Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Bobby Moore; Texas; Of mice and men and the State of Texas's unscientific lust to kill (even the intellectually disabled); Texas used outdated medical standards in deciding which intellectually disabled people must be spared the death penalty, the U.S. Supreme Court rules: "Writing for the majority in the 5-to-3 decision, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Texas had failed to keep up with current medical consensus, relied too heavily on I.Q. scores and took account of factors rooted in stereotypes. “Texas cannot satisfactorily explain why it applies current medical standards for diagnosing intellectual disability in other contexts, yet clings to superseded standards when an individual’s life is at stake,” Justice Ginsburg wrote..."Reporter Adam Liptak; New York Times;


STORY: "Texas Used Wrong Standard in Death Penalty Cases, Justices Rule," by reporter Adam Liptak, published by The New York Times on March 28, 2017.



GIST: "The Supreme Court on Tuesday continued a trend toward limiting capital punishment, rejecting Texas’ approach to deciding which intellectually disabled people must be spared the death penalty. Writing for the majority in the 5-to-3 decision, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Texas had failed to keep up with current medical consensus, relied too heavily on I.Q. scores and took account of factors rooted in stereotypes. “Texas cannot satisfactorily explain why it applies current medical standards for diagnosing intellectual disability in other contexts, yet clings to superseded standards when an individual’s life is at stake,” Justice Ginsburg wrote. She was joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan..........The case, Moore v. Texas, No. 15-797, had attracted some attention for one aspect of Texas’ approach, which was partly drawn from a comparison to the fictional character of Lennie Small, the dim, hulking farmhand in John Steinbeck’s novella “Of Mice and Men.” In 2004, in the decision that set out the standards Texas uses, Judge Cathy Cochran of the Court of Criminal Appeals wrote that Lennie should be a legal touchstone. “Most Texas citizens might agree that Steinbeck’s Lennie should, by virtue of his lack of reasoning ability and adaptive skills, be exempt” from the death penalty, she wrote. When Mr. Moore’s case was argued in November, Justice Sotomayor said he was at least as intellectually disabled as Lennie. “The state had no problem in saying that Lennie, even though he could work, earn a living, plan his trying to hide the death of the rabbit he killed, that he could do all of those things, and yet he was not just mildly, but severely disabled,” she said. The opinions rendered Tuesday did not mention Lennie."

The entire story can be found at:
https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/03/28/us/politics/texas-death-penalty-supreme-court-ruling.html?_r=0&referer=

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Commentary: Bill Dillon and all too many other victims of charlatan John Preston " whose dog would supposedly “track” the suspect’s scent, months later or even once underwater — to magically place the suspect where cops needed him to be. Preston did this in more than 30 cases in Brevard before judges in two states declared him a fraud — a fact that should rattle the soul."..."The cases have never been formally re-examined. It is way past time. Journalist Scott Maxwell Florida Today has given new life to this cause with a 14-part series, “Murder on the Space Coast,” where veteran journalist John A. Torres looks at the men who were wrongfully convicted and one, Gary Bennett, who is still behind bars. The stories are all similar."


COMMENTARY: "Brevard’s wrongful convictions still need probing," by Scott Maxwell, published by The Orlando Sentinel on March 28, 2017.

PHOTO CAPTION: "Pam Bondi went on TV in 2010 and promised to probe cases involving a bogus dog handler expert that helped lead to convictions in dozens of cases. In 2017, a whole lot of nothing has happened."


GIST: Nearly a decade ago, Bill Dillon walked out of a prison cell where he had spent 27 years of his life for a crime he didn’t commit. Dillon had been wrongly convicted by cops and prosecutors in Brevard County who were desperate to solve a gruesome murder. After he was convicted, a key witness recanted her testimony. Then, the lead “expert” — a dog-handler whose dog supposedly placed Dillon at the scene of the crime — was exposed as a charlatan who manufactured “evidence” when cops couldn’t make legitimate cases. Finally, DNA evidence proved Dillon’s blood did not, in fact, match the murderer’s.  In 2008, the nation watched as Dillon, who had entered jail a naive 22-year-old, walked out as a 49-year-old man.  The story was almost inspirational. Except it is not. Instead, Dillon’s tale is just one chapter in a dark and twisted story of injustice that still isn’t fully told. Dillon, you see, is just one of three men whose convictions were later overturned — all three convicted by the same prosecution team with help from the same fraudster dog-handler in the 1980s. Yet dozens more men were convicted in the same or similar way. At least one is still behind bars. The cases have never been formally re-examined. It is way past time. Florida Today has given new life to this cause with a 14-part series, “Murder on the Space Coast,” where veteran journalist John A. Torres looks at the men who were wrongfully convicted and one, Gary Bennett, who is still behind bars. The stories are all similar. There was a heinous crime — a particularly violent rape, stabbing or murder. There was a furious public. There were cops and prosecutors desperate to make a case — but short on actual evidence. And there was an unsympathetic suspect — a loner with a history of pot use or maybe drunken driving who didn’t have many resources to defend himself. In every case, the cops brought in the same “expert” — dog handler John Preston, whose dog would supposedly “track” the suspect’s scent, months later or even once underwater — to magically place the suspect where cops needed him to be. Preston did this in more than 30 cases in Brevard before judges in two states declared him a fraud — a fact that should rattle the soul. I spent three years trying to raise attention for this issue from 2009 to 2012. I consider it one of the biggest failures of my journalistic career. No one — Charlie Crist, Rick Scott, former Attorney General Bill McCollum or former State Attorney Norm Wolfinger — would push for answers. They all said that anyone who was wrongfully convicted should get his own lawyer, the same way Dillon did … over the course of 27 years. Finally, I had an idea. In 2010, there was a new race for attorney general. So I approached every candidate running — every Republican and every Democrat. I gave them the history of the cases and asked, if elected, if they would promise to conduct a thorough investigation into every person Preston helped convict. Not a promise of exoneration, mind you. Just a promise to fully probe all the cases where juries had gotten bad information to see if justice had truly been served. Every candidate promised they would … including the eventual winner. Pam Bondi claimed to be so keen on probing the Preston cases, she went on national TV to campaign on the issue. I still remember her calling me on a Saturday night in August of 2010. It was three days before her GOP primary, and Bondi was preparing to go on Geraldo Rivera’s show on Fox News. She wanted all the background on the cases. I helped her. Not because I cared about her campaign, but because I cared about justice. Bondi then went on TV, acting outraged and indignant about Preston’s bogus testimony, telling Rivera: “This guy was using junk science, claiming that this dog could find weapons underwater. It was unreal. Now we learn that there are are at least four people in Florida still in prison!” Bondi made it clear that, if elected, she would conduct a thorough probe herself. But she never did. Though her office said it looked at the cases, it never released any kind of detailed report. A thorough, independent probe is needed. Gov. Rick Scott could order one. So could Bondi. But frankly, after all this time, I think only the feds could provide a thorough, independent examination. One thing that is clear, as Florida Today is reminding us: Justice has not been carried out in Brevard County.

The entire commentary can be  found at:

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-bill-dillon-wrongful-convictions-bondi-scott-maxwell-20170328-story.html

 PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.

White elephant cases; East Cleveland; Ohio; NBC report: 'Rogue East Cleveland Cops Framed Dozens of Drug Suspects'...Or as Dr. Mike Bowers of CSIDDS (Forensics in Focus) puts it: "Framing the innocent with planted forensics evidence and lying cops."...(A neat exploration of 'group exonerations' HL)..."The Cleveland-area victims are among thousands of people who have been exonerated in cases involving police graft over the last three decades countrywide, from California to Texas, and from New Jersey to Ohio. In Philadelphia, more than 800 people have had their convictions dismissed. The Rampart scandal in Los Angeles in the late 1990s led to at least 150 tossed cases. These "group exonerations" are distinct from the stories of people cleared by DNA or new evidence, a movement led by crusading lawyers who dig into individual cases to expose faulty forensics, false confessions, mistaken identities and official misconduct. Group exonerations rarely attract much attention outside of the communities where they occur. They typically involve people convicted of relatively minor crimes that resulted in short prison sentences or terms of probation. The victims often have criminal records and, if not for the corrupt methods that led to their convictions, may actually have been guilty of a crime. There is no official record of group exonerations, and researchers believe that in some police corruption scandals, authorities don't bother to identify tainted convictions — or tell victims they could be cleared. Even so, the number of people wrongly convicted under such circumstances likely exceeds the more than 2,000 individual exonerations recorded since 1989, according to the National Registry of Exonerations."


