Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Tiffant Valiante; New Jersey: (Atlantic County Press): Sub-standard police death investigations allegedly marked by ignored evidence and tainted by bias from the outset..."Valiante died in July 2015. She was hit by an NJ Transit train traveling 80 mph near Prague Avenue in Galloway Township after she left a cousin’s graduation party, according to court documents. Her death was ruled a suicide by the Medical Examiner’s Office, but the Valiante family has since disputed that. They suspect foul play. In July, Louise Houseman, a former investigator for the Atlantic County medical examiner, wrote an independent report claiming Valiante likely did not take her own life. “It is highly unlikely this very accomplished, 18-year-old female athlete walked barefoot, alone in the woods, without her cell phone, over stones and brush, in the dark, along 1.5 miles of isolated railroad tracks, on a hot summer night, for a total of nearly 4 miles in order to commit suicide,” Houseman wrote in her report. In his recent report, Jason said a basic tenet of death-scene investigations was violated: “Treat the location as a crime scene until assessed and determined to be otherwise.” He wrote there was no attempt to make a clear identification of the deceased through scientific methods other than DNA evidence, although that was never tested.Jason also wrote that in his opinion, “within reasonable medical certainty,” Valiante’s cause of death was undetermined. He wrote there was no attempt made to uncover any other means of death by the medical examiner."
PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "The victim may have been sleeping or already dead when struck by the train,” Jason wrote. He noted he had per...
Monday, March 19, 2018
Alfred Swinton: (3): Connecticut: Bite-mark analysis: Released last June after DNA testing exculpated him, and a forensic expert who testified at his trial recanted. Now the prestigious Connecticut Law Tribune is calling on Connecticut "to critically examine the ways in which forensic evidence can threaten the integrity of the criminal justice system—and how, in the process, we can look for answers..."At Swinton’s 2001 murder trial, the most damning evidence came from Gus Karazulas, the chief forensic dentist for the Connecticut State Police. Karazulas, who claimed to be an expert in analyzing bite marks, testified that bite marks found on the murder victim’s body had been made by Swinton. His opinion rejected any possibility of error; Karazulas testified, “I believe that with reasonable medical certainty without any reservation that these marks were created by [Swinton’s] teeth.” That sentence was quoted by the Connecticut Supreme Court in upholding Swinton’s conviction. Bite-mark analysis relies on two premises: first, that human dentition, like DNA, is entirely unique; and second, that human skin can record a dental impression with enough sensitivity to be accurately matched to an individual. The problem is that neither premise has been proved."
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: It is encouraging to see a prestigious law publication respond so powerfully to a miscarriage of justice. The Connect...
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Tennessee: Attemp to end public availability of autopsy reports; Bill seeking to keep autopsy reports secret will be modified. (Not good enough. This ill-advised measure destroys accountabilty of death investigators. A very dangerous, anti-democratic idea. This ill-advised bill should be flushed into the dust-bins of history. HL)..."It's understandable that some grieving families might not want the gruesome specifics of their loved ones' deaths plastered all over the media — but some other grieving families would never actually know what happened to their deceased relatives, as McElroy pointed out in his Sunday column: In 2015, News Sentinel reporter Jamie Satterfield used an autopsy report to disclose that a parolee was running away from a Knoxville police officer when shot. Authorities had said the officer was in a life-or-death struggle with the man. But the autopsy showed six gunshot wounds from behind, all but one from more than three feet away. The public won’t get to know that under Hensley and Smith's bill. Across the state and two decades earlier, Commercial Appeal reporter Marc Perrusquia used an autopsy report to reveal that a Memphis Police Department SWAT team shot a 7-year-old through the head during a botched raid at a public housing complex. Police had tried to cover up the incident. Such cover-ups will remain intact under Hensley and Smith's bill."
PASSAGE OF THE DAY: " In 2011, the nonprofit reporting organization ProPublica found more than three dozen cases in which n...
Saturday, March 17, 2018
Corey Williams. Back to Louisiana: From our 'Read this and weep' department..."The Supreme Court will soon decide whether to take up Williams’ case. Louisiana’s courts refused to grant him a new trial, with one judge asserting that the fact that the police themselves seemed to doubt that Williams was the murderer doesn’t matter because Williams “confessed.”
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: The Rodricus Crawford case was my introduction to Louisiana justice. Unbelievable. Prosecutor Dale Cox invoked Jesus ...
Friday, March 16, 2018
Freddie Lawrence and Paul Jenkins: Dramatic moment: Defence DNA expert says analytical tool called probabilistic genotyping clears both men conclusively - and points overwhelmingly to a third: David Nelson: Dramatic moment: Nelson was in the courtroom when Hampikian's delivered his dramatic evidence..Judge read him his rights, spoke to his court appointed lawyer, exercised his right to remain silent and left the courtroom without testifying..."
PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "David Wayne Nelson’s wife Eileen Nelson testified next. Eileen and David Wayne Nelson have been married for 24 y...
Thursday, March 15, 2018
U.S. National Registry of Exonerations annual report for 2017: (Part 2): It's "record-filled" says the Wrongful Conviction Blog's Nancy Petro..."The NRE annual report is always an instructive record of failed justice and the difficult work of those unwilling to let injustice stand. It humanizes, quantifies and sheds light on wrongful convictions and how they can be prevented. In spite of the long odds and costly investigative and legal resources required to prove innocence after conviction, the Registry today is reporting 2,182 exonerations since 1989. The Registry also released today a new report on exonerations occurring before 1989. The NRE’s 2017 annual report is another wake-up call for all Americans to make the changes necessary — criminal justice reforms and best practice implementation — to prevent wrongful convictions and deliver on our nation’s noble promise of justice for all."
PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "Sixty-six exonerations were in cases in which no crime was actually committed." STORY: "National Reg...
Radley Balko: The Watch: Sounds right out of Sherlock Holmes. The esteemed Washington Post columnist with a penchant for exposing "voodoo forensics" takes on 'The case of the bloody bolt cutters' - one of the example of flawed forensics he wasn't able to fit into his new book, co-written with Tucker Carrington, "The cadaver king and the country dentist - a true story of injustice in the American South."..."The evidence against the two men was overwhelming.........Still, despite all of that, prosecutors turned to Hayne and West. According to testimony West would later give at trial, he and Hayne suspected the bolt cutters had left some sort of impression on the hands of whoever had used them to kill Thrash. To test their hypothesis, they recruited a volunteer who worked at the morgue. West would later say that the morgue assistant walked outside with bolt cutters in hand, “rear[ed] back like a baseball bat,” swung, and hit either a “pine tree or a telephone pole” — West could’t remember which.The two forensic analysts then examined the volunteer’s hands, where they claimed to see some indentations made by the bolt cutters."
PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "There’s little doubt that the two men were guilty of the crimes they were accused of committing after their esc...