undisclosed evidence that was seized from Sonja Farak’s car, as well as how he determined that the documents were from 2011. “It would be difficult to overstate the significance of these documents,” Ryan wrote to the Attorney General’s Office two days later. State prosecutors hadn’t provided this evidence to other district attorneys’ offices contending with the Farak fallout, either. Two weeks after Ryan’s discovery, the Attorney General’s Office shipped nearly 300 pages of previously undisclosed materials to local prosecutors around the state. “Not only did they not turn these documents over, but I wasn’t aware that they existed,” said Frank Flannery, who was the Hampden County assistant district attorney assigned to appeals following Farak’s arrest. “At the very least, we expected that we would get everything they collected in their case against Farak.” Flannery, now in private practice, said the substance abuse worksheets are “clearly relevant” to defendants challenging Farak’s analysis. Four months after Ryan found the worksheets, Judge Kinder compelled release of additional drug treatment records, which indicated Farak used a variety of drugs that she stole from the lab for years. Penate and other defendants are asking see all of Foster’s emails regarding Farak and other materials relating to the handling of evidence in the chemist's case. A hearing on their motions is scheduled next month."


"Massachusetts prosecutors withheld evidence of corrupt state narcotics testing for months from a defendant facing drug charges, and didn’t release it until after his conviction, according to newly surfaced documents and emails. The case of Rolando Penate has become a leading example for lawyers calling for further investigation into alleged misconduct by prosecutors who handled documents seized from Sonja Farak, the Amherst crime-lab chemist convicted of stealing and tampering with drug samples. Penate is seeking a new trial, contending the conviction should be reversed because of prosecutorial misconduct and evidence tainted by Farak. His is one of what lawyers say could be thousands of convictions questioned in the wake of the Farak scandal. The Farak documents indicate she used drugs on the very day she certified samples as heroin in Penate’s case. But when Penate’s lawyer tried to obtain the documents — not certain what was in them — before his client’s 2013 trial, he was rebuffed by state prosecutors who said the papers were “irrelevant” according to emails included in investigative reports unsealed earlier this month. At the time of Penate’s trial, the state Attorney General’s Office contended Farak’s misdeeds dated back only as far as 2012. To better estimate how many convictions will have to be reviewed because of Farak, the Supreme Judicial Court ordered a report on the history of her illicit behavior. The report concluded she was usually high while working in the lab for more than eight years before her arrest in January 2013 and started stealing samples seven years ago. A second unsealed report into allegations of wrongdoing by police and prosecutors who handled the Farak evidence, overseen by retired state judges Peter Velis and Thomas Merrigan, drew less attention. Relying on an investigation conducted by state police, the judges concluded there was “no evidence of prosecutorial misconduct or obstruction of justice” in matters related to the Farak case. Several defense attorneys who called for the Velis-Merrigan investigation say the former judges and their state police investigators got it wrong. They say court records and newly released emails show prosecutors sat on evidence they were familiar with that pointed to Farak’s drug use in 2011, when she worked on Penate’s case. “I don’t know how the Velis report reached the conclusion it did after reviewing the underlying email documents,” said Randy Gioia, deputy chief counsel at the Committee for Public Counsel Services, the state’s public defender office. Gioia called for evidentiary hearings “so prosecutors can be asked about what they knew, when they knew it, and what they did with their knowledge.” Luke Ryan, Penate’s trial lawyer, said that the state police officers working on the report “failed to obtain an appropriate understanding of the events that transpired before they were assigned to this investigation.” Prosecutors have an obligation to give the defense exculpatory evidence – including anything that could weaken evidence against defendants. Compromised drug samples often fit the definition."......... Defense attorney Luke Ryan describes finding undisclosed evidence that was seized from Sonja Farak’s car, as well as how he determined that the documents were from 2011. “It would be difficult to overstate the significance of these documents,” Ryan wrote to the Attorney General’s Office two days later. State prosecutors hadn’t provided this evidence to other district attorneys’ offices contending with the Farak fallout, either. Two weeks after Ryan’s discovery, the Attorney General’s Office shipped nearly 300 pages of previously undisclosed materials to local prosecutors around the state. “Not only did they not turn these documents over, but I wasn’t aware that they existed,” said Frank Flannery, who was the Hampden County assistant district attorney assigned to appeals following Farak’s arrest. “At the very least, we expected that we would get everything they collected in their case against Farak.” Flannery, now in private practice, said the substance abuse worksheets are “clearly relevant” to defendants challenging Farak’s analysis. Four months after Ryan found the worksheets, Judge Kinder compelled release of additional drug treatment records, which indicated Farak used a variety of drugs that she stole from the lab for years. Penate and other defendants are asking see all of Foster’s emails regarding Farak and other materials relating to the handling of evidence in the chemist’s case. A hearing on their motions is scheduled next month."
http://eye.necir.org/2016/05/28/farak-withheld-evidence/