"Rogue East Cleveland Cops Framed Dozens of Drug Suspects," by reporter Jon Schuppe, published by NBC News on March 27, 2017; (Thanks to CSIDDS (Forensics in Focus) for bringing this story to our attention. HL);

GIST: "In January 2013, police raided the home of a Cleveland drug dealer, saying in a search warrant that an informant had recently bought crack cocaine there. But the drug dealer had surveillance cameras that proved the officers were lying. He gave the tapes to his lawyer, who showed the FBI. The feds then worked to uncover a massive scandal of a rogue street-crimes unit that robbed and framed drug suspects who felt they had no choice but plead guilty to fraudulent charges. Four years later, authorities are still unwinding the damage. Three cops who worked for the city of East Cleveland are in prison. Cases against 22 alleged drug dealers have been dismissed. Authorities are searching for another 21 people who are eligible to have their convictions tossed. On top of those injustices, there is a slim chance that any of them will be fully reimbursed, because the disgraced officers and their former employer don't have the money. "I always took it on the chin when I got arrested for something I know I did. But when a cop lies to get you in prison, that's a different story," said Kenneth Blackshaw, who was arrested in a 2013 traffic stop and spent two years behind bars before his drug conviction was overturned. ........The Cleveland-area victims are among thousands of people who have been exonerated in cases involving police graft over the last three decades countrywide, from California to Texas, and from New Jersey to Ohio. In Philadelphia, more than 800 people have had their convictions dismissed. The Rampart scandal in Los Angeles in the late 1990s led to at least 150 tossed cases. These "group exonerations" are distinct from the stories of people cleared by DNA or new evidence, a movement led by crusading lawyers who dig into individual cases to expose faulty forensics, false confessions, mistaken identities and official misconduct. Group exonerations rarely attract much attention outside of the communities where they occur. They typically involve people convicted of relatively minor crimes that resulted in short prison sentences or terms of probation. The victims often have criminal records and, if not for the corrupt methods that led to their convictions, may actually have been guilty of a crime. There is no official record of group exonerations, and researchers believe that in some police corruption scandals, authorities don't bother to identify tainted convictions — or tell victims they could be cleared. Even so, the number of people wrongly convicted under such circumstances likely exceeds the more than 2,000 individual exonerations recorded since 1989, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. The vast majority of victims are black — a result that points to national trends in American drug-law enforcement researchers at the registry said in a report issued last month. "As any forger knows, the way to create convincing fakes is to make them look like the real thing," the report's authors wrote. "For drug cases, that means arresting mostly black suspects." The impact is profound. Group exonerations not only undermine crime fighting efforts, but also destroy faith in police and fuel the belief that the justice system treats poor, minority communities unfairly. "What I saw in this case is a legitimate reason for these folks to have these feelings toward law enforcement," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Ed Feran, who prosecuted the East Cleveland officers. East Cleveland is a city in distress, much more so than Cleveland, its larger Rust Belt neighbor. More than 40 percent of its 17,843 residents live in poverty, almost all of them black. Mass demolitions of abandoned homes has left the 3-square-mile city pocked with vacant lots. The median household income is $19,592. The local government is near bankruptcy. That is the atmosphere in which the rogue street crimes unit operated.........Most of the victims mentioned in the federal indictment didn't have private lawyers to push for their release. But the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office had just formed a Conviction Integrity Unit, which helped make sure all of the convictions were vacated. Blackshaw was released from prison in February 2016. All three officers were sentenced to prison: Moore got nine years, Malone six and Jones nearly four. In a tearful courtroom apology, Moore said she'd turned rogue in 2011.  That revelation prompted the Conviction Integrity Unit to review all of the officers' work since 2011. They came up with dozens of suspect cases. In some, the officers cited the use of confidential informants without proving their existence. In others, money used for undercover drug purchases, or money seized in arrests or raids, was not properly logged, raising questions about where the cash ended up. Each of the defendants, like Blackshaw, had pleaded guilty. Now they were all eligible to have their cases dismissed. Some of the victims had likely committed drug offenses. But because the entire process was corroded, the cases could no longer be defended in court. Justice required their dismissal. "We didn't go all the way to determine whether they were factually innocent or not," Jose Torres, who heads the unit, said. "We were convinced that they were legally innocent, and that's enough for us." So far, authorities have identified 43 people whose convictions deserved to be tossed. But in order for that to happen, they or a lawyer representing them needs to appear in court to ask a judge to dismiss the charges. Working with the county public defender's office, they've only been able to dismiss convictions for 22 people, Torres said. They've tracked down a couple of others who are expected to appear in court soon. The rest either haven't been found or don't want to come forward. In each case, defense lawyers have insisted on protecting the victim's right to sue for damages. But whether they get any award remains to be seen."

The entire story  can be found at:

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/rogue-east-cleveland-cops-framed-dozens-drug-suspects-n736671

See also the related CSIDDS (Forensics in Focus) - Framing the innocent with planted forensics evidence and lying cops -  post at the link below: "Not just a myth or a fictional plot line. This article starts in Cleveland OH and references other examples where people ‘of color’ with criminal histories get thrown into jail. In Cleveland, three police went there too. It’s called ‘framing’ the innocent. (click the above pic to go to “Youtube” vid reports on the subject."
 https://csidds.com/2017/03/27/framing-the-innocent-with-planted-forensics-evidence-and-lying-cops/

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Keith Harward: Prof. Brandon L. Garrett (University of Virginia law school) explains in 'The Baffler' how forensic dentistry nearly cost Keith Harward his life...."Throughout the case’s long trek through the appeals system, the bite-mark testimony retained a tenacious hold on jurists. On appeal, the Virginia court said: “Both forensic dentists testified that all gross characteristics of spacing, width, and alignment of Harward’s teeth ‘fit on the money’ the photographs of bite marks.” Harward was released last year, aged sixty, after spending thirty-three years in prison. DNA testing cleared his name and definitively matched another person, Jerry L. Crotty, who died in prison in Ohio over a decade ago, while serving time for burglary and kidnapping. What went wrong? The dentists provided a story that fit what the prosecutors wanted—a conviction. “It’s just heartbreaking to think that more than half of his life was spent behind bars when he didn’t belong there,” state attorney general Mark Herring said after Harward’s release. “The Commonwealth can’t give him back those years, but we can say that we got it wrong, that we’re sorry and that we’re working to make it right.” But what, exactly, has been done to make it right? The attorney general and the courts all promptly released Harward. The State of Virginia will probably offer him compensation. But so far, Virginia law enforcement and prosecutors have not banned the use of unreliable forensics like bite-mark testimony, as the Texas Forensic Science Commission has done."... Issue 34. (2017):


STORY "Inside the great forensic-science boondoggle," by Brandon L.  Garrett, published in Issue 34 of The Baffler. (2017); (Thanks to Mike Bowers at CSIDDS (Forensic In Focus) for bringing this important commentary to our attention.)

