Saturday, August 27, 2016

Dr. Roberto Bayardo: Texas: KXAN reporters David Barer and John Hinkle present a remarkable portrait of a controversial chief medical examiner with failing memory, now over 80, who examined thousands of sudden, violent and unusual deaths in Travis County and dozens of other smaller Texas counties and can still be called to court to testify - even decades later to testify. Great heading for the KXAN story: "Body of Evidence: Forgotten Forensics." As chief medical examiner for nearly 30 years, Dr. Roberto Bayardo examined thousands of sudden, violent and unusual deaths in Travis County; KXAN..."“I’ve been losing my memory,” Bayardo said. “If you don’t show me something that was written or said, I can’t tell you if it was true or not.” According to records obtained from 45 counties around the state, the McKinney case was among at least seven murder or manslaughter cases Bayardo has testified in since his 2006 retirement. It is not clear if, or to what extent, prosecutors have examined Bayardo’s memory since his retirement. However, according to Sam Bassett, a veteran Central Texas defense attorney, using Bayardo’s testimony at this point could present problems in court. Bassett, who chaired the Texas Forensic Science Commission, said key testimony could be at stake if a witness's memory is compromised while giving testimony. A faltering memory could lead to inaccuracies and a jury being misled on important scientific opinion and data, he said. “The risk of a failing memory is it basically eliminates that person’s testimony, as to the events at the time he testified.” — Sam Bassett “The risk of a failing memory is it basically eliminates that person’s testimony, as to the events at the time he testified,” he said.






Friday, August 26, 2016

Michael West; Steven Hayne; Eddie Lee Howard; Mississippi; Radley Balko charges that State Attorney General Jim Hood defends discredited forensic experts while harassing defense attorneys instead..."Hood is widely expected to run for governor next year. As one of the only Democrats holding statewide office in the deep south (and a fairly popular one at that), he’s expected to get a lot of support from the national party once he announces. So far in his political career, Hood has found success in the south by countering his close (and at time scandalous) relationship with the plaintiff’s bar and high-profile fights with prominent businesses with an unapologetic embrace of law-and-order policies, including a particular enthusiasm for the death penalty. It will be interesting to see if he continues to pull it off. The landscape on criminal justice is shifting. Hood’s efforts to undermine the rights of criminal defendants and his utter disinterest in the forensics crisis unfolding right under his nose may came back to haunt him." The Washington Post;


POST: 'Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood defends discredited forensic experts, harasses defense attorneys instead,' by Radley Balko, posted on his Blog 'The Watch' published by the Washington Post, on August 25, 2016. (Radley Balko blogs about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post. He is the author of the book "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces.")

"Yesterday (Wednesday August 24), I posted about a crazy deposition from last April in which longtime Mississippi forensic expert Michael West went wildly off the rails. West was profane, belligerent, and openly contemptuous of the fact that anyone would dare question his expertise. The remarkable thing is that this was a deposition for a post-conviction hearing in a death penalty case. And in that case, West is the star witness. His testimony was the only physical evidence putting defendant Eddie Lee Howard at the crime scene. Once in post-conviction, these cases are handled by the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office. You might think that the Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood would be embarrassed by West’s antics. The actions from his office after the deposition indicate that that you’d be wrong." The deposition occurred on April 16. On April 25th, in anticipation of the evidentiary hearing that followed in May (that hearing went down about the same way as the deposition — the judge has yet to rule on the matter), Tucker Carrington of the Mississippi Innocence Project sent a letter to assistant attorney general Jason Davis. In it, Carrington again pointed out that since Howard’s trials West has been widely discredited. He pointed out that in the deposition itself, West contradicted his testimony at trial. And he pointed out West’s wholesale failure to take any of this seriously — he failed to prepare for the deposition, his failed to produce the appropriate documents and records, and he of course showed an appalling lack of professionalism and reverence, particularly given that a man’s life is at stake. Carrington again requested that the AG’s office drop the charges. The next day, Davis and Hood filed a motion requesting a hearing to assess the competency of Howard’s legal team. It’s an astonishingly brazen reaction. Faced with an embarrassing performance in which the state’s already-discredited primary witness in a death penalty case came completely unhinged, Hood chose instead to attack the credibility of Eddie Lee Howard’s lawyers.........The irony here is that while Hood claims to be so concerned about the qualifications of capital defense attorneys, he has shown zero interest in ensuring that expert witness who testify for the state in Mississippi’s courts are credible and qualified. That’s what that deposition last April was all about.