Bulletin: Charles Flores: Texas: Major development: Stay of June 2 execution granted by Texas Court of Criminal Appeals - and case sent back to the trial court for a hearing based on his claim that improper hypnosis was used on the main eyewitness in his murder trial...". As part of Flores’ final appeal, which was filed last week, psychology professor Steven Lynn said in an affidavit that recent research shows the hypnosis could have made Barganier create false memories. “Clearly, the techniques that were used to refresh Ms. Bargainer’s memory would be eschewed today by anyone at all familiar with the extant research on hypnosis and memory,” Lynn wrote...." Now, the trial court in Flores’ case will hold a hearing specifically on the hypnosis issue and the eyewitness identification. If Flores’ lawyers can show by a preponderance of the evidence that a jury would acquit him today after hearing new scientific evidence, it would lead to a brand new trial for Flores, more than 17 years after he was convicted." Link to full reading provided; Fusion;



"Charles Flores, a Texas death row inmate who was scheduled to be executed next week June 2, was granted a stay of execution late Friday afternoon. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed Flores’ execution date and sent his case back to the trial court for a hearing based on his claim that improper hypnosis was used on the main eyewitness in his murder trial. As Fusion reported earlier this month, Flores was convicted for the 1998 murder of Elizabeth “Betty” Black in a Dallas suburb. A jury sentenced him to death the following year even though prosecutors presented no physical evidence linking him to the crime, and the only witness who saw him at the scene, Jill Barganier, was hypnotized by police. As part of Flores’ final appeal, which was filed last week, psychology professor Steven Lynn said in an affidavit that recent research shows the hypnosis could have made Barganier create false memories. “Clearly, the techniques that were used to refresh Ms. Bargainer’s memory would be eschewed today by anyone at all familiar with the extant research on hypnosis and memory,” Lynn wrote. That hypnosis was the crux of the appeals court’s ruling. The court approved his application for a writ of habeas corpus by essentially finding reason to believe a reasonable juror may not have convicted him if they had heard evidence like Lynn’s testimony. Now, the trial court in Flores’ case will hold a hearing specifically on the hypnosis issue and the eyewitness identification. If Flores’ lawyers can show by a preponderance of the evidence that a jury would acquit him today after hearing new scientific evidence, it would lead to a brand new trial for Flores, more than 17 years after he was convicted.........Two of the nine judges on the appeals court, which is the highest court in Texas that hears criminal cases, dissented from granting a stay. Only one of the judges who supported Flores’ application, David Newell, wrote an opinion explaining his thinking. “Eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions across the country,” Newell wrote. “We may ultimately grant relief. We may ultimately deny relief. But either way, given the subject matter, by granting a stay this Court acknowledges that whatever we do, we owe a clear explanation for our decision to the citizens of Texas.”
http://fusion.net/story/307796/charles-flores-texas-stay-execution

Rodricus Crawford: Louisiana: Death Row; Part Two: Marlene Belliveau's compelling plea to Caddo Parrish's new District Attorney James Stewart to spare an innocent father's life and proclaim his innocence: "It was almost one (1) year ago that our lawyer brought Rodricus’ case to my attention. We both agreed and felt very strongly that given my passion, recent experience, my research and education in these matters, my involvement with world renowned paediatric pathologists and with the Canadian SIDS Foundation, I could be of some help, by lending my voice to this young man, his young son and his family. I have seen the great injustices in this case and felt the need to get involved. The more I follow and become involved in this case, having read and reviewed briefs and reports on hand, and in speaking with reputable world renowned paediatric forensic pathologists, I wish to share with you information that would help facilitate the understanding of SIDS deaths (and related) and the sound judgement that Rodricus Crawford is an innocent man. The death of Roderius Crawford was a tragedy. One that has been cruelly compounded by convicting his father, Rodricus Crawford. In this case, justice has not been served by sentencing an innocent & grieving father to death."..."Dr Charles Smith is a disgraced former Canadian pathologist who was the head paediatric forensic pathologist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto from 1982 - 2003. During his “reign of terror” Dr Smith’s philosophy was to “think dirty”. The quality of his autopsies and the resulting criminal charges and convictions of many innocent parents, have been called into question and a full public inquiry was ordered. The Goudge Inquiry into forensic pathology revealed that the investigations of sudden infant deaths in place, led to a massive miscarriage of justice, without precedence in Canada. The Rodricus Crawford case reminds me of this. The focus was on murder. There was never any intention to shift focus to a natural death. The “think dirty” philosophy seems to have been the focus from the beginning."