GIST: "As the broad echoes of the same basic story of expert hubris and misguided evidence-handling play out in the transcripts, over and over again, I re-experience some of the initial shock of my first in-depth review of a forensics-driven miscarriage of justice: the death-penalty case of Keith Harward, convicted on rape and murder charges in 1982, chiefly on testimony from two dentists about bite marks left on a victim’s legs. It is no exaggeration to say that forensic dentistry nearly cost Keith Harward his life. Starting in the 1970s, dentists versed in the basics of dental identification started to develop a lucrative sideline: offering expert forensic testimony in criminal cases. Criminal scientists had long had the ability to pursue basic mouth-related inquiries, such as matching pristine molds of teeth to identify remains. But these new experts, known as “forensic odontologists,” claimed to be able to match a suspect’s teeth to human bite marks, in the macabre kinds of assault and murder cases where such evidence looms large. The two dentists who testified in Harward’s case, Lowell Levine and Alvin Kagey, couldn’t have been more confident in their conclusions. They said Harward’s teeth had to have made the marks. Levine, in particular, was nationally known as an expert in forensic bite-mark analysis and in the forensic sciences more generally. When I briefly noted in an article I wrote in 2009 that there were invalid forensic findings in the Harward case, I had no idea that Harward was still in prison and that he had claimed his innocence for decades. In fact, right around the time I came across his trial records, he had written to the Innocence Project seeking new DNA testing to prove those dentists wrong. The results of the DNA testing would upend a battery of expert forensic evidence that had seemed to pin him down as the biter. Harward was twenty-six when the crime occurred, in 1982, in Newport News, Virginia. In the early morning, a man broke into a family’s home near the Navy yards, beat the husband to death with a crowbar, and raped his wife. During the assault, he bit her thighs and calves repeatedly. After the victim was able to summon the police to the scene, they recovered sperm from her T-shirt, and they also swabbed and photographed the bite marks on her legs. She was never able to identify the person who assaulted her, but described him as a white male who was wearing a white sailor’s uniform that had a symbol on it with three nested V’s. That symbol sounded a lot like the insignia of an E-3 Naval sailor. The USS Carl Vinson, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was at the Navy yards, and it had thousands of sailors on board.
A hunt for viable Navy suspects rapidly ensued, in what local media dubbed “the bite-mark case.” The police did a bite-mark dragnet of all the E-3 sailors. Harward was one of more than 1,000 E-3 sailors stationed on the Vinson. Apparently between 1,100 and 3,000 sailors on the Vinson were asked to provide dental records for comparison. In fact, one of those sailors was the actual culprit, but the bite experts didn’t detect him. Nor did they find evidence linking the crime to Harward. The bite-mark case remained unsolved for months, for sound scientific reasons. Comparing bite marks is not easy. People with a full set of teeth have thirty-two teeth, each with multiple surfaces. Each set of teeth carries a great deal of forensic information, which is why postmortem dental plates can be effective in identifying a corpse. However, a bite mark has a lot less information. We bite only with our front teeth: maybe four or eight teeth, and just the edges of those, are used to bite. What’s more, a bite mark in human skin may not preserve much information. To put things euphemistically, a biting situation may be “dynamic.” The parties in a biting encounter are typically moving around, struggling to either inflict or avoid a bite. To complicate matters further, skin is highly elastic and does not perfectly preserve information like a plaster dental mold would. Skin also reacts to injuries, by swelling and bruising. It can be hard to tell whether bite marks were made by a human at all. Decomposition, for one thing, greatly affects skin. In the Mississippi case of Kennedy Brewer, convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1995, an odontologist who testified frequently in Mississippi claimed that only Brewer could have made bite marks. In fact, the marks turned out to be insect bites on the victim’s body, which was, after all, found in a creek. In 2008, new DNA testing exonerated Brewer. Such fundamental uncertainty “may severely limit the validity of forensic odontology,” as the National Academy of Sciences concluded in its landmark 2009 report. This finding, crucially, doesn’t apply only to bite marks; all crime scene forensics can lack the information that pristine lab conditions might permit. Fingerprints may be smudged or partial. DNA may be mixed with several people’s genetic material, or degraded. But bite marks were always known to be especially difficult to compare. Months after the crime in Newport News, police came across what they believed was a pivotal break in the case. Harward was in court because a fight with his girlfriend had turned violent—she reported that he had bit her during the fight. Now the police thought they had their biter. They brought the victim in the bite-mark case to the courtroom in Harward’s domestic dispute—but she could not identify him. So they tried to get Harward to confess. He wouldn’t. “The detectives, all through the whole situation, tried their best to convince me to admit to something I didn’t do,” Harward said. The cops were so determined to link Harward to the crime that they hypnotized a security guard at the Navy base—and a full seven months after the crime, he identified Harward’s mugshot as that of the person whom he saw returning to the shipyard in the early morning after the murder. Enter forensic odontology. The two dentists, Kagey and Levine, testified that the bite mark matched Harward’s teeth. They told the jury that they were totally certain. Levine testified to a “very, very, very high degree of probability” that Harward’s teeth left the bite mark. Kagey testified that “there is just not anyone else that would have this unique dentition.” It was, Levine said, a “practical impossibility”—yes—“that someone else would have all [the] characteristics in combination.” They described all this in detail. They explained how they compared Polaroid images from the victim to Harward’s dental mold. They said Harward had unusual and distinctive characteristics on his teeth. One of his teeth “canted sideways” and there was a “hook type area” that seemed to match the bite mark. There was a “chipped area” and a “breakage” that aligned perfectly, they said. There were “no discrepancies.” Could that be true? Could no one else in the world have left those bite marks? How high a degree of probability is “very, very, very high”? Does that mean one in a million? One in a billion? One in a thousand? The dentists couldn’t have answered those questions, because no one knows. There were not, and still are not, any databases of bite marks. Tracing the configuration of bite marks is nothing like DNA testing, where demographic studies and statistical analysis can, with great precision, identify what segments of the population share certain genetic markers. Statistics can be used to express a DNA comparison result, but not a bite comparison. There are no population studies on bite marks, nor are there any statistics that can offer airtight identifications from other forensics far more commonly used today, such as fingerprints or ballistics. In an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch after Harward’s exoneration, Kagey explained, “At that time, bite-mark analysis was new, relatively, and there was a lot of publicity about it,” adding that “I never say about a bite mark [now], ‘He or she is the only person that could have done this.’” As a result of cases such as Harward’s, along with the West Memphis Three conviction, which also hinged on bite-mark testimony that has since been thoroughly discredited, the American Board of Forensic Odontology no longer recognizes the validity of testimony that claims total certainty. For years, the board’s guidelines allowed examiners to say that this set of teeth made that bite, to the exclusion of all other sets of teeth in the world. It was only after the National Academy of Sciences issued its 2009 report discrediting such claims that the board members changed their tune. In one important win for scientific rigor, forensic odontologists have conceded that the word “match” should not be used. Today they say, “Terms assuring unconditional identification of a perpetrator, or identification ‘without doubt,’ are not sanctioned as a final conclusions.” Instead, the dentist can say that the person “could have” created the bite marks. Nevertheless, the overall effect of the revised, and exasperatingly vague, odontologist guidelines is to continue offering cover to a multitude of sins. There are simply no standards for how much evidence it takes to conclude that bite marks “match” or even are “generally similar.” What makes the marks generally similar? What are the criteria? There are none in the field. As the Innocence Project later asserted in connection with the Harward case: “Despite the fact that for decades courts have permitted forensic dentists to testify in criminal trials, there is a complete lack of scientific support for claims that a suspect can be identified from an injury on a victim’s skin.” And this was but a restatement of the National Academy of Science’s 2009 declaration: “The scientific basis is insufficient to conclude that bite-mark comparisons can result in a conclusive match. There was more in the way of forensics in Harward’s case—and none of it implicated the suspect. None of the fingerprints that police lifted from the scene matched Harward. An expert from the Virginia crime lab also testified that blood typing on the semen evidence was inconclusive, and blood types on cigarette butts found at the scene did not match Harward. None of the hairs found in the house matched Harward. The victim could not identify Harward as her attacker. Nor had the victim described a person with a moustache, which Harward wore at the time.
But the bite marks impressed the jury, which convicted Harward of capital murder. When an appeals court later reversed Harward’s conviction on technical grounds concerning the interpretation of Virginia’s death penalty statute, a new jury sentenced Harward to life in prison. Throughout the case’s long trek through the appeals system, the bite-mark testimony retained a tenacious hold on jurists. On appeal, the Virginia court said: “Both forensic dentists testified that all gross characteristics of spacing, width, and alignment of Harward’s teeth ‘fit on the money’ the photographs of bite marks.” Harward was released last year, aged sixty, after spending thirty-three years in prison. DNA testing cleared his name and definitively matched another person, Jerry L. Crotty, who died in prison in Ohio over a decade ago, while serving time for burglary and kidnapping. What went wrong? The dentists provided a story that fit what the prosecutors wanted—a conviction. “It’s just heartbreaking to think that more than half of his life was spent behind bars when he didn’t belong there,” state attorney general Mark Herring said after Harward’s release. “The Commonwealth can’t give him back those years, but we can say that we got it wrong, that we’re sorry and that we’re working to make it right.” But what, exactly, has been done to make it right? The attorney general and the courts all promptly released Harward. The State of Virginia will probably offer him compensation. But so far, Virginia law enforcement and prosecutors have not banned the use of unreliable forensics like bite-mark testimony, as the Texas Forensic Science Commission has done.".........Meanwhile, scientists and researchers have started to make strides to improve forensics and how they are used in courtrooms. But as the White House report concluded, this isn’t a question of mere incremental tinkering. The present, scandalously unreliable state of forensic inquiry is unlikely to change unless and until the relevant pseudo-authorities are held truly accountable for the consequences of their actions. “They weren’t looking for the truth. They were looking for a conviction,” Keith Harward said after he was exonerated. No one could be bothered to listen to Harward during his 1982 trial, when it counted most for him. It is high time that we heed the lesson of his ordeal now. [*] You can read this testimony in an online archive I’ve constructed at convictingtheinnocent.com."