For his entire tenure as attorney general, Hood has steadfastly defended Steven Hayne, the controversial medical examiner who did 80-90 percent of the state’s autopsies for nearly 20 years. (Hayne and West were collaborators. Hayne often referred cases to West, while West often assisted Hayne with his autopsies.) That’s probably at least in part because Hood frequently used Hayne back when he worked in a DA’s office. When Mississippi’s public safety commissioner effectively fired Hayne several years ago, Hood led an effort to resurrect an antiquated law to bring Hayne back.  As for Michael West, Hood did finally admit in 2011 that West had credibility problems. He even told a local TV station that he was conducting an investigation. A few months later, the assistant attorney general Hood allegedly assigned to head up that investigation was asked what he had found. He replied that to that point, he had done a Westlaw search on West’s name — the legal equivalent of typing West’s name into Google. Five years later, we’ve heard nothing from Hood or his office about what that investigation has turned up. And this is an attorney general who is anything but publicity-shy. Instead, Hood’s office is still aggressively fighting to preserve convictions won with West’s testimony. In most cases, Hood’s office now argues that defendants are procedurally barred from raising questions about West’s expertise. In these cases, Hood and his subordinates don’t even try to argue that West is credible. They don’t dispute that West’s testimony was fraudulent. Instead, they that the defendant has already attempted to challenge West’s credibility either at trial, during an appeal, or in post-conviction — and lost. By publicly acknowledging that West is not a credible witness, Hood has admitted that the Mississippi’s courts were wrong to allow and uphold West’s testimony. But he’s willing to keep people in prison based on the fact that years ago, he and his predecessors persuaded Mississippi’s courts to approve that testimony — to issue those wrong decisions — and the law now prevents those same defendants from raising that issue again. Hood is essentially arguing that Mississippi keep people in prison — or in Howard’s case, that Mississippi execute someone — on a technicality......... Hood is widely expected to run for governor next year. As one of the only Democrats holding statewide office in the deep south (and a fairly popular one at that), he’s expected to get a lot of support from the national party once he announces. So far in his political career, Hood has found success in the south by countering his close (and at time scandalous) relationship with the plaintiff’s bar and high-profile fights with prominent businesses with an unapologetic embrace of law-and-order policies, including a particular enthusiasm for the death penalty. It will be interesting to see if he continues to pull it off. The landscape on criminal justice is shifting. Hood’s efforts to undermine the rights of criminal defendants and his utter disinterest in the forensics crisis unfolding right under his nose may came back to haunt him."
The entire post can be found at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2016/08/25/mississippi-attorney-general-jim-hood-defends-discredited-forensic-experts-harasses-defense-attorneys-instead/?utm_term=.dfe3f198623e&wpisrc=nl_popns&wpmm=1
 
PUBLISHER'S NOTE:
 
I am monitoring this case. 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;

Roadside drug tests: The Orange County Register takes a tough, well-reasoned editorial stand: There are so many problems with them, "until greater accuracy of such testing can be verified, Congress and local police should not even consider authorizing or using them." As the heading puts it: "Kick roadside drug and DNA tests to the curb."..." A six-month investigation done by Fox 13/TV in Tampa, Fla., found similar weaknesses in the test results. “We watched as aspirin, cough medicine, coffee and spices like oregano – and even air – tested positive for illegal drugs,” reporter Gloria Gomez said. To make matters worse, Congress is considering legislation that would allow police to utilize a field test to collect genetic material from detainees and suspects. Under the Rapid DNA Act, S.2348, which the Senate passed by unanimous consent in June, officers could obtain DNA evidence from a cheek swab and the results would be checked against the FBI’s central DNA database. This raises troubling privacy concerns, which should give members in the House great pause when they consider the bill. We should not be encouraging police to take DNA evidence from everyone they encounter and building a massive biometric database, particularly with evidence from innocent citizens. Then there are the accuracy issues." (Bravo! HL);