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: In yesterday's post, I described the active  support being offered to Rodricus Stewart's sister  Vicki, by Marlene Belliveau, a Canadian who describes herself in a letter written to Caddo Parish District Attorney James Stewart dated March 9, 2016,  as 'a concerned Mother, Grandmother & Vice-Chair of the Canadian SIDS foundation with respect to Case Number 2014-KA-2153. The Rodricus Crawford case.'  As this letter points so powerfully to the presence of an innocent young man on Louisiana's death row for a crime which never occurred, I am drawing it to the attention of our readers as part of this Blog's ongoing coverage of the case. "The death of a child is a loss like none other and a grief that lasts forever. It marks an extraordinary crisis," the letter begins. I am a mother of 5 grown children and a grandmother to soon to be 16 grandchildren. On May 13th, 2013, my youngest son and his wife were blessed with the birth of their 3rd child. A beautiful healthy 9 lb, 9 ounce, rosy cheeked little girl. During her first few weeks of life, Chloe seemed to have minor breathing issues of which the Doctor dismissed and suggested it may have been caused due to fluid swallowed during birth and that it would disappear on it’s own. On July 1st, 2013, Chloe and family spent a good part of the afternoon and evening in our home. Chloe seemed to be developing “cold”. She was taken to the Doctor yet again and concerns were again dismissed. ( I will elaborate further on as to why this is of importance and relevant to Rodricus’ case and his young son Roderius). On July 06, 2013 at approx 11:00 am, I received a call from my son, he was frantic. He informed me that my Grand-Daughter had died. Chloe was 7 weeks old when her mom found her lifeless in her bed with a bloody pink froth emanating from her little nostril. What ensued next is a mirror parallel to the Crawford case. Fire Chief was first on scene ( emergency first responder). He declared infant Chloe had “blunt force trauma”, and that he was concerned about disturbing “the crime scene”. RCMP ( Federal police) arrived on scene, detained my son and daughter in law. Refused to allow them to accompany Chloe to emerge trauma, held their home as a “crime scene” for 13 hours and spent another 4 hours interrogating the parents. They were treated as and accused of being murderers. It is mandatory in the case of an infant death to perform an autopsy within the first 24 hours. A paediatric forensic pathologist to carry out post mortem is ideal. They have the expertise required Infant/child deaths. Chloe’s autopsy report concluded, “ Streptococcus pneumoniae sepsis complicating: lower respiratory tract infection and the manner of death is natural.” Sepsis is a common but lethal infection. Sepsis is a rapidly developing condition and very difficult for parents and professionals to recognize. Sometimes called blood poisoning, sepsis is the body’s often deadly response to infection. In this case, pneumonia. Sepsis kills millions and requires early suspicion and rapid treatment for survival. Once sepsis sets in, it can progress to shock and death. In the U.S, more than 42,000 children develop severe sepsis each year. Approximately 4,400 of them die - this is more than paediatric cancers. There are a large number of complications that may occur with sepsis. The complications are related to the type of initial infection, for example, in lung infection (pneumonia) with sepsis. Each patient is likely to have the potential for complications related to the source of sepsis; in general, the complications are due to organ dysfunction, damage, or loss. Death is usually due to multi organ dysfunction ( liver, kidney, or lung failure). The most common source of infection is in the lung or lungs. In Chloe’s case, we had a second autopsy performed. This was due to the fact that, in researching SIDS and speaking with world renowned paediatric pathologists, very often, what seems respiratory is actually under the SIDS umbrella. At this point, I had become involved with the Canadian SIDS Foundation, where a wonderful paediatric forensic pathologist from another Province, involved in infant deaths for 40 plus years, offered to review and conduct testing on the slides, blood samples etc ( all of which are mandatory to retain and illegal to destroy.) A diagnosis of SIDS was handed down. Natural death. The similarities are striking with respect to the lungs, thymus, brain swelling in SIDS cases. This case drew massive media coverage due to the injustices towards innocent parents. We had received many calls from lawyers ready to try this case due to the “accusations/ allegations”, treatment etc of the parents. In Oct 2015, we were successful in our suit against the Federal Government. I have recently completed writing a Federal educational training program for the RCMP, other policing agencies and for all emergency first responders when it comes to infant deaths. I have spoken and presented to coroners, ME’s and  other investigating bodies to create awareness and a better understanding when it comes to infant / child deaths. It was almost one (1) year ago that our lawyer brought Rodricus’ case to my attention. We both agreed and felt very strongly that given my passion, recent experience, my research and education in these matters, my involvement with world renowned paediatric pathologists and  with the Canadian SIDS Foundation, I could be of some help, by lending my voice to