The entire commentary can be found at:

 https://thebaffler.com/salvos/trials-and-errors-garrett

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.

Duane Buck: Texas: Catch-up: Houston Press: Supreme Court Gives Duane Buck a New Chance to Appeal His Death Sentence...""Duane Buck has long argued that a Harris County jury sentenced him to death by lethal injection partly because of racial prejudice after a psychologist called by his own attorney testified that Buck was more likely to commit more violent crimes because he is black. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Buck, the Houston man who brutally murdered his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend in 1995, may continue to appeal his death sentence. "

 
STORY: "Supreme Court Gives Duane Buck a New Chance to Appeal His Death Sentence," by reporter Dianna Wray, published by The Houston Press on February 22, 2017. (Dianna Wray, a nationally award-winning journalist, is a staff writer at the Houston Press. Born and raised in Houston, she writes about everything from NASA to oil to horse races.)


http://www.houstonpress.com/news/supreme-court-gives-duane-buck-a-new-chance-to-appeal-his-death-sentence-9220173

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Annie Dookhan: Massachusetts: Bulletin: Boston Globe Investigative reporter Shawn Musgrave reports that most drug cases handled by the former state chemist have been vacated as the saga nears its end........."District attorneys say their top priority in reviewing cases is public safety, and they might try to preserve some convictions under non-felony charges in lower courts if that means they can keep a violent offender behind bars. But prosecutors face a tough evidentiary burden to keep convictions in any cases handled by Dookhan. For all undismissed cases, the district attorneys must certify they could prove the defendant's guilt without using evidence that was tainted by Dookhan's dubious testing or testimony. That would be particularly difficult for older cases in which drug samples were destroyed years ago, or cases where the defendant pleaded guilty only after receiving results from Dookhan's analysis. All defendants whose convictions remain in place must be notified by mid-May, under the SJC's order." March 25, 2017.

Most drug cases handled by former state chemist Annie Dookhan have been vacated as case nears end - The Boston Globe
"The vast majority of drug cases potentially tainted by former state chemist Annie Dookhan will be vacated by mid-April, with just a few hundred convictions out of 24,000 remaining on the books, according to district attorneys. The prosecutors have been working on a 90-day deadline issued in January by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to produce shortened lists of Dookhan convictions they believe must stay in place and are getting close to concluding......... Dookhan, who was responsible for testing drugs in about 40,000 cases at the former Hinton laboratory in Jamaica Plain from 2003 to 2012, admitted to more than two dozen charges of tampering with evidence and fabricating results. She served three years in prison, for perjury and evidence-tampering, before she was released on parole last year. Since Dookhan's misconduct came to light in 2012, defense advocates have called for erasing convictions in any case she touched. They argued that the scale of her tampering made case-by-case appeals unworkable because the process would require far too many public defenders.  The January SJC ruling pushed prosecutors toward dismissing Dookhan cases in bulk, but declined to wipe all defendants' slates clean. The court gave DAs in all seven districts an April 18 deadline to determine which convictions to dismiss and which to keep. The court made clear that prosecutors were to "reduce substantially" the number of defendants who might challenge their convictions because of Dookhan's crimes. It is not the "global" dismissal defense advocates sought, but some said they were pleased that as many as 95 percent or more of Dookhan cases may be vacated. "Even the possibility that this might happen means that anyone who cares about criminal justice in Massachusetts ought to be paying attention to April 18," said Matthew Segal, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, whose clients' lawsuit led to the SJC ruling. The court reserved the right in its ruling to dismiss additional cases if the prosecutors do not dismiss enough cases.........The unanswered questions are which convictions will remain in effect and whether individual Dookhan defendants with standing cases will appeal in court. According to one data analysis conducted by the ACLU of Massachusetts and cited by the SJC, a majority of Dookhan defendants were convicted on drug possession charges alone. Approximately 90 percent of convictions were misdemeanors or minor felonies for which defendants had already served their time, that data indicated. District attorneys say their top priority in reviewing cases is public safety, and they might try to preserve some convictions under non-felony charges in lower courts if that means they can keep a violent offender behind bars. But prosecutors face a tough evidentiary burden to keep convictions in any cases handled by Dookhan. For all undismissed cases, the district attorneys must certify they could prove the defendant's guilt without using evidence that was tainted by Dookhan's dubious testing or testimony. That would be particularly difficult for older cases in which drug samples were destroyed years ago, or cases where the defendant pleaded guilty only after receiving results from Dookhan's analysis. All defendants whose convictions remain in place must be notified by mid-May, under the SJC's order."

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Dean Christopher Roberts: British Columbia: Courthouse news presents a 'murder case involving “uncharted territory” in Canadian law' - a British Columbia man convicted of killing his family in 1995 (following a confession obtained during a 'Mr. Big sting operation') claims that prosecutors are denying his legal team access to evidence for DNA testing that may prove his innocence..."“In other countries, there is authority, there are statutes or policies about post-conviction disclosure and DNA testing,” Campbell said. “In Canada, we don’t have very much legal authority in this area, so that’s why this case is so interesting. It’s kind of uncharted territory in this country.” Use of the Mr. Big sting and scanty physical evidence puts the conviction on shaky ground, Campbell said. Though Roberts appealed unsuccessfully in 1997, Campbell added. Mr. Big stings can produce dubious confessions. “Because of the tactics and the very strong incentives that are offered during these Mr. Big investigations, it can lead to confessions that may be unreliable, so that’s why they’re controversial. And this was one of the early Mr. Big cases in British Columbia, so it’s one of the first of its kind, and I think they do things differently now than they did back in those days,” Campbell added. “In this case, the conviction was based mainly on a Mr. Big confession. There was very little evidence other than the Mr. Big confession.”