EDITORIAL:  ""Kick roadside drug and DNA tests to the curb," published by The Orange County Register. (Thanks to Blogger Mike Bowers of CSIDDS (Forensics in Focus)  for drawing our attention to this story. HL);

GIST:  "Roadside drug tests can be a good tool for police to determine whether someone has broken law and potentially poses a threat to others, but they can also get you locked up for eating a glazed donut. mA Florida man is suing the Orlando Police Department after he was arrested on officers’ mistaken claims that he was in possession of crystal methamphetamine. During a traffic stop, the officers noticed a few whitish flakes on the floorboard of Daniel Rushing’s car and alleged that they were crystal meth. “I recognized through my 11 years of training and experience as a law enforcement officer the substance to be some sort of narcotic,” one of the officers wrote in a report. In fact, it was just some crumbs from the glaze of a Krispy Kreme doughnut Mr. Rushing had consumed. But a field drug test nonetheless indicated that the doughnut glaze tested positive for crystal meth, leading to Mr. Rushing being handcuffed, arrested and strip searched at the county jail. Several weeks later, a state crime lab test exonerated him, but not before he unjustly spent 10 hours locked up in jail and had to post a $2,500 bond.  Such occurrences are shockingly common. These pages discussed several other such cases – including the Minnesota man who spent more than two months in jail because a bag of vitamins in his car tested positive for amphetamines in a police field drug test, and another Florida man who was arrested after the mints he was chewing tested positive for crack cocaine – in an editorial in January. A 2009 Marijuana Policy Project study found that such tests yielded false positive results 70 percent of the time in a test of 43 candies, over-the-counter medicines, plants and other harmless substances. A six-month investigation done by Fox 13/TV in Tampa, Fla., found similar weaknesses in the test results. “We watched as aspirin, cough medicine, coffee and spices like oregano – and even air – tested positive for illegal drugs,” reporter Gloria Gomez said. To make matters worse, Congress is considering legislation that would allow police to utilize a field test to collect genetic material from detainees and suspects. Under the Rapid DNA Act, S.2348, which the Senate passed by unanimous consent in June, officers could obtain DNA evidence from a cheek swab and the results would be checked against the FBI’s central DNA database. This raises troubling privacy concerns, which should give members in the House great pause when they consider the bill. We should not be encouraging police to take DNA evidence from everyone they encounter and building a massive biometric database, particularly with evidence from innocent citizens. Then there are the accuracy issues. Police officers are not scientists, but even if the Rapid DNA system is easy enough for anyone to use, experience with the roadside drug tests has shown that the results can be far from reliable, resulting in the incarceration of innocent people. Until greater accuracy of such testing can be verified, Congress and local police should not even consider authorizing or using them."

The entire editorial can be found at:

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/police-725491-dna-test.html?utm_source=Legal+Aid+DNA+Newsletter&utm_campaign=2f3bb8d8a9-DNA_Newsletter_144_28_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_332a53a218-2f3bb8d8a9-80240109&ct=t(DNA_Newsletter_144_28_2015)

PUBLISHER'S NOTE:
 
I am monitoring this case. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments.
  
The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:

 http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith
 
Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at:

http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html
 
Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com
 
Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Scott Watson; New Zealand; Bulletin: 'Court overturns Scott Watson media access decision"..."The High Court has overturned a decision by the Department of Corrections to block a journalist from recording a meeting between convicted double murderer Scott Watson and Gerald Hope, the father of one of his victims." Radio New Zealand News.