this young man, his young son and his family. I have seen the great injustices in this case and felt the need to get involved. The more I follow and become involved in this case, having read and reviewed briefs and reports on hand, and in speaking with reputable world renowned paediatric forensic pathologists, I wish to share with you information that would help facilitate the understanding of SIDS deaths (and related) and the sound judgement that Rodricus Crawford is an innocent man. The death of Roderius Crawford was a tragedy. One that has been cruelly compounded by convicting his father, Rodricus Crawford. In this case, justice has not been served by sentencing an innocent and grieving father to death. In reviewing the documentation provided with respect to this case, I do believe Roderius was victim of a pneumonia / sepsis /SIDS related death. I have conferred with 2 reputable forensic pathologists.. One is Canada based and has been active in this field for over 40 years. The second is U.S ( Seattle Washington) based and has been involved in these cases since 1964. He is 84 years old and has been to congress many times with parents accused of "killing" their babies. He has been a wonderful mentor to me and has provided me with an abundance of information, including one of his authored books. In this book he writes; “About half the victims are reported to have cold symptoms in the week prior to death. Viral studies do not show any strange or particularly virulent organisms, but rather the same viruses that cause colds." He continues on to say - " Death in SIDS is thought to be instantaneous. ( Recognized by the W.H.O as a medical disorder) Since the infants are asleep, they pass on peacefully and suffer no pain. Yet, the death scene and appearance of the body may be so unusual that shocked parents gain just the opposite impression. The death scene is often one of disarray. The infant maybe found squeezed into one corner of the bed, giving the false impression of suffocation. At the time of death , when blood ceases to flow through the body, several alterations take place that may appear grotesque to the uninitiated. They include bloody froth emanating from the nose which stains the bedding. The froth is actually edema fluid that fills the lungs, and not actual blood. Purple bruises are sometimes present, which may be mistaken for traumatic injuries. They are in fact due to the settling of the blood to the dependent portions of the body after death; the scientific term is livor mortis. Finally, since the body loses its muscle tone at the time of death, soft tissues like the nose and cheeks appear to be pushed in just from the pressure of lying on the bed." In relation to the autopsy report and the petechiae - " Tiny bleeding points called petechiae, are present in great abundance. The petechiae are especially prominent over the portion of the thymus gland located in the chest. No responsible scientist believes that external obstruction i.e.: suffocation, is involved. " As indicated in the “Final Note” portion of Roderius Crawford’s autopsy report. With respect to our Canadian counterpart, and as per certain questions I have asked here is what he writes : “This is a sad and an unfortunate case of a miscarriage of justice. The case and the conviction rests on an opinion of likely an incompetent forensic pathologist and a biased judge. It is unfortunate that the opinions of other well qualified and experienced pathologists indicating lack of pathology (physical ) evidence to support the charge of homicide was ignored. The exhumation is unlikely to solve the dilemma as the observed injuries involved soft tissues that by this time have decomposed. He also writes : The “peeling “ of the skin in this type of cases is a routine forensic practice. It is based on a belief that it will reveal concealed trauma that other “regular” pathologists could miss, as deep skin hemorrhages may not be visible on the surface . It certainly has a “shock value “ on a lay jury as it reminds one of butchery-like practice. While it has a spectacular effect on the jury, it rarely is relevant to the cause of death. It only documents a suspicion of trauma (accidental vs intentional is difficult to prove).” “The fact that the evidence has been destroyed should be in favour of the defendant ,as the case cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.” With respect to any evidence i.e blood samples, paraffin slides, tissue samples, we simply have no way to go back and retest to prove Rodricus’ innocence. It begs to question why these materials are no longer available for second opinion. In short, the destruction of these materials has negated every opportunity to have retesting conducted by a qualified forensic paediatric pathologist and new evidence of innocence confirmed. Current advances in genetic / molecular testing indicate that an underlying  biological abnormality due to genetic or molecular disorders ( such as defects in cardiac or neuronal channels) may be responsible for a large portion of SIDS deaths. At present, genetic and molecular testing carried out by coroners or medical examiners, is not part of routine. However, one would require the materials to investigate in a case such as this. There seems to be no documentation on an independent autopsy of the brain itself which is standard practice due to indications of abnormalities found in the brain stem in SIDS babies. There is also reference made under “Asphyxia secondary to smothering” that