Saturday, September 23, 2017

Eric Kelly and Ralph Lee: New Jersey; False confessions: Star-Ledger sends powerful message to state's prosecutors: Agree to let these wrongfully convicted men out of prison; Star-Leger also sends a message to the state Attorney General: Step in and take over this reinvestigation; Editorial is headed: 'Passaic prosecutors made a mess of this murder case. Time for the AG to take over.' ..." Both men were convicted on false confessions, their lawyers say. Kelley, who suffered brain damage in a car accident, likely folded first; then detectives may have used what he said to lean on the second suspect, Lee. Their tales had glaring discrepancies. The blood and body were found in the back of the store, yet the men said the killing happened at the front. Police never recovered the knife used or the clothes they wore in a blood-soaked scene. They said it was a blitz attack, but a witness said a man in a green hat was browsing, pretending to be a customer. This isn't as unusual as it seems: As many as 1 out of 4 people exonerated by DNA testing falsely confessed, according to the Innocence Project. New Jersey should consider creating a permanent conviction review unit for situations like this, to separate reinvestigations from the players involved in original prosecutions, and ensure objectivity."


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: This Blog is interested in false confessions because of the disturbing number of exonerations in the USA, Canada and multiple other jurisdictions throughout the world, where, in the absence of incriminating forensic evidence the conviction is based on self-incrimination – and because of the growing body of  scientific research showing how vulnerable suspects    (especially juveniles)  are to widely used interrogation methods  such as  the notorious ‘Reid Technique.’

EDITORIAL:"Passaic prosecutors made a mess of this murder case: Time for the AG to take over," published by The Star-Ledger on September 22, 2017.

PHOTO CAPTION: "New DNA evidence prompts new trials for two men who have been jailed decades for murder. Eric Kelley and Ralph Lee say they were pressured to sign false confessions two decades ago."


GIST:  "The Innocence Project found stunning new DNA evidence from the scene of a 1993 murder in Paterson, exonerating two men who have served decades in state prison, and implicating an ex-con who is still on the loose. You might think that prosecutors in Paterson would be moved. But instead, they are fighting the release of the two men, even after a judge found that this new evidence "would probably change a jury's verdict if a new trial was granted," and called a detective's refusal to reconsider it "the best example of tunnel vision that one can imagine." For now, the wrongfully convicted men languish behind bars and the likely culprit - a man whose rap sheet includes an eerily similar knifepoint attack - remains free. And it only gets more outrageous. Because prosecutors refuse to even question this convicted felon whose DNA was discovered. They wouldn't talk to Eric Dixon to find out why his hat was found just feet from the body, investigate his other crimes or notify the victim's family. It was only thanks to the Innocence Project and Princeton-based Centurion ministries that a judge ordered the prosecutor's office to finally obtain Dixon's record from local police. That's how we learned how similar his prior knifepoint robbery in Paterson was to this crime, the stabbing of a young man minding his uncle's video store. Yet not only is this prosecutor's office, headed by Camelia Valdes, refusing to investigate Dixon, it's actually protecting him by making ludicrous claims in court - saying unequivocally in a legal brief that he did not commit this murder, without ever having spoken to him. That's not just tunnel vision. It's malpractice. It only makes it harder to ever bring the true killer to justice. Time for the state Attorney General, who has line authority over county prosecutors, to step in and take over this reinvestigation. The state Office of Attorney Ethics should also consider sanctions against Passaic prosecutors, who appear to be violating their oath here. A prosecutor's job is to seek justice, not just defend a conviction at all costs. And in the meantime, the least prosecutors can do is agree to let the wrongfully convicted men, Eric Kelley and Ralph Lee, out of prison. When Byron Halsey was cleared by new DNA in Union County, prosecutors let him out with reasonable conditions. Kelley and Lee have had to wait three years since this DNA discovery, on top of decades already served. Lee's health has deteriorated; he wasn't even well enough to come to court. Why is he still wallowing in prison instead of home with his family? Both men were convicted on false confessions, their lawyers say. Kelley, who suffered brain damage in a car accident, likely folded first; then detectives may have used what he said to lean on the second suspect, Lee. Their tales had glaring discrepancies. The blood and body were found in the back of the store, yet the men said the killing happened at the front. Police never recovered the knife used or the clothes they wore in a blood-soaked scene. They said it was a blitz attack, but a witness said a man in a green hat was browsing, pretending to be a customer. This isn't as unusual as it seems: As many as 1 out of 4 people exonerated by DNA testing falsely confessed, according to the Innocence Project. New Jersey should consider creating a permanent conviction review unit for situations like this, to separate reinvestigations from the players involved in original prosecutions, and ensure objectivity. When a young detective on this original case, Richard Reyes - still on the job - was recently asked in court if he would have investigated Dixon at the time if he knew his DNA matched the hat, he refused to say yes. Now the prosecutor's office is doubling down on that willful blindness. How is that justice for the wrongfully imprisoned, the true killer or the victim?"