"The High Court has overturned a decision by the Department of Corrections to block a journalist from recording a meeting between convicted double murderer Scott Watson and Gerald Hope, the father of one of his victims.Read the full decision here In 1999, Watson was convicted of killing Ben Smart and Olivia Hope. Last year, North and South journalist Mike White interviewed Watson in prison - the first time Watson had given a media interview since his arrest. Watson has always denied committing the murders. He wanted Mr White to report on his first-ever meeting with Mr Hope, something Mr Hope also wanted to happen. Mr Hope has said he wants to meet with Watson and question him about the murders. Corrections had said Mr White could take part in the meeting as a facilitator but not as a journalist, and Watson had sought a judicial review of that decision.
In the decision today, Justice Mallon quashed Corrections' decision, and directed it to reconsider. The judge said the department did not seem to have considered the practicalities of granting permission for Mr Hope to visit Watson, and for Mr White to be present but not in his capacity as a journalist. She said Corrections failed to show justification for interfering with freedom of expression. Justice Mallon said Mr White had the trust of both parties, and had their consent to attend as a journalist."
http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/311818/court-overturns-scott-watson-media-access-decision

See Wikipedia entry at the link below; Disappearance of Smart and Hope; "Ben Smart (aged 21) and Olivia Hope (aged 17) were last seen in the early hours of New Year's Day, 1 January 1998, by water taxi driver Guy Wallace, who transported them to a moored yacht in Endeavour Inlet off Furneaux Lodge, located in the Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand. The close friends had been celebrating New Year's Eve at the lodge with other partygoers. After leaving the party and discovering that the boat they had arrived on, Tamarack, was overcrowded, they decided to look for alternative accommodation for the night. They transferred from Tamarack to a Furneaux Lodge water taxi driven by Wallace, intending to go back ashore.[4]Aboard the small water taxi was a man who would later become crucial to the police investigation.[5] According to Wallace and another couple who also rode in the water taxi, the man offered Ben and Olivia a place to stay aboard what he said was his vessel, which Wallace described as a two-masted ketch. The pair accepted the offer and all three boarded the boat at a time estimated between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. It was the last time the pair were seen. Police speculated that they had been murdered, but no bodies were found despite extensive searching in the months that followed. To this day, Smart and Hope remain missing. Police investigations began on 2 January 1998, after the pair's parents reported them missing. The case was assigned the name Operation TAM by police. In the following months, police came to believe that the unidentified man was Scott Watson, although his yacht was not a two-masted ketch. Police charged Watson with murder and after an 11-week trial he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.[6] Watson still protests his innocence; however after fruitless efforts, all avenues of appeal have failed..........Appeals and controversies: The defence appealed Watson’s conviction, and the case went to the Court of Appeal in April and May 2000. Three Appeal Court judges heard submissions from both the prosecution and the defence, but decided there was no new evidence to recommend a second trial.[11] They disregarded the defence’s submission that the “two trip” theory had appeared “out of the blue” late in the trial.[11] Questions have been raised about the manner of the police investigation, notably by Mike Kalaugher, who in 2001 published a book which was critical of methods allegedly used by police to obtain Watson's conviction, and by Keith Hunter, in a 2003 television documentary and a 2006 book. In November 2000, after the Court of Appeal hearing, a witness who testified at his trial contacted the Weekend Herald to say his evidence given under oath was "nothing more than an act". He said he was being threatened by gang members in prison; he was coming up for parole and was put under pressure by police to testify and "I agreed on the basis that my life was getting threatened". The witness changed his story at least twice more which led Watson's lawyers to conclude he was completely unreliable.[12] A 2010 report by the Independent Police Conduct Authority cleared police of allegations by Keith Hunter and Chris Watson. It found the police investigation had fallen short of best practice in areas which "had no significant bearing on the outcome of the investigation". No evidence was found that would support Hunter's other claims.[13] Watson has unsuccessfully applied for a royal pardon.[14] [15] In June 2015 Watson successfully challenged at court the Corrections Department's refusal to allow him to be interviewed about his case by North and South journalist Mike White.[16] Also in June 2015 the first hearing of the Parole Board took place. Watson was denied parole on the basis of two failed drug tests and an unfavourable psychological report that attested Watson "a very high risk" of committing violent acts if he was released from prison."
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Watson