there was “Cerebral Edema without herniation.” It fails to mention that resuscitation efforts contribute to brain swelling. There is reference made “Asphyxia secondary to smothering” - Petechiae involving thymus - Refer back to paragraph - (SIDS) " Tiny bleeding points called petechiae, are present in great abundance. The petechiae are especially prominent over the portion of the thymus gland located in the chest. Again, I refer back to prior statement “No responsible scientist believes that external obstruction i.e. suffocation, is involved.” Through recent years there has been a regression with respect to identifying natural deaths in infants / children vs murder. This trend is troubling. It has become more common for coroners, ME’s to use old terminology, suffocation, pneumonia, positional asphyxia ( of which has never been scientifically proven) etc. Most forensic pathologists across North America, do not have any experience or background in paediatric pathology. Dr Charles Smith is a disgraced former Canadian pathologist who was the head paediatric forensic pathologist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto from 1982 - 2003. During his “reign of terror” Dr Smith’s philosophy was to “think dirty”. The quality of his autopsies and the resulting criminal charges and convictions of many innocent parents, have been called into question and a full public inquiry was ordered. The Goudge Inquiry into forensic pathology revealed that the investigations of sudden infant deaths in place, led to a massive miscarriage of justice, without precedence in Canada. The Rodricus Crawford case reminds me of this. The focus was on murder. There was never any intention to shift focus to a natural death. The “think dirty” philosophy seems to have been the focus from the beginning. My knowledge of media related material in this case leads one to believe there was a deep rooted prejudice. How unfair! I don’t have to imagine the pain that Rodricus and his family have been going through. I have lived it. There have been a number of cases within the past few years of parents wrongfully sentenced to life in prison or death row due to assumptions, improper investigations, lack of competency, lack of pathology / physical evidence to support the charge of homicide, etc. The case of 34 year old Sally Clark, a British Solicitor, lost not one but 2 young sons to SIDS. Pathologists not only neglected to perform proper autopsies, they also withheld important information. She was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison in November 1998. Second autopsies conducted on sample materials proved her innocence. Mrs Clark was exonerated after serving 3 years. In Conclusion: It is important for all involved to learn that SIDS/ pneumonia,sepsis is a death to which any child - including their own - can be victim. Use caution and be aware that several “suspicious” conditions might be observed on an infants body that are quite normal. These include a bloody froth around the mouth or nose and possible discolouration of the face or extremities. Also, lividity stains in an infant are more pronounced than in an adult, and what might appear to be bruises might in fact be exaggerated lividity. Physical examination of these deaths may also reveal evidence or terminal motor activity, i.e clenched fists. All person’s involved should keep an open mind. We must remain cognizant of the fact that the majority of infant deaths are due to natural causes. Rodricus Crawford was described by family members, friends and acquaintances as a doting father, incapable of violence and brimming with pride in his children. The State Prosecutor at the time portrayed Mr Crawford as a non educated weed smoker who worked odd jobs ( mowing lawns) etc. here and there. That statement seems to imply that due to his “life choices/circumstances”, these would make him appear to be less of a loving father and more a murderer. Mr Stewart, so much has been taken away from this young man and his family. The horrible tragedy of losing a child can only be understood by a parent / family member who has walked in those shoes. I implore you to look at the concrete evidence and facts before you. Mr Crawford did not kill his son. Mr Crawford is himself a victim ,twice! Once in the death of his child who he adored, and the second, a victim of a seemingly corrupt and biased system at the time of his son’s death. Evidence presented in Rodricus Crawford’s case, which led to his conviction, was not scientifically proven, inaccurate and flawed. This case has resonated a great distance. The eyes of Canada and many States across the U.S, are on Caddo Parish and the Rodricus Crawford case. I do not pretend to be a lawyer. As above mentioned, I am a mother, and a bereaved grandmother. I am deeply concerned with the wrongful conviction  and death sentence in this case. Rodricus Crawford was unjustly and wrongfully convicted for a “crime” which never existed. He and his family are grief stricken by the loss of his son and forced to suffer in silence. He has lost a huge part of his life of which he will never get back. It is time for justice, it is time to bring Rodricus home to his family. To finally mourn the devastating loss of their son, grandson, nephew. Rodricus has been deprived of being a father to his daughter, his daughter has been deprived of her father. His family has been deprived of their son, brother….the grief never goes away, but, together, as a family, the healing process can begin."

Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;

See the New Yorker story  by Rachel Aviv on the 'Rodricus Crawford case at the link below: It's called 'Revenge Killing: Race and the death penalty in a Louisiana parish - and appeared in the Annals of Justice July 6 and 13, 2015 issue: "The autopsy report was sent to the office of Dale Cox, the first assistant district attorney of Caddo Parish, which includes Shreveport. After reading the police reports, he decided to seek the death penalty. Cox told me that in the past forty years he had never prosecuted a man between the ages of seventeen and twenty-six who grew up in a nuclear family. “Not one,” he said. He believes that the “destruction of the nuclear family and a tremendously high illegitimate birth rate” have brought about an “epidemic of child-killings” in the parish. At the time that he learned of Crawford’s case, he was prosecuting another young black man accused of killing his infant. After the man was sentenced to life without parole, rather than death, Cox told a local TV station, “I take it as a failure that I was unable to convince the jury to kill him.”"

 http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/07/06/revenge-killing

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;

Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;

Friday, May 27, 2016

Bulletin: William Richards: California; Major Development; "Bite-mark" testimony. The California Supreme Court Thursday threw out the conviction of a man found guilty of killing his wife after jurors heard bite-mark testimony that was later recanted - and in doing so, the unanimous high court cited a new state law inspired by Richards' murder case in its ruling..."We're thrilled that Bill's decades-long incarceration for a crime he did not commit will soon come to an end," Richards' attorney, Jan Stiglitz, said in an emailed statement. "We also hope that this decision will pave the way for other victims of 'junk science' to find a path to freedom." The Fresno Bee.



Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/news/nation-world/national/article80130517.html#storylink=cpy
http://www.fresnobee.com/news/nation-world/national/article80130517.html

See Blogger Mike Bowers post on CSIDDS - Forensics in focus - with a link to the entire decision - at the link below; (California Supreme Court deterines advances of forensic science sufficient to vacate conviction: "Any new filing of murder charges by the DA against Richards will bring a litany of CSI high value evidence against Richard being guilty. In fact it forms a road to his actual innocence.A jury would have to consider some of the following; DNA from an unknown make have been recovered from the murder weapon; DNA from an unknown male was found under the victim’s fingernails. The Supreme Court court noted that the bite mark evidence had been “clearly repudiated” and that “new technological advances undermined” the bite mark evidence presented at trial;  The crime scene evidence collection was either faulty or not complete which resulted in significant evidence being abandoned or lost at the outset of the San Bernardino Sheriff’s investigation. The Supreme Court also said that the defense had presented strong evidence opposing Richard’s guilt at his 4th trial where he was convicted except for the bitemark evidence.
https://csidds.com/2016/05/27/california-supreme-court-determines-advances-of-forensic-science-sufficient-to-vacate-conviction/

Rodricus Crawford: Louisiana; Death row: (Part One): 'TakePart' tells the compelling story of a sister's (Vicki Crawford-Sharp) efforts to save her brother from Louisiana's death row - with the fervent support of a Canadian woman (Marlene Belliveau) drawn to the case by a horrific personal experience of her own..."Crawford was accused of smothering his son to death and sentenced to death in 2013. Dale Cox, the district attorney who sought the death penalty in Crawford’s case, wrote a memo to the state’s probation department expressing regret that the state only used lethal injection for the death penalty, because “Crawford deserves as much physical suffering as it is humanly possible to endure before he dies.”..." Crawford-Sharp renewed her efforts to prove her brother’s innocence this week with a petition asking the district attorney who replaced Cox last November, James Stewart, to drop the charges. Stewart has echoed Cox’s arguments in response to a request from Crawford’s lawyers to overturn the sentence, and he appears unwilling to budge. Crawford's lawyers allege that the forensic evidence used to prove Rodricus was smothered is inconclusive. Last year, in a brief requesting a new trial, three doctors testified that the autopsy results were inconclusive."..."Last year, in a brief requesting a new trial, three doctors testified that the autopsy results were inconclusive. Amid the chaos of trying to keep in touch with her brother and spread the word about his case, Crawford-Sharp was surprised to connect with a complete stranger. Marlene Belliveau, who lives in Canada and is the vice-chair of the Canadian Sudden Infant Death Syndrome foundation, read about Roderius’ death and reached out about a year ago. “When my granddaughter passed away, my son and daughter-in-law were accused of murder,” Belliveau told TakePart. “Between Rodricus and my children, the stories are very similar. It’s a horrific nightmare.” Like Crawford, Belliveau’s son was interrogated by police and told he couldn’t go to the hospital to see his daughter when she died. Though Belliveau’s son and her daughter-in-law weren’t charged with a crime, the experience was traumatic."