The entire editorial can be found at:
http://www.nj.com/opinion/index.ssf/2017/09/passaic_prosecutors_made_a_mess_of_this_murder_cas.html

Clicking on the above link takes the reader not only to the editorial but to a link to a 'Special Report' headed: "They confessed: Will DNA free them?" Important read. HL.

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.







Austin Crime Lab. Texas. Austin Monitor: Austin’s crime lab failure points to a national crisis in the USA..."Local officials have stepped forward to address the problems with the Austin lab – committing $10 million and counting to the project by the end of 2018. But these measures may not be enough. Although DNA evidence seems objective, in reality, it is subject to the same biases that plague the rest of the U.S. criminal justice system. And getting to the root of these issues will require a national response."..."The forensics science community is working on giving the auditors more power, but, until then, the labs are only monitored using the informal guidelines in place. Until that happens, DNA evidence is far less objective than most people realize. A summary of the Austin crime lab audit from the Capital Area Private Defender Service emphasizes just how unreliable it can be. The report notes that labs are often working with incomplete, low-quality DNA from “grimy, chaotic crime scenes.” And then analysts must sort out who the DNA belongs to from several unknown individuals. The procedures the Austin lab was using led analysts to lean towards suspects already identified by police, instead of taking into account all possible suspects the DNA could point to. While this type of confirmation bias is particularly disturbing, analyzing DNA is often more subjective than it seems. This can be a particular problem when it comes to juries, who often have the impression that DNA evidence is infallible."



 QUOTE OF THE DAY: “When you mix police work and science, they don’t always speak the same language.”

EMILY LEBLANC.

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STORY: "Austin’s crime lab failure points to national crisis," bu Cate Malek, published by The Austin Monitor on September 19, 2017. (Thanks to CSI DDS  (Forensics in Focus) for bringing this story to our attention);