STORY: "DNA murder case charts new ground," by reporter Darryl Greer, published by Courthouse News on March 24, 2017;

GIST: "In a murder case involving “uncharted territory” in Canadian law,  Dean Christopher Roberts was convicted in 1995 of the July 1994 murders of his wife and infant sons in the small community of Cranbrook in Southeastern British Columbia. In his March 17 petition to the British Columbia Supreme Court, Roberts asks the court to order the province’s attorney general to make exhibits from his case available for testing, including a cigarette butt found near the body of his son Josiah, fingernail clippings from the body of his wife Susan, ropes found on the necks of Josiah and Susan, and bags near where their bodies were found. Roberts’ conviction rested upon a confession made to undercover police officers in a controversial “Mr. Big” sting, where police pose as high-level underworld crime figures who goad suspects into admitting past criminal conduct, according to the 6-page petition. Roberts’ attorney Jeffrey Campbell told Courthouse News in a phone interview that case law involving post-conviction testing of evidence is scant in Canada. “In other countries, there is authority, there are statutes or policies about post-conviction disclosure and DNA testing,” Campbell said. “In Canada, we don’t have very much legal authority in this area, so that’s why this case is so interesting. It’s kind of uncharted territory in this country.” Use of the Mr. Big sting and scanty physical evidence puts the conviction on shaky ground, Campbell said. Though Roberts appealed unsuccessfully in 1997, Campbell added. Mr. Big stings can produce dubious confessions. “Because of the tactics and the very strong incentives that are offered during these Mr. Big investigations, it can lead to confessions that may be unreliable, so that’s why they’re controversial. And this was one of the early Mr. Big cases in British Columbia, so it’s one of the first of its kind, and I think they do things differently now than they did back in those days,” Campbell added. “In this case, the conviction was based mainly on a Mr. Big confession. There was very little evidence other than the Mr. Big confession.”"

The entire  story can be found at:

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.



The Norfolk Four: Virginia; Eric Wilson; Danial Williams; Joseph Dick; Derek Tice: A fascinating read: John E. Reid & Associates asks, "Why did the Norfolk Four confess?" in an 'Investigative Tip' published following the explosive 2010 Frontline exposé of police interrogation tactics used in the investigation.


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: In light of Virginia  Governor Terry McAuliffe's recent grant of absolute pardons to the former sailors known as the 'Norfolk Four' I was intrigued to find an educational  'Investigative Tip' published by John E. Reid & Associates after broadcast of an  explosive PBS Frontline documentary in 1910. Reid concludes:  "The lesson from the Norfolk Four is clear: threatening a suspect with inevitable consequences  (the death penalty) has no place in a properly conducted interrogation." That's a no-brainer to me. From a perspective of what we know about the causes of false confessions in 2017, I disagree with the place where Reid  draws the line on permissable interrogation tactics when he writes: "Why did the Norfolk Four confess? These suspects were adults suffering from no diminished mental capacity and were not deprived of basic biological needs. The length of the interrogations (8-11 hours) were substantial, but not so long as to automatically cause a false confession. This is especially true considering that, reportedly, more than an hour was spent in prepping the suspects to give an audio-taped confession that was consistent with the current police theory. Lying to a suspect about failing a polygraph examination certainly would not cause an innocent suspect to confess. While the interrogator was described as intense, tenacious and unrelenting this, in and of itself, would not be apt to cause an innocent person to confess." That's my view. Why not read the entire 'Investigative' at the link below and send me your comments at hlevy15@gmail.com.

Harold Levy; Publisher. The Charles Smith Blog.

INVESTIGATOR TIP: "The Danger of Threatening Inevitable Consequences During an Interrogation," published by  John E. Reid & Associates, in March/April 2011;

CREDIT AND PERMISSION STATEMENT: "Permission is hereby granted to those who wish to share or copy this article. In those instances, the following Credit Statement must be included "This Investigator Tip was developed by John E. Reid and Associates Inc. 800-255-5747 / www.reid.com." Inquiries regarding Investigator Tips should be directed to Janet Finnerty jfinnerty@reid.com."

GIST: (This statement runs unedited in its entirety); "A recent Frontline episode dealt with interrogation techniques and false confessions.1 The presented case involved the 1997 rape and murder of Michelle Bosko from Norfolk, VA. The following is a synopsis of facts as reported by Frontline: The victim's husband, who was a sailor in the navy, discovered her body and sought help from the next door neighbor, a fellow sailor named Daniel Williams, who then contacted the police. While the husband had an air-tight alibi, suspicion focused on Williams. Therefore, they asked him to come to the station for a voluntary interview which eventually turned into an 11 hour interrogation. During the interrogation, Williams was administered a polygraph examination which he was falsely told indicated deception. After being threatened with the death penalty, Williams confessed to the rape and murder to avoid execution. In his initial confession he stated that he struck the victim with a shoe and beat her to death. Following the autopsy it was determined that the victim died from stab wounds and strangulation. Williams was re-interrogated and, after the detective revealed the victim's actual cause of death, gave a second confession consistent with the autopsy findings. Four months later, the crime lab determined that Williams' DNA did not match crime scene evidence. Rather than doubt the integrity of Williams' confession, the police were convinced that there must have been another perpetrator. Williams was again interrogated and threatened with the death penalty if he did not name his accomplice. He named Joseph Dick Jr., a fellow sailor who was given a polygraph examination which he purportedly failed, and threatened with the death penalty if he continued to lie. Believing that he would be exonerated based on DNA evidence, Dick confessed to helping Williams rape and murder Michelle Bosko. When the DNA analysis came back negative, Dick thought charges against him would be dropped. Instead, the investigator was convinced that there must have been a third person involved in the crime. By this time Dick was represented by council who was convinced, based on Dick's confession, that his client must be guilty. The defense attorney recommended that Dick cooperate with the police to avoid the death penalty. Dick provided the name of another accomplice, Derek Tice, who was subjected to lengthy interrogations (after his request for an attorney was ignored) and threatened with the death penalty. Like the others, Tice confessed. However, the crime scene DNA did not match Tice so he was re-interrogated to find out who else was involved in the crime. Tice selected the photo of a sailor named Eric Wilson who also was persuaded to confess, but whose DNA also did not match the crime scene. This cycle was repeated until eventually seven sailors were named as being involved in the murder of Michelle Bosko. Despite the fact that none of the seven defendants' DNA matched crime scene evidence, all were charged with the rape and murder. During the course of the trials, Dick backed out of a plea bargain, and refused to offer testimony against the latter three defendants. Because his confession and testimony was the only evidence implicating these defendants, charges against them were dropped. Before the first of the four remaining trials began, a woman approached the police with a letter she received from an inmate named Omar Ballard. Ballard was serving time for beating a woman in the same apartment complex where Michelle Bosko lived, and raping a 14-year-old girl two miles from Bosko's apartment complex. In the letter, Ballard confessed to killing Michelle Bosko. Ballard was questioned by police and, in a short period of time, confessed that he alone raped and murdered Ms. Bosko. Ballard's DNA matched the crime scene DNA. The prosecution had to either acknowledge that the police obtained four false confessions or somehow attempt to reconcile all of the evidence, which is the path they chose. The theory presented at trial was that the seven sailors wanted to rape and murder Ms. Bosko but couldn't get into her apartment so they approached a stranger, Omar Ballard who agreed to get them into her apartment and commit the crime with them. As part of a plea agreement Joe Dick testified against Eric Wilson and Derek Tice, both of whom were found guilty and sentenced to 81/2 years and life in prison respectfully. After realizing the futility of persuading a jury that their confessions were false, Williams and Dick both plead guilty and received life sentences. In 2007, after reviewing legal appeals, the Virginia Governor granted conditional pardons to Williams, Dick and Tice (Wilson had already been paroled). A team of attorneys is still working to clear the names of what the media has called the "Norfolk Four." If the information presented by Frontline is accurate, certainly there is a high probability that these four confessions are false. Why did the Norfolk Four confess? These suspects were adults suffering from no diminished mental capacity and were not deprived of basic biological needs. The length of the interrogations (8-11 hours) were substantial, but not so long as to automatically cause a false confession. This is especially true considering that, reportedly, more than an hour was spent in prepping the suspects to give an audio-taped confession that was consistent with the current police theory. Lying to a suspect about failing a polygraph examination certainly would not cause an innocent suspect to confess. While the interrogator was described as intense, tenacious and unrelenting this, in and of itself, would not be apt to cause an innocent person to confess. The other tactic common to each interrogation was that these four suspects were threatened with an inevitable consequence -- each of these suspects reported that he confessed to avoid the death penalty. The standard rule of thumb relating to improper interrogation techniques is that the investigator should not offer the suspect any threats or promises. In this context, threats are often thought of as threats of physical harm, isolation or deprivation of biological needs. There is, however, a much more powerful threat that can be made during an interrogation -- threatening the suspect with inevitable consequences. These four suspects were offered the most potent threat possible - the threat of death i.e., "If you continue to lie about this you will die. Do you want to die? That's what will happen if you continue to tell me you didn't do this". This was then coupled with the promise of life, i.e.., "I can help you out on this thing. If you tell me the truth I will work it out so you will not face the death penalty. You will be able to live." Who in their right mind wouldn't accept life over death? When an innocent suspect is convinced that he is helpless to avoid consequences of a crime (a long prison sentence, having children placed in foster homes, being deported to a foreign country, having a license or certificate revoked, etc.) this suspect will do anything in an effort to reduce those perceived consequences. As illustrated by this case, when threatened with inevitable consequences, innocent suspects will not only confess, but adjust their confession to please the interrogator (Dick offered seven different statements) and testify against defendants the suspect knows are innocent. Concepts within the Reid Technique have been criticized under the guise of threatening inevitable consequences. Specifically, interrogating a suspect on the presumption of guilt, discouraging denials from surfacing and the use of an alternative question, e.g., "Did you plan this out for months in advance, or did it just happen on the spur of the moment?" These criticisms are baseless. Expressing high confidence in a person's guilt certainly would not motivate an innocent person to believe that it would be in his best interest to falsely confess. Rather, the innocent person would be motivated to more strongly maintain his innocence or terminate the interrogation. Similarly, discouraging a suspect from voicing denials will cause the typical innocent suspect to become more forceful in their denials or terminate the interrogation, not to believe that because the interrogator is not accepting their denial that it would somehow be in their best interest to confess. Finally, it has been argued that the alternative question forces the innocent suspect to incriminate himself. Nothing could be further from the truth. A suspect always has a third choice which is to reject the alternative question and maintain his innocence. None of the tactics or techniques within the Reid Technique would cause an innocent person to believe that they would benefit by offering a false confession. However, this is not the case when a suspect is threatened with inevitable consequences, which is why we are adamantly opposed to this interrogation tactic. The case involving the Norfolk Four was rife with failures within the criminal justice system. The police department was negligent in allowing the detective, who had a reputation for unethical practices, to conduct these interrogations. The detective was eventually convicted of multiple counts of extortion and lying to federal law enforcement agents. The prosecutor stubbornly refused to acknowledge that four uncorroborated confessions were probably false. A defense attorney failed to challenge a confession his client claimed was false because of coercion. The prosecution's primary case was built on confessions and testimony from individuals who were motivated to avoid the death penalty. Interestingly, when the prosecutor offered Ballard a deal to avoid the death penalty if he testified that the other four defendants committed the crime with him, he refused. The lesson from the Norfolk Four is clear: threatening a suspect with inevitable consequences has no place in a properly conducted interrogation.'