STORY: "Sister Revives Efforts to Save Her Brother From Louisiana’s Death Row," by reporter Rebecca McCrae, published by TakePart on May 22, 2106. (TakePart is the digital news and lifestyle magazine from Participant Media, the company behind such acclaimed documentaries as Citizen four, An Inconvenient Truth and Food, Inc. and feature films including  Lincoln and SpotlightRebecca McCray is a staff writer covering social justice. She is based in New York).

SUB-HEADING: "Out of tragedy and loss, a friendship helps one woman cope with a legal battle."

GIST: "It has been four years since Vicki Crawford-Sharp lost her brother. Accused in 2012 of killing his one-year-old son, 27-year-old Rodricus Crawford sits on Louisiana’s death row and insists on his innocence. “My brother really loved his kid,” Crawford-Sharp told TakePart. “He never did anything to hurt anybody.” Crawford says he woke to find his son, Roderius Lott, unconscious next to him in the bed they shared. He called 911 while his mother and sister tried to resuscitate the baby, but they were unsuccessful. When the police arrived with the ambulance at his family’s house in Shreveport, Louisiana, they took Crawford in and questioned him about bruises on the baby’s head and lip, which he said came from a fall. Crawford was accused of smothering his son to death and sentenced to death in 2013. Dale Cox, the district attorney who sought the death penalty in Crawford’s case, wrote a memo to the state’s probation department expressing regret that the state only used lethal injection for the death penalty, because “Crawford deserves as much physical suffering as it is humanly possible to endure before he dies.” Crawford is the second-youngest man on death row in the state. Crawford-Sharp renewed her efforts to prove her brother’s innocence this week with a petition asking the district attorney who replaced Cox last November, James Stewart, to drop the charges. Stewart has echoed Cox’s arguments in response to a request from Crawford’s lawyers to overturn the sentence, and he appears unwilling to budge. Crawford's lawyers allege that the forensic evidence used to prove Rodricus was smothered is inconclusive. Last year, in a brief requesting a new trial, three doctors testified that the autopsy results were inconclusive. Amid the chaos of trying to keep in touch with her brother and spread the word about his case, Crawford-Sharp was surprised to connect with a complete stranger. Marlene Belliveau, who lives in Canada and is the vice-chair of the Canadian Sudden Infant Death Syndrome foundation, read about Roderius’ death and reached out about a year ago.  “When my granddaughter passed away, my son and daughter-in-law were accused of murder,” Belliveau told TakePart. “Between Rodricus and my children, the stories are very similar. It’s a horrific nightmare.” Like Crawford, Belliveau’s son was interrogated by police and told he couldn’t go to the hospital to see his daughter when she died. Though Belliveau’s son and her daughter-in-law weren’t charged with a crime, the experience was traumatic. Belliveau, her son, and her daughter-in-law sued the Royal Canadian Mountain Police for their treatment. “She has helped me, my mom, and my brother so much,” said Crawford-Sharp, who said she and Belliveau now talk on the phone every day. “I want to bring [Crawford] home to his family so they can finally grieve and be together, and I want it known that he is innocent,” said Belliveau.

The entire story can be found at: 


See 'The Guardian's'  take on the Rodricus Crawford case, at a  previous post (April 23) on this Blog at the link below: The Guardian takes a look at Louisiana - America's death penalty capital - and asks, through the Rodricus Crawford case, if a black DA (James Stewart) can really change the system?..."He (Stewart) has also remained quiet on the Rodricus Crawford case, even though he has the power to drop charges or dismiss an indictment, even if the person has already been convicted – which is what Crawford, who was sentenced to death, is hoping for. Cecelia Trenticosta Kappel, senior attorney with the Justice Center, says the hope was that Stewart would “see that the state’s theory that Rodricus Crawford decided to murder his son out of nowhere is implausible, unsupported by evidence, and based on abject stereotypes". According to Crawford’s attorneys and evidence submitted with his petition, she says that “the state’s case for capital murder essentially rested on two pieces of evidence: brain swelling and a busted lip. New evidence proves that the brain swelling was absolutely inconsistent with smothering; and had the state’s forensic pathologist followed standard medical protocol, the timing of the lip injury could have been conclusively proven.” In spite of these facts, Stewart’s office has filed an opposition brief to Crawford’s petition that his sentence be overturned. The brief, which rehashes the former prosecutor’s arguments in favor of the death penalty, is eerily reminiscent of Cox. So too is Stewart’s perspective on religion. “Some people get caught up in the separation of church and state. To me, all authority comes from God,” he said during an interview. Still, which “God” will you get? The one that has entire communities asking for mercy, or the one that had Cox demanding death?"

http://smithforensic.blogspot.ca/2016/04/rodricus-crawford-louisiana-guardian.htmlhttp://smithforensic.blogspot.ca/2016/04/rodricus-crawford-louisiana-guardian.html

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;

Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Jacques Delisle: Quebec; Major Development: Globe and Mail reports that new forensic evidence suggests the 81-year-old retired Quebec Court of Appeal judge has been wrongly convicted of murder: "New forensic evidence suggests the only Canadian judge convicted of murder is innocent and that his wife’s death from a gunshot wound was suicide, his lawyer says in a recent request for a Department of Justice investigation of the case."..."He has always maintained that his wife, Nicole Rainville, shot herself, though last year he told the CBC that he provided her with the loaded pistol that fired the fatal shot. Ms. Rainville was suicidal after a stroke left her right side paralyzed."..."Three forensics experts have submitted reports to the department’s Criminal Conviction Review Group attesting that the fatal bullet in Ms. Rainville’s death was fired from a 90-degree angle rather than the 30-degree angle posited by the forensic pathologist in Mr. Delisle’s trial, suggesting suicide rather than murder. The experts point to fractures on the right side of her skull that indicate the bullet travelled horizontally from left to right before ricocheting to its final resting place in the back right side of her brain. The trial pathologist who performed Ms. Rainville’s autopsy missed these fractures, as well as bullet fragments in the right side of her brain. He also apparently failed to dissect the brain, inferring the bullet’s trajectory from the entry wound and its endpoint. In his memorandum to the minister, Mr. Lockyer argues that these errors led directly to Mr. Delisle’s conviction and constitute a likely miscarriage of justice, which should trigger a formal investigation. “He just connected two dots, without realizing there was a third dot in the middle, so he didn’t look elsewhere,” Mr. Lockyer said of the trial pathologist, André Bourgault." Reporter Eric Andrew-Gee;


STORY: "New evidence suggests Quebec judge wrongly convicted of murder: lawyer," by reporter Eric Andrew-Gee, published by the Globe and Mail, on Thursday May 26, 2016.

GIST: "New forensic evidence suggests the only Canadian judge convicted of murder is innocent and that his wife’s death from a gunshot wound was suicide, his lawyer says in a recent request for a Department of Justice investigation of the case. Retired Quebec Court of Appeal judge Jacques Delisle has been serving a life sentence for first-degree murder since 2012, when a jury found him guilty in a trial that fascinated the province. He has lost each of his appeals, including one to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2013, and is now counting on a rarely used ministerial review that could return his case to the courts. The famed appeals lawyer James Lockyer has taken up Mr. Delisle’s case and is now urging the Justice Minister to wrap up a preliminary assessment launched last year and proceed to a formal investigation. Three forensics experts have submitted reports to the department’s Criminal Conviction Review Group attesting that the fatal bullet in Ms. Rainville’s death was fired from a 90-degree angle rather than the 30-degree angle posited by the forensic pathologist in Mr. Delisle’s trial, suggesting suicide rather than murder. The experts point to fractures on the right side of her skull that indicate the bullet travelled horizontally from left to right before ricocheting to its final resting place in the back right side of her brain. The trial pathologist who performed Ms. Rainville’s autopsy missed these fractures, as well as bullet fragments in the right side of her brain. He also apparently failed to dissect the brain, inferring the bullet’s trajectory from the entry wound and its endpoint. In his memorandum to the minister, Mr. Lockyer argues that these errors led directly to Mr. Delisle’s conviction and constitute a likely miscarriage of justice, which should trigger a formal investigation. “He just connected two dots, without realizing there was a third dot in the middle, so he didn’t look elsewhere,” Mr. Lockyer said of the trial pathologist, André Bourgault. Mr. Lockyer has had nearly a dozen wrongful convictions based on faulty science overturned, including several through ministerial review, and believes Mr. Delisle’s case falls into that category. “There is a systemic problem with the way science is used in criminal courts,” he said. “It points to the problems that can happen in the justice system if we place too much reliance on experts.”... Mr. Lockyer filed the request for an investigation on May 11 and expects a decision from the minister within days. If the request is granted, the 81-year-old Mr. Delisle will seek bail on the grounds of his age, pending the result of the review, which could see his case returned to an appeal court or even set for a fresh trial."

The entire story can be found at:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/new-evidence-suggests-quebec-judge-wrongly-convicted-of-murder-lawyer/article30169816/

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;

Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;