Jessica Battiato: Pennsylvania; Pa. A Pennsyvanianother has been "stripped" by child welfare authorities of a second child, over injuries which she says are 'genetic,' Penn Live reports..."Jessica Battiato, is fighting back against Berks County Children and Youth for custody of both of her children. According to 6ABC, Battiato's first child was taken two months ago after the 1-year-old boy was found to have 20 fractures across his body. The mom claims the injuries were caused by a rare genetic disorder. The disorder, called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and coupled with a lack of Vitamin D, could cause fragile bones and mimic child abuse, the mother and her doctor claim, 6ABC notes in its detailed report. But as the battle to regain her first son, Caesar, was ongoing, Battiato had a second child in late April, allegedly in secret. In an interview with Battiato, she tells 6ABC she gave birth in Lancaster County -- out of the watchful eye of the Berks County authorities. The second baby was taken by Berks County Children and Youth official only after Battiato applied for state aid for then-seven-month-old Julius. Since then, hospital records show that Julius has a fracture on his right tibia, which Berks County apparently believes is child abuse, according to 6ABC. Berks County Children and Youth officials tell 6ABC they are legally barred from commenting on the case. Meanwhile, the mother is vowing to keep up the fight for both of her children, buoyed by the expert opinions of her doctor, Dr. Michael Holick at Boston University. 6ABC identifies him as a specialist who diagnosed both Battiato and her first child with EDS and Vitamin D insufficiency -- and who adds it's likely Julius has the condition as well. "I wouldn't hesitate to have the children returned to the parents," Holick told 6ABC.


STORY: "Pa. (Pennsylvania) mom stripped of 2nd child over abuse says injuries were 'genetic,' by reporter John Luciew, published by Penn Live on August 16, 2016.

PHOTO CAPTION:  "Either this bizarre Berks County case is a gross instance of alleged child abuse -- or it is a baffling medical mystery. The answer may hold the key to whether a Pennsylvania mom gets her two young boys back.The mother, Jessica Battiato, is pictured with her first son, Caesar, taken by county officials several months ago with multiple bone fractures."
GIST: 6ABC in Philly reports that a second child has been taken from his mother. The woman, Jessica Battiato, is fighting back against Berks County Children and Youth for custody of both of her children. According to 6ABC, Battiato's first child was taken two months ago after the 1-year-old boy was found to have 20 fractures across his body. The mom claims the injuries were caused by a rare genetic disorder. The disorder, called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and coupled with a lack of Vitamin D, could cause fragile bones and mimic child abuse, the mother and her doctor claim, 6ABC notes in its detailed report. But as the battle to regain her first son, Caesar, was ongoing, Battiato had a second child in late April, allegedly in secret. In an interview with Battiato, she tells 6ABC she gave birth in Lancaster County -- out of the watchful eye of the Berks County authorities. The second baby was taken by Berks County Children and Youth official only after Battiato applied for state aid for then-seven-month-old Julius. Since then, hospital records show that Julius has a fracture on his right tibia, which Berks County apparently believes is child abuse, according to 6ABC.  Berks County Children and Youth officials tell 6ABC they are legally barred from commenting on the case. Meanwhile, the mother is vowing to keep up the fight for both of her children, buoyed by the expert opinions of her doctor, Dr. Michael Holick at Boston University. 6ABC identifies him as a specialist who diagnosed both Battiato and her first child with EDS and Vitamin D insufficiency -- and who adds it's likely Julius has the condition as well. "I wouldn't hesitate to have the children returned to the parents," Holick told 6ABC.

The entire story can be found at:

http://www.pennlive.com/news/2016/08/pa_mom_stripped_of_2nd_child_o.html

PUBLISHER'S NOTE:
 
I am monitoring this case. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments.
  
The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:

 http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith
 
Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at:

http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html
 
Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com
 
Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Willie Grimes: North Carolina: Bulletin; Major Development; He has been awarded $3.25 million after serving 24 years for rape he didn’t commit..."During his original trial, prosecutors said a strand of hair belonging to a black man had been found on the victim. But the hair was never positively identified in court as Grimes’ hair, just the hair of an African-American man. Grimes said he was more than a mile and a half away from the crime scene at a house with friends, who all testified in court that Grimes had been with them that night. Other evidence never made it into the courtroom for jurors to hear, including fingerprints. Grimes was paroled in 2012 while still maintaining his innocence. His case was investigated by the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission, a state agency that hears post-conviction claims of innocence. An analyst testified before the commission that the fingerprints matched a different man, who had a lengthy record, including assault on a female. That man was in a Lenoir nursing home by 2012. Other evidence inexplicably disappeared, even though no one found any court order to destroy it. The Hickory Police Department found the fingerprint cards after the commission began investigating." Reporter Joe Marusak;Charlotte Observer


Michael West; Steven Hayne; Radley Blako takes us into the psyche of disgraced "bite-mark expert" Michael West Expert in a post headed: "Witness goes nuts during questioning for Mississippi death penalty case"...Reading the deposition made me think of the surreal 'justice' meted out in 'Alice in Wonderland' and Al Pacino's "And Justice for All'... HL; The Washington Post;


POST: "Expert witness goes nuts during questioning for Mississippi death penalty case, by Radley Balko, published on his Blog 'The Watch' by the Washington Post, on August 24, 2016. (Radley Balko blogs about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post. He is the author of the book "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces.")

GIST: "I’ve been reporting on the crazy death investigation system in Mississippi for about ten years now. Just when I’ve thought things couldn’t get more surreal, I’m inevitably proven wrong. The latest example comes in a deposition last April of the disgraced “bite mark expert” Michael West. To fully appreciate what happened during and after this deposition, you’d need quite a bit of background. If you have 20 minutes or so, this piece I wrote for Huffington Post a few years ago is pretty thorough. Or try this post, or this post here at The Watch. But here’s a rough summary: In the early to mid-1990s, Michael West became a rock star in the world of forensics. West claimed to have developed techniques that he and only he could perform. According to West, those techniques could both identify bite marks on human skin that no other medical specialists could see, and then match those marks to one person, to the exclusion of everyone else on the planet. West helped put lots of people in prison. He soon expanded his repertoire, and became an expert witness in a variety of forensic specialities, including a few he claimed to have invented. In addition to bite mark analysis, West also testified over the years as a a trace metals expert, wound pattern expert, gun shot residue expert, gunshot reconstruction expert, a crime scene investigator, blood spatter expert, “tool mark” expert, fingernail scratch expert, “liquid splash patterns” expert, and “video enhancement expert.” He once claimed he could match the bite marks in a half-eaten bologna sandwich found at the crime scene to the teeth of the primary suspect. Not DNA, mind you — the tooth marks in the bread. In another case, West even offered the jury his expertise about how lesbian couples resolve conflict. Though he primarily testified in Mississippi and Louisiana, prosecutors in at least eight other states retained him as an expert witness. As early as 1994, there were questions about West’s credibility. He was the subject of several skeptical media profiles, including by Newsweek, the ABA Journal and “60 Minutes.”He has been investigated by and either resigned or was expelled from three separate professional organizations. Back in the early 2000s, one attorney tricked West into matching photos of bite marks on a murder victim to the dental plate of the attorney’s own private investigator. By the late 1990s West was considered something of a quack even within the already dubious forensic speciality of bite mark analysis. Yet Mississippi (and Louisiana) prosecutors continued to use him, Mississippi and Louisiana trial courts kept allowing him to testify, and Mississippi and Louisiana appellate courts kept upholding the crazy things he’d claim on the witness stand. In 2007, Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks were exonerated of the rape and murder of two little girls in Noxubee County, Mississippi. The first crime occurred in 1990. Local police suspected Brooks for the sexual assault and murder of a 3-year-old girl. West’s bite mark voodoo and testimony from (also controversial) medical examiner Steven Hayne were the main evidence against Brooks, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. The next little girl was raped and killed less than two years later, just a few miles away. This time, police zeroed in on Brewer as the killer, and once again West’s bite mark matching was the main evidence against him. Brewer was convicted and sentenced to death. After spending a combined 30 years in prison, the two were released when DNA testing in the Brooks case pointed to a convicted sex offender named Justin Albert Johnson. He was arrested and admitted to both crimes. In fact, Johnson was briefly a suspect in the first crime, but West “excluded” him after finding that Johnson’s teeth failed to the match what West said were bite marks on the victim. (Indeed, it’s possible there were no bite marks at all — in his confession, Johnson made no mention of biting either little girl.) That still wasn’t enough to convince Mississippi officials to take another look at all the other cases in which West had testified. So let’s move on to the case at the heart last April’s crazy deposition. In 1994, Eddie Lee Howard was convicted for the rape and murder of an 84-year-old woman, mostly due to testimony from Hayne and West. Hayne didn’t initially claim to have seen any bite marks on the victim’s body. It was only several days later, when then-district attorney Forrest Allgood identified Howard as his chief suspect that Hayne recalled seeing marks that could be bites. (Allgood is also the prosecutor who convicted Brewer and Brooks.) The victim had by that time been buried. She was exhumed, and West then performed his magic, claiming to match the alleged bite marks to Howard. Howard was convicted and sentenced to death. As late as 2006, the Mississippi Supreme Court heard appeals on West’s testimony in Howard’s case. Even while acknowledging West’s severe credibility problem, his expulsion from various professional organization and his many other transgressions, the majority simply shrugged, writing, “Just because Dr. West has been wrong a lot, does not mean, without something more, that he was wrong here.” (Remarkably, West actually disclaimed bite mark analysis in 2012 — sort of — although he still defends his own work.) After years of fighting, Howard’s attorneys were finally able to have DNA testing done on the knife allegedly used to kill the woman Howard was convicted of killing. The tests showed male DNA, but excluded Howard as the source. (A rape kit taken from the woman produced no usable DNA.) Last year, a state appeals court finally granted Howard’s request to reopen several issues in the case, including a challenge to West’s credibility. That set up the surreal deposition in April. At that deposition, West was questioned by Chris Fabricant, Director of Strategic Ligation at the Innocence Project of New York. Also present was Tucker Carrington, Director of the Mississippi Innocence Project. (Disclosure: Carrington and I are currently co-writing a book about all of this.) Howard is also represented by Vanessa Potkin, Peter Neufeld, and Dana Delger, all of whom work for the Innocence Project in New York. West frequently has been brash, prickly, and prone to fits of braggadocio on the witness stand. This time, he was also belligerent, profane, and combative. He was openly contemptuous of the entire process — which again was at heart about whether or not the state of Mississippi should put a man to death. The transcript records that he belched before one answer. On two occasions, as he grew increasingly annoyed at Fabricant’s questions, West offered hypotheticals that involved him killing Fabricant. You can read the entire transcript here. But I’d like to point out some highlights. It began almost immediately, as West started the deposition with pouty, one-word answers. Here’s one such exchange:

Q. Dr. West, I see that you have no documents with you; is that right?
A. Yes.
Q. Did you look for any documents before you came here today?
A. No.
Q. Did you do anything to prepare for this deposition at all?
A. No.
[. . .]
Q.  And you realize that we’re here about Eddie Lee Howard’s convictions?
A. Okay.
Q. Well, I’m telling you that it’s about Eddie Lee Howard. Do you remember the Eddie Lee Howard case?
A. No.
[. . .]
Q. Dr. West, I’m just going to ask you to flip through this or to take your time with it and just refresh your recollection about the testimony that you gave in this case.
A: I was never more familiar with the case than when I testified on it.
Q. So you feel —
A. I feel comfortable with the testimony that I gave at that point in time, I still stand.
Q. Okay. But you haven’t actually looked at that testimony, though, right?
A. I stand on my testimony.
Q. You stand on it, I understand. But I’m just asking you, did you actually look at it?
A. No.
Q. No. And have you looked at it since 1992?
A. No.
Q. You said earlier that you don’t remember what you testified to. But you’re saying that you stand by whatever it was?
A. Yes.
Q. But you don’t know exactly what it is?
A. No.
Read on  for further insights into the bizarre psyche of Dr. Michael West - and insights into the justice system that permitted hum to thrive. Bravo Radley.

Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;
 
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2016/08/24/expert-witness-goes-nuts-during-questioning-for-mississippi-death-penalty-case/?utm_term=.aadcb1ea8fcb

 PUBLISHER'S NOTE:
 
I am monitoring this case. 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;