The entire 'Investigation Tip' can be found at:

http://www.reid.com/educational_info/r_tips.html?serial=1299080308558447

See previous post for the PBS Outfront introduction to the 2010 documentary, at the site below; "Eight men charged. Five confessions. But only one DNA match. Why would four innocent men confess to a brutal crime they didn't commit? In The Confessions, FRONTLINE producer Ofra Bikel (Innocence Lost, An Ordinary Crime) investigates the conviction of four men -- current and former sailors in the U.S. Navy -- for the rape and murder of a Norfolk, Va., woman in 1997. In the first television interviews with the "Norfolk Four" since their release, Bikel learns of some of the high-pressure police interrogation techniques -- the threat of the death penalty, sleep deprivation, intimidation -- that led each of the men to confess, despite the lack of any evidence linking them to the crime. Twenty-five-year-old Danial Williams, married for 11 days, was the first to be arrested for the rape and murder of Michelle Bosko. He tells FRONTLINE how he came to confess after 11 hours of interrogation: "Being in a small room, and you have a person sitting over across the table from you that's getting in your face, yelling at you, calling you a liar, poking you in the chest with their finger, and then turns around and says, 'Well, I can help you if you tell me the truth,'" Williams explains. "It went on and on and on throughout the night, with them calling me a liar, telling me I needed to tell the truth. And I kept telling them: 'I am telling you the truth. I didn't do it.' I kept telling them over and over. ... I should have stood my ground." Instead, Williams gave the Norfolk police detectives a confession. And when that confession proved inconsistent with the forensic evidence, detectives went back to him for an additional confession that better fit the facts. And Williams, once again, gave it to them. He got a court-appointed lawyer. "No one in Virginia believes that you confess to a murder you didn't commit; no one believes it," says Danny Shipley, Williams' attorney. "And to be quite frank with you, when you approach a case, ... [the death penalty] changes everything. All your decisions that you make are guided by the fact that, if you make the wrong decision, you make the wrong call, your client is dead." Williams' DNA failed to match the DNA at the crime scene, but that didn't save him. Police picked up Williams' roommate, Joe Dick, and began another interrogation. "They started asking me where I was when this happened, and I told them that I was on the ship," Dick said. But Dick's interrogation was conducted by one of Norfolk's most formidable detectives, Robert Glenn Ford, who had a reputation for getting confessions. "Ford's saying I'm lying," Dick tells FRONTLINE. "He's starting to get ticked off. He's raising his voice. He keeps coming back with: 'We know you were there. We can prove you were there. You can get the death penalty.' I kept denying it. We went and did a polygraph. He comes back with the results, and he says I'm still lying, that I failed the polygraph. ... Eventually I'd had enough of him, and I just wanted to tell him anything to get him off my back and to shut him up. I was tired; emotionally, mentally worn down." He gave a confession. Then, confused by police theories and interrogations, Dick started to believe in his own guilt. He implicated another sailor, Eric Wilson, who also confessed. In the end, four men would confess to the rape and murder of Michelle Bosko and another three would be arrested before an eighth man, a convicted rapist named Omar Ballard, was found to be the only DNA match for the Bosko murder. Ballard confessed to the rape and murder of Michelle Bosko, and said that he did it alone -- a statement that fit the forensic facts. But with seven other people already in jail, the police and prosecution refused to change course. Instead, they presented a new theory of the crime in which Ballard met the group outside, and all eight men committed gang rape and murder. From an initial theory of one assailant, namely Danial Williams, the prosecution theory now involved eight, including Ballard. In a recent interview from prison, Ballard tells FRONTLINE that police pressured him to say the other men participated in the crime with him, a statement that he says was not true. "It was made clear from the jump that unless I said somebody else was with me, that it wasn't going to be the truth," Ballard says. "The only truth they wanted to hear [was] that I did it with someone else." "Even when there's other evidence of innocence, the confession overrides that evidence. People ignore, jurors ignore that evidence," says law professor Richard Leo, who has studied false confessions. "If they were rational, objective, fair-minded police and prosecutors, they would have let everybody else go. But they couldn't admit what was so obvious: [that] they made a mistake, a big mistake. Four people had been interrogated coercively, confessed to a crime they didn't commit, and instead of acknowledging that mistake and these individuals' innocence, they tried to link Omar Ballard to these individuals. They tried to make it a group crime." All four sailors are now out of prison -- one served his sentence, and the other three were granted conditional pardons last summer, after some 11 years in prison. But the men were not exonerated as felons or sex offenders. "I basically built myself a new cell, my bedroom, ... because that's where I'm safe," Derek Tice, another of the Norfolk Four, tells FRONTLINE. "All I did was trade one cell for another." Earlier this summer, Detective Glenn Ford was indicted for extorting money from defendants in exchange for getting them a favorable treatment. He was tried in U.S. District Court in Norfolk and took the stand in his own defense. On Oct. 27, 2010 Ford was found guilty on two of four extortion charges and one charge of lying to the FBI. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 25, 2011."
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/the-confessions/

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

Friday, March 24, 2017

Norfolk Four: Virginia; Eric Wilson; Danial Williams; Joseph Dick; Derek Tice: 'The Confessions': Read the PBS introduction and see the entire video of producer Ofra Bikel's Frontline documentary 'The Confessions' broadcast on November 9, 2010. (It's especially relevant in light of the Virginia Governor's decision earlier this week to pardon all four men. HL)


INTRODUCTION TO THE FRONTLINE  DOCUMENTARY 'THE CONFESSIONS" BROADCAST ON NOVEMBER 9, 2010:  Eight men charged. Five confessions. But only one DNA match. Why would four innocent men confess to a brutal crime they didn't commit? In The Confessions, FRONTLINE producer Ofra Bikel (Innocence Lost, An Ordinary Crime) investigates the conviction of four men -- current and former sailors in the U.S. Navy -- for the rape and murder of a Norfolk, Va., woman in 1997. In the first television interviews with the "Norfolk Four" since their release, Bikel learns of some of the high-pressure police interrogation techniques -- the threat of the death penalty, sleep deprivation, intimidation -- that led each of the men to confess, despite the lack of any evidence linking them to the crime. Twenty-five-year-old Danial Williams, married for 11 days, was the first to be arrested for the rape and murder of Michelle Bosko. He tells FRONTLINE how he came to confess after 11 hours of interrogation: "Being in a small room, and you have a person sitting over across the table from you that's getting in your face, yelling at you, calling you a liar, poking you in the chest with their finger, and then turns around and says, 'Well, I can help you if you tell me the truth,'" Williams explains. "It went on and on and on throughout the night, with them calling me a liar, telling me I needed to tell the truth. And I kept telling them: 'I am telling you the truth. I didn't do it.' I kept telling them over and over. ... I should have stood my ground." Instead, Williams gave the Norfolk police detectives a confession. And when that confession proved inconsistent with the forensic evidence, detectives went back to him for an additional confession that better fit the facts. And Williams, once again, gave it to them. He got a court-appointed lawyer. "No one in Virginia believes that you confess to a murder you didn't commit; no one believes it," says Danny Shipley, Williams' attorney. "And to be quite frank with you, when you approach a case, ... [the death penalty] changes everything. All your decisions that you make are guided by the fact that, if you make the wrong decision, you make the wrong call, your client is dead." Williams' DNA failed to match the DNA at the crime scene, but that didn't save him. Police picked up Williams' roommate, Joe Dick, and began another interrogation. "They started asking me where I was when this happened, and I told them that I was on the ship," Dick said. But Dick's interrogation was conducted by one of Norfolk's most formidable detectives, Robert Glenn Ford, who had a reputation for getting confessions. "Ford's saying I'm lying," Dick tells FRONTLINE. "He's starting to get ticked off. He's raising his voice. He keeps coming back with: 'We know you were there. We can prove you were there. You can get the death penalty.' I kept denying it. We went and did a polygraph. He comes back with the results, and he says I'm still lying, that I failed the polygraph. ... Eventually I'd had enough of him, and I just wanted to tell him anything to get him off my back and to shut him up. I was tired; emotionally, mentally worn down." He gave a confession. Then, confused by police theories and interrogations, Dick started to believe in his own guilt. He implicated another sailor, Eric Wilson, who also confessed. In the end, four men would confess to the rape and murder of Michelle Bosko and another three would be arrested before an eighth man, a convicted rapist named Omar Ballard, was found to be the only DNA match for the Bosko murder. Ballard confessed to the rape and murder of Michelle Bosko, and said that he did it alone -- a statement that fit the forensic facts. But with seven other people already in jail, the police and prosecution refused to change course. Instead, they presented a new theory of the crime in which Ballard met the group outside, and all eight men committed gang rape and murder. From an initial theory of one assailant, namely Danial Williams, the prosecution theory now involved eight, including Ballard. In a recent interview from prison, Ballard tells FRONTLINE that police pressured him to say the other men participated in the crime with him, a statement that he says was not true. "It was made clear from the jump that unless I said somebody else was with me, that it wasn't going to be the truth," Ballard says. "The only truth they wanted to hear [was] that I did it with someone else." "Even when there's other evidence of innocence, the confession overrides that evidence. People ignore, jurors ignore that evidence," says law professor Richard Leo, who has studied false confessions. "If they were rational, objective, fair-minded police and prosecutors, they would have let everybody else go. But they couldn't admit what was so obvious: [that] they made a mistake, a big mistake. Four people had been interrogated coercively, confessed to a crime they didn't commit, and instead of acknowledging that mistake and these individuals' innocence, they tried to link Omar Ballard to these individuals. They tried to make it a group crime." All four sailors are now out of prison -- one served his sentence, and the other three were granted conditional pardons last summer, after some 11 years in prison. But the men were not exonerated as felons or sex offenders. "I basically built myself a new cell, my bedroom, ... because that's where I'm safe," Derek Tice, another of the Norfolk Four, tells FRONTLINE. "All I did was trade one cell for another." Earlier this summer, Detective Glenn Ford was indicted for extorting money from defendants in exchange for getting them a favorable treatment. He was tried in U.S. District Court in Norfolk and took the stand in his own defense. On Oct. 27, 2010 Ford was found guilty on two of four extortion charges and one charge of lying to the FBI. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 25, 2011."
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/the-confessions/

THE VIDEO:

http://www.pbs.org/video/1637166286/

See the Frontline story on the recent pardon: "The pardon brings to a close a 20-year legal battle that brought national attention to the issue of false confessions. The four men were all arrested within a year of 18-year-old Moore-Bosko’s murder, sentenced and kept in prison, despite DNA evidence linking another man to the crime. Danial Williams, Joe Dick Jr., Eric Wilson and Derek Tice have maintained for years that they falsely confessed to the crime following hours of intimidating police interrogations. Williams was the first of the four to be arrested, after a friend of the victim indicated to police that they should take a closer look at him. He was charged with rape and murder less than 24 hours after Moore-Bosko’s body was found. He confessed to the crimes after more than 11 hours of questioning. “It was just unimaginable to myself at that point, but I had confessed,” Williams told FRONTLINE in the 2010 investigation of the case, The Confessions. A detective named Robert Glenn Ford interrogated Williams, and eventually, the other three men. Ford was later found guilty of two counts of extortion and one count of lying to the FBI in separate cases, and sentenced to 12-and-a-half years in prison. “Ford is a very intimidating person,” Williams said in The Confessions. “He’s not a big person, but he’s like a bulldog. Once he gets his teeth into you, he doesn’t stop until he gets what he wants from you.” Despite lacking any evidence connecting Williams to the crime, the Norfolk police developed a theory that he was one of several men involved. Soon Dick, Wilson and Tice would also be arrested and interrogated, resulting in more confessions they said were coerced under intense pressure. Tice said Ford kept “leaning towards me, yelling at me, calling me a liar, telling me I was going to die.” He asked for a lawyer, but never got to talk to one in the 11 hours before he confessed. When asked why he would confess to a crime he had no part in, Tice recalled how Ford kept telling him he was going to die for lying. “After the nine hours, my thinking was my only options are to tell him a lie, tell him what he wants to hear and live, or keep telling the truth and die.” (Watch the men discuss their interrogations in the below clip from The Confessions, which was written, produced and directed by Ofra Bikel). In 1999, a prison inmate named Omar Ballard admitted in a letter to a friend that he committed the crime. His DNA matched evidence found at the crime scene, and the next year, he pleaded guilty to the rape and murder and admitted to acting alone."
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/norfolk-four-pardoned-20-years-after-false-confessions/

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

Chris Tapp; Idaho; Post-Register Reporter Bryan Clark provides an excellent perspective on Tapp's dealhat would let him out of prison but leave a murder conviction on his record through an interview with Prof. Steve Drizin (currently representing Brendan Dassey) - and an analogy with The Memphis Three..."In an interview, Tapp said he made his decision because there were just too many “what ifs.” What if the expert testimony didn’t produce enough evidence to prove his innocence? What if they won but prosecutors appealed the case? Would he get out during the appeal or remain in prison? “Is there going to be enough?” Tapp said. “If there’s not then I’m stuck in a box.” And to Drizin, that underlines a major problem with the criminal justice system. “People plead guilty to crimes they did not commit because they lack faith in the ability of our justice system to accept the truth,” Drizin wrote. “It’s a sad commentary on the state of our system; in fact, it is an indictment of our system.” “It’s the worst choice to face as an innocent person,” Baldwin said.


STORY: "Member of West Memphis Three speaks about Tapp deal," by reporter  Bryan Clark, published by The Post-Register on March 23,2017.

GIST: "When professor Steve Drizin learned that Chris Tapp had taken a deal that would let him out of prison but leave a murder conviction on his record, he took to Facebook to share his thoughts. “Make no mistake. It’s a bittersweet day,” he wrote. Drizin is one of the nation’s foremost wrongful conviction attorneys, the former head of the Center on Wrongful Convictions and assistant dean of the Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law. Several of his clients have been exonerated. He currently represents Brendan Dassey, whose conviction was featured in the Netflix documentary series “Making a Murderer.” Drizin also investigated the Tapp case, producing a report focusing on evidence of a false confession. “I feel the same way I felt when Damien Echols and the West Memphis Three were released,” Drizin wrote on hearing of the deal. “It’s not a day to celebrate the justice system.” The West Memphis Three were a group of teenagers from West Memphis, Ark., who were convicted of a triple murder in 1994, about three years before Tapp’s conviction. The story of the three teens — Jason Baldwin, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Echols — was detailed in the three-part HBO documentary series “Paradise Lost.” Prosecutors told the jury that the three teens, misfits in their Bible Belt town with long hair and a taste for heavy metal music, had killed and mutilated three young children in a satanic ritual. Echols was sentenced to death. Baldwin and Misskelley got life in prison.........And for 18 years, the West Memphis Three stayed in prison, even as public pressure for their release mounted and some members of the victims’ families became convinced that the wrong men had been convicted. Then in 2011, new DNA testing was performed that excluded Baldwin, Misskelley and Echols. It instead matched two unidentified men, according to Reuters. Prosecutors came to the West Memphis Three with a deal. All three would take Alford pleas in which they maintain they are factually innocent but do not contest their convictions, and all three could get out of prison. All would give up the right to sue for compensation. All three had to take the deal, or none of them could get it. Baldwin was the most reluctant of the group. He wanted to fight the case until the end. He wanted to fight until his name was clear. “When the Alford plea was offered, I turned it down,” he said. “I thought, ‘It’s not justice for me. It’s not justice for my family. It’s not justice for those little boys that were murdered or their families. They deserve to know the truth.’” Then he began to understand what life was like for Echols on death row. While prison had initially been horrific for him, Baldwin said he had eventually been able to build a meaningful life. He worked in the prison school, helping to educate other prisoners. Most inside had come to believe his protestations of innocence, so he got respect and sympathy instead of beatings. But Echols didn’t have that. He was living in a coffin, Baldwin said, facing execution and watching the men near him make their final walk. Baldwin decided he had to take the deal. The West Memphis Three were never formally exonerated. “It was the worst decision in the world to make,” Baldwin said. “Time was slipping past. Our lives were being taken away from us. Take all of your memories from age 16 to 34 and replace them with prison and brutality.” The West Memphis Three were freed in 2011.........In an interview, Tapp said he made his decision because there were just too many “what ifs.” What if the expert testimony didn’t produce enough evidence to prove his innocence? What if they won but prosecutors appealed the case? Would he get out during the appeal or remain in prison? “Is there going to be enough?” Tapp said. “If there’s not then I’m stuck in a box.” And to Drizin, that underlines a major problem with the criminal justice system. “People plead guilty to crimes they did not commit because they lack faith in the ability of our justice system to accept the truth,” Drizin wrote. “It’s a sad commentary on the state of our system; in fact, it is an indictment of our system.” “It’s the worst choice to face as an innocent person,” Baldwin said."



Thursday, March 23, 2017

Norfolk Four: Virginia; Eric Wilson; Danial Williams; Joseph Dick; Derek Tice: The Virginian-Pilot asks why it took 20 years for justice to be done..."The four were judged guilty partially based on confessions they say were coerced by a Norfolk detective later found guilty of corruption in another case. It was one of the nation’s most infamous cases of wrongful convictions, and a textbook example of political and professional cowardice and misconduct. That the proper conclusion was reached only 20 years after the crime was committed raises unshakable questions about America’s justice system. It should also remind every American about the power of tenacious journalists and advocates — at this newspaper and all over the country — to correct egregious misdeeds, even if it takes time."



EDITORIAL: "After 20 years, justice for the Norfolk four,"  published by the Virginian-Pilot on March 22, 2017.


GIST: Four Norfolk men, all Navy veterans, served years in prison for a 1997 murder they didn’t commit. It’s a wrong Virginia can never fully right, but a pardon issued this week by Gov. Terry McAuliffe takes another step in the proper direction — one overdue from the commonwealth. The four were judged guilty partially based on confessions they say were coerced by a Norfolk detective later found guilty of corruption in another case. It was one of the nation’s most infamous cases of wrongful convictions, and a textbook example of political and professional cowardice and misconduct. That the proper conclusion was reached only 20 years after the crime was committed raises unshakable questions about America’s justice system. It should also remind every American about the power of tenacious journalists and advocates — at this newspaper and all over the country — to correct egregious misdeeds, even if it takes time. Here’s the story, drawn from a 2015 narrative by Pilot reporter Gary Harki on Hampton Roads’ 10 most infamous crimes, on the occasion of The Pilot’s 150th anniversary: “In 1997, 19-year-old Billy Bosko found his 18-year-old bride, Michelle Moore-Bosko, murdered in their Norfolk apartment. She had been raped, stabbed and strangled. “Police arrested eight men in the months that followed Moore-Bosko’s death. Charges against three were withdrawn. The other five were convicted — but four of them later maintained their innocence, insisting police had coerced their confessions. “The fifth man, Omar Ballard, later said he committed the crime alone; his DNA provided the only match to biological evidence. “Eric C. Wilson, a former Navy sailor, served nearly nine years in prison on a rape conviction. Danial Williams, Joseph Dick and Derek Tice were convicted of rape and murder and sentenced to life in prison.” The four “appealed their convictions, arguing that Norfolk police detective Robert Glenn Ford forced false confessions from them. In 2009, Gov. Tim Kaine granted partial pardons to Tice, Williams and Dick and released them from their life sentences. Wilson already was free.” As awful as it was that four men had spent their young adulthood suffering the horrors of prison for a crime they didn’t do, it’s worse to know it was the result of an unthinkable transgression. “In an unrelated case,” Harki wrote, “Ford was [sentenced] in February 2011 [for] taking money from drug dealers and other criminals in exchange for getting them favorable treatment in the court system. Ford told prosecutors and judges that those individuals had helped to solve murders, but several of them testified that they didn’t help Ford.” Ford was sentenced to 12½ years in prison, and his conduct while employed by the city has colored numerous convictions aside from those of the “Norfolk Four.” It is a stain, ugly and indelible, on the city’s criminal justice system. After “Kaine had stopped short of clearing their names,” The Washington Post reported Wednesday, “... the sailors continued to seek full pardons and freedom from being permanently classified as sex offenders. McAuliffe took that step Tuesday after a federal judge last year ruled that they were actually innocent.” That federal judge was involved because the Virginia Supreme Court had rejected appeals from three of the men. A fourth had his conviction erased in federal court. Mark that: It took the intervention of federal judges to ensure that justice was served in Virginia. That casts doubt about the quality of the commonwealth’s legal system and its willingness to correct itself. McAuliffe’s pardon was welcomed by the Norfolk Four in a statement released Tuesday. “I speak for all four of us in expressing our deepest thanks to Gov. McAuliffe, who has given us our lives back with these full pardons,” Wilson wrote, according to The Post."
The entire  editorial can be found at:

http://pilotonline.com/opinion/editorial/editorial-after-years-justice-for-the-norfolk-four/article_890f658f-2cc7-5939-9643-076bc5a7bc16.html

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;