GIST: "The latest audit of the Austin Police Department’s crime lab would read as a comedy of errors, if the stakes weren’t so high. Some concerns in the report released last fall are simpler to fix – equipment failures or cross-contaminating evidence. Reading further though, the lab had flaws in many of its most fundamental operations. It was not only using scientifically unsound testing procedures, but its staff was often not even following those low standards. As disturbing as these revelations are, the Austin lab is not alone. Similar scandals have occurred in labs in major cities across the country, including neighboring Houston, as well as St. Paul, Detroit, New York and Philadelphia. In 2015, the FBI lab in Washington, D.C., was shut down after it admitted “that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence” over a period of 20 years, according to the Washington Post. Those trials included 32 death sentences. Local officials have stepped forward to address the problems with the Austin lab – committing $10 million and counting to the project by the end of 2018. But these measures may not be enough. Although DNA evidence seems objective, in reality, it is subject to the same biases that plague the rest of the U.S. criminal justice system. And getting to the root of these issues will require a national response. Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt has emphasized the need for “eyes on the system” operating underneath the belief that “sunshine is the best disinfectant.” In doing so, Eckhardt is pointing out one of the fundamental problems Austin will have going forward. While the city has taken on the responsibility to turn the lab around, local officials don’t have the scientific background to monitor forensic analysis. “When you mix police work and science, they don’t always speak the same language,” said Emily LeBlanc, a leading advocate for survivors of sexual assault in Austin who has been closely involved in reforming the DNA lab. In fact, the auditing agencies designated to watch the lab in the past missed the warning signs for almost a decade. Before 2016, the Austin lab had been passing audits with no problems. It was not until lab staff members defended their use of unsound testing procedures that the Texas Forensic Science Commission was alerted to the problems there and instigated a new audit. At their meeting on Aug. 18 of this year, members of the commission tried to understand how the Austin lab could have been passing its regular audits. Pamela Sale, vice president of ANAB, the national accrediting body that had been monitoring the lab, explained that the auditors had done nothing wrong during their past reviews of the lab’s work. “I know it’s going to sound shocking when I say it,” Sale said at the meeting. “But there were no non-conformities with our (auditing) process.” She went on to clarify that the auditing process could be improved, but that one of the issues is that there is no commonly agreed-upon set of standards that forensics labs around the country have to follow. Instead, there are informal guidelines that labs can choose to follow or not. Mike Coble, a DNA expert, clarified further. Coble works in the Applied Genetics Group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is responsible for setting national forensics testing guidelines and training crime labs to follow them. He said that while most of the labs around the country attempt to follow best practices, auditors don’t actually monitor their testing procedures. The only requirement auditors check on is whether the lab has a testing protocol. “The protocol could be excerpts from ‘Harry Potter,’” Coble said. Beyond that, the auditors “don’t have the teeth” to say whether the testing protocol is actually effective. The forensics science community is working on giving the auditors more power, but, until then, the labs are only monitored using the informal guidelines in place. Until that happens, DNA evidence is far less objective than most people realize. A summary of the Austin crime lab audit from the Capital Area Private Defender Service emphasizes just how unreliable it can be. The report notes that labs are often working with incomplete, low-quality DNA from “grimy, chaotic crime scenes.” And then analysts must sort out who the DNA belongs to from several unknown individuals.  The procedures the Austin lab was using led analysts to lean towards suspects already identified by police, instead of taking into account all possible suspects the DNA could point to. While this type of confirmation bias is particularly disturbing, analyzing DNA is often more subjective than it seems. This can be a particular problem when it comes to juries, who often have the impression that DNA evidence is infallible. “It’s extremely important to get (DNA evidence) right because people do watch too much ‘CSI’ and put a lot on that (evidence),” Eckhardt said. “If it’s not scientifically defensible that’s a big problem.” This is the second part in a series about Austin’s DNA Lab. Part One in the series is online here.

The entire story can be found at:

https://www.austinmonitor.com/stories/2017/09/austins-crime-lab-failure-points-national-crisis/

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, September 22, 2017

Brendan Dassey: Illlinois; False confessions; 'Making a murderer.'...Brendan Dassey faces crucial hearing Tuesday before federal appeals court, reports USA Today Network; Reporter Andy Thompson; September 22, 2017..."The key issue is whether detectives coerced a confession from Dassey, who was 16 at the time of Halbach’s murder, or if they acted within the scope of proper police procedure."



"Brendan Dassey’s lawyers have racked-up some monumental victories in the past 13 months. They laid the groundwork for a federal judge to overturn Dassey’s conviction in the 2005 murder of Teresa Halbach — a ruling that was later affirmed by a federal appeals panel. But there have been setbacks as well. Dassey’s attempts to be freed from prison on conditional bond were rebuffed and, more importantly, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago decided last month to re-hear the case, which was prominently featured in the Netflix docu-series “Making a Murderer.” Oral arguments will be held on Tuesday. The court’s ruling — which is a virtual lock to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court — could ultimately determine whether Dassey will be re-tried, released from prison, or serve out his life sentence. The key issue is whether detectives coerced a confession from Dassey, who was 16 at the time of Halbach’s murder, or if they acted within the scope of proper police procedure.  “The full court could go either way,” said former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske. On Aug. 12, 2016, U.S. Magistrate Judge William Duffin, who is based in Milwaukee, overturned Dassey’s conviction, ruling that investigators made “repeated false promises” that rendered his confession to the crime involuntary.  The Wisconsin Department of Justice appealed, and, on June 22, a three-judge panel at the Seventh Circuit affirmed Duffin’s ruling by a 2-1 margin.  But that didn't settle the issue. In early August, the Seventh Circuit granted a request by the state justice department to have the entire panel of judges rehear the case. It is known as an “en banc” review."

The entire story can be found at the link below:

http://www.postcrescent.com/story/news/2017/09/22/brendan-dassey-faces-crucial-hearing-tuesday-before-federal-appeals-court/676870001/?for-guid=b7fd3c24-69bc-e511-8eff-90b11c341ce0

False confessions: Nagee Green: New York: On-going trial: Bulletin: Cornell homicide retrial: prosecutor tells jury to connect the dots, defense says dots don't connect..."During opening statements Wednesday though, defense attorney Joseph Joch said there is no proof that Green wielded the knife that stabbed Nazaire. "We wouldn't be here if they (police investigators) hadn't spent three hours breaking Nagee down to the point where they got him to accept their theory that he must have inserted the knife into Anthony Nazaire ..." Joch pointed to several of the same elements from the last trial which likely lead to the jury deadlock of 10-2. He told jurors that the knife found at the crime scene did not have Nazaire's blood on it and pointed to the fact that nobody saw the stabbing happen. He also said that video evidence produced by the prosecution during the last trial does not show Green fighting with Nazaire."... The Ithaca Voice reports: Reporter Joenen Almendarez; September 21, 2017;

 
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: This Blog is interested in false confessions because of the disturbing number  of exonerations in the USA, Canada and multiple other jurisdictions throughout the world, where, in the absence of incriminating forensic evidence the conviction is based on self-incrimination – and because of the growing body of  scientific research showing how vulnerable suspects    (especially juveniles)  are to widely used interrogation methods  such as  the notorious ‘Reid Technique.’



Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog.



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

"After days of jury selection, opening statements for the Cornell homicide case started yesterday with a prosecutor calling for the jury to connect the dots for a conviction and the defense saying that there is no evidence that the defendant killed anyone. Nagee Green is on trial a second time after a jury was deadlocked over a murder charge against him in June. Green is accused of fatally stabbing Anthony Nazaire in the chest during a street brawl that broke out after a party at Cornell University on Aug. 28, 2016. Police arrived at the scene within minutes but Nazaire, an Ithaca College student from Brooklyn, died at the scene. Despite the deadlock on the second-degree murder charge, Green was convicted of first-degree assault for stabbing Rahiem Williams, another Ithaca College student involved in the brawl, multiple times in the back.  (Photo caption): Defense attorney Joseph Joch says there is no evidence to prove that Nagee Green killed Anthony Nazaire on Aug 28, 2016 during a street brawl at Cornell University.)    During opening statements Wednesday though, defense attorney Joseph Joch said there is no proof that Green wielded the knife that stabbed Nazaire. "We wouldn't be here if they (police investigators) hadn't spent three hours breaking Nagee down to the point where they got him to accept their theory that he must have inserted the knife into Anthony Nazaire ..." Joch pointed to several of the same elements from the last trial which likely lead to the jury deadlock of 10-2. He told jurors that the knife found at the crime scene did not have Nazaire's blood on it and pointed to the fact that nobody saw the stabbing happen. He also said that video evidence produced by the prosecution during the last trial does not show Green fighting with Nazaire. But prosecutor Eliza Filipowski said the video evidence — gathered primarily through short social media clips — is crucial to the case. One video clip shows Green wielding a knife as he swings it toward someone else during the fight. Filipowski points out that Green can be heard saying, "I kill out here," as he swings the knife, though the Joch argues that the audio in the video is too distorted to understand. She also described a second video clip where Green can be seen running toward Nazaire and Williams. The trial started again Thursday morning."
https://ithacavoice.com/2017/09/cornell-homicide-retrial-prosecutor-tells-jury-connect-dots-defense-says-dots-dont-connect/
  
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.




False Confessions (4): Eric Kelley; Ralph Lee: Major Development: New Jersey court vacates 1996 murder convictions based on DNA identifying another suspect...Innocence Project; Centurion Ministries..."Lawyers for Kelley and Lee presented witnesses at the earlier hearing who testified about the false confessions, a leading cause of wrongful convictions, contributing to more than 25 percent of the 351 DNA exonerations nationwide. A forensic psychologist evaluated Kelley and determined that he is “more suggestible than approximately 98 percent of the normal population,” making him vulnerable for making a false confession during custodial interrogation. A former detective who now specializes in police interrogations identified faults in the manner in which the men were questioned and pointed out discrepancies, contradictions and the lack of corroboration in the mens’ statements. In reversing the convictions today, the court said that “this is probably one of the best examples of tunnel vision one could imagine.” The court also addressed the false confessions, noting “During the trials and this motion, the State has relied heavily on the statements given by the defendants when they were initially arrested. However, history has shown many instances where false confessions are given and DNA has proven the defendant or defendants not guilty notwithstanding a confession.”


PUBLISHER’S NOTE: This Blog is interested in false confessions because of the disturbing number  of exonerations in the USA, Canada and multiple other jurisdictions throughout the world, where, in the absence of incriminating forensic evidence the conviction is based on self-incrimination – and because of the growing body of  scientific research showing how vulnerable suspects    (especially juveniles)  are to widely used interviewing methods  such as  the notorious ‘Reid Technique.’

Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog.

----------------------------------------------
STORY: "New Jersey Court Vacates 1996 Murder Convictions Based on DNA Identifying Another Suspect, published by The Innocence Project on September 15, 2017.

GIST: Today, a New Jersey Superior Court Judge vacated the 1996 felony murder and robbery convictions of Eric Kelley and Ralph Lee based on DNA evidence identifying another suspect.  It is now up to prosecutors to decide whether they will dismiss charges or retry the case. “With such compelling DNA evidence demonstrating Mr. Kelley and Mr. Lee’s innocence and pointing to the true assailant most prosecutors would have moved to overturn these convictions long ago,” said Vanessa Potkin, Post-Conviction Litigation Director at the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law.  “We are grateful for the court’s decision, which came after a year of hearing new evidence and argument and careful deliberation.” Kelley, represented by the Innocence Project, and Lee, represented by Centurion Ministries, were convicted of the 1993 murder of Tito Merino based largely on contradictory statements they made to police after the police took them into custody. At the Paterson detective bureau, the two were interrogated separately for several hours. Kelley, who suffers from significant cognitive impairments because of a brain injury from a car accident and has difficulties processing information, was interrogated first and allegedly admitted to the crime. Detectives admitted that they fed the information supplied by Kelley when interrogating Lee. The interrogations were not recorded and there are no notes of what occurred. The only evidence of the confessions are typewritten statements officers prepared that were signed by Kelley and Lee. Kelley allegedly told police where the knife used in the murder was hidden and where stolen property was fenced. However, the police were not able to corroborate the claims, and the purported confessions were contradicted by the crime scene evidence. Prior to their arrests, police were searching for one suspect in the murder of Merino, who was stabbed to death during the robbery of the Paterson video store where he worked. A green and purple plaid baseball hat that did not belong to anyone in the store and was not present prior to the murder was recovered near the victim’s body. Police submitted it for DNA testing believing it could help identify the killer, but DNA testing wasn’t as advanced then and the testing was inconclusive. The court ordered retesting of the hat in October 2010 over the prosecutor’s opposition. Male DNA was identified, excluding Kelley and Lee. The profile was entered into the FBI’s DNA database of convicted felons and matched to a man who matched to the age and physical description of the person a witness observed in the store around the time of the murder. Just three months prior to the crime, this man had been released from prison after serving three years for a similar knifepoint robbery of a nearby store. Lawyers for Kelley and Lee presented witnesses at the earlier hearing who testified about the false confessions, a leading cause of wrongful convictions, contributing to more than 25 percent of the 351 DNA exonerations nationwide.   A forensic psychologist evaluated Kelley and determined that he is “more suggestible than approximately 98 percent of the normal population,” making him vulnerable for making a false confession during custodial interrogation. A former detective who now specializes in police interrogations identified faults in the manner in which the men were questioned and pointed out discrepancies, contradictions and the lack of corroboration in the mens’ statements. In reversing the convictions today, the court said that “this is probably one of the best examples of tunnel vision one could imagine.”  The court also addressed the false confessions, noting “During the trials and this motion, the State has relied heavily on the statements given by the defendants when they were initially arrested.  However, history has shown many instances where false confessions are given and DNA has proven the defendant or defendants not guilty notwithstanding a confession.” Reacting to the decision, Potkin added, “We now know that the primary evidence used to convict Mr. Kelley and Mr. Lee is unreliable and objective scientific evidence points to their innocence.  We hope that the prosecutor’s office will move quickly to dismiss the charges and finally initiate an investigation into the person whose DNA was found at the crime scene.” Mr. Kelley remains incarcerated, but the Innocence Project will be making a bail application on his behalf in the coming days.  Meanwhile, the prosecution must now decide whether to dismiss the indictment or retry the case."



The entire story can be found at: 
https://www.innocenceproject.org/new-jersey-court-vacates-1996-murder-convictions-based-dna-identifying-another-suspect/?utm_source=Main+IP+Email+List&utm_campaign=de57688261-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_09_14_TonyWrightSite&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_016cb74fd6-de57688261-350264629

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.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Rodney Reed; Texas: Videotaped TV interview on "Death Row Stories" could make the difference between life and death for inmate who has already spent nearly two decades on Texas’ death row for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites, which he insists he didn’t commit, CNN reports..."A Texas court has allowed Reed and his attorneys to present their case before a judge next month. They plan to argue that a videotaped interview raises questions about the whereabouts of Stites’ then-fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, the night before her murder. Police identified Fennell — a former police officer who is currently in prison for rape — as a suspect during their investigation into Stites’ killing, but he was never charged. “If the facts that are alleged are proven, and in this case it’s essentially on video, then Mr. Reed is entitled to a new trial,” said Bryce Benjet, an Innocence Project attorney who is representing Reed. Reed and his attorneys have argued that forensic evidence linking Reed to the crime was the product of a hidden relationship between Reed and Stites."


STORY: "TV interview could help death row inmate," by CNN Wire, published by WGNO ABC posted by CNN on September 12, 2017.


GIST: "Rodney Reed has spent nearly two decades on Texas’ death row for the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites, which he insists he didn’t commit. Now, he may get a chance at a new trial. A Texas court has allowed Reed and his attorneys to present their case before a judge next month. They plan to argue that a videotaped interview raises questions about the whereabouts of Stites’ then-fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, the night before her murder. Police identified Fennell — a former police officer who is currently in prison for rape — as a suspect during their investigation into Stites’ killing, but he was never charged. “If the facts that are alleged are proven, and in this case it’s essentially on video, then Mr. Reed is entitled to a new trial,” said Bryce Benjet, an Innocence Project attorney who is representing Reed. Reed and his attorneys have argued that forensic evidence linking Reed to the crime was the product of a hidden relationship between Reed and Stites. During the investigation of the murder, Reed told police he had never met Stites, a statement he now says he made out of fear he’d be treated unfairly because Stites was engaged to a police officer. Fennell testified during Reed’s 1998 trial that he and Stites were home together at the apartment they shared the night of April 22, 1996. Fennell testified that he stayed up to watch TV when Stites went to sleep around 9 p.m. When Stites left the next morning for her 3:30 a.m. shift, Fennell said he was asleep. But in an interview with “Death Row Stories” videotaped last year, Fennell’s friend and Bastrop County Sheriff’s investigator Curtis Davis offered a different story. Davis said that Fennell told him that he had been out drinking with some fellow officers the night of the 22nd and came home late, likely around 10 or 11 p.m. after Stites had gone to bed. According to Davis, Fennell told him these details on April 23, 1996, as they waited for word on Stites’ whereabouts. Police were searching for Stites after she failed to show up for work and the truck she had been driving had been discovered around 5 a.m. Her body was found later that day and a coroner determined she had been raped and strangled. A full transcript of Davis’ interview with “Death Row Stories” is below: “The statements that [Davis] made in the interview are the first I’ve ever heard of this account, and they’re sort of night and day from what Jimmy Fennell said had taken place,” Benjet told CNN. After Stites’ murder, Fennell moved to Georgetown, Texas, where he joined the local police force. But he eventually landed behind bars In 2008, Fennell pleaded guilty to charges of kidnapping and improper sexual activity with a person in custody, after a woman he detained when responding to a domestic dispute call accused him of rape. Fennell was sentenced to 10 years and is scheduled to be released in September 2018. Benjet said that the inconsistencies around Fennell’s whereabouts in the hours surrounding Stites’ murder must be considered within the context of what he called “substantial forensic evidence showing that the victim was killed hours before the state believed the crime took place and that the body had been moved, all of which is inconsistent with Mr. Reed’s guilt.” Reed’s legal team plans to submit that forensic evidence, along with the videotaped interview, at the writ of habeas corpus hearing scheduled to begin on October 10 in Bastrop County District Court. It could be the first step toward a new trial for Reed. It’s not the first time that questions have been raised around Reed’s 1998 murder conviction: just days before he was scheduled to die, a court stayed his execution in 2015 because of new witness testimony and forensic analysis. But it wasn’t enough to earn him a new trial. Reed’s execution date is stayed indefinitely pending the court’s ruling on the evidence."

The entire story can be found at:

http://wgno.com/2017/09/12/tv-interview-could-help-death-row-inmate/

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.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Significant Development: Sonja Farak: Massachusetts: Bulletin: American Civil Liberties Union asks for dismissal of all drug cases affected by her misconduct...By Reporter Shira Schoenberg; Mass Live. September 20, 2017..."The ACLU's request to the Supreme Judicial Court comes after an SJC ruling in a separate case involving Hinton Drug Lab chemist Annie Dookhan, who pleaded guilty in 2013 to falsifying the results of drug tests. In that case, the Supreme Judicial Court did not allow for all cases touched by Dookhan to be automatically dismissed. But the court said prosecutors must review all 24,000 cases and determine which ones could be prosecuted again. Ultimately, 21,500 cases were dismissed due to the scandal. The ACLU, joined by the Committee for Public Counsel Services, Hampden County Lawyers for Justice and others, is now arguing that every case involving Farak should be dismissed. They argue, in a court motion, that because the attorney general's office did not disclose information relevant to the case about Farak's mental health history, that misconduct warrants the dismissal of all related cases. There are thousands of cases potentially affected. A Hampden Superior Court judge ruled in June that the "intentional and deceptive actions" of two assistant attorneys general "ensured that justice would certainly be delayed, if not outright denied, and in the process, they violated their oaths as assistant attorneys general and officers of the court." The ACLU says the Farak case is worse than the Dookhan case because of the prosecutorial misconduct. "It cannot be blamed on a sole 'bad apple,' because Farak's conduct was just the beginning," attorneys for the ACLU wrote. "Farak's misconduct was compounded by the (attorney general's office's) discovery violations because Assistant Attorney Generals intentionally suppressed evidence about Farak's drug abuse and deliberately deceived the Superior Court and defense lawyers."


 QUOTES OF THE DAY: "The ACLU says the Farak case is worse than the Dookhan case because of the prosecutorial misconduct. The organization wrote in its court brief that the Farak case "represents a complete collapse of the criminal justice system." "It cannot be blamed on a sole 'bad apple,' because Farak's conduct was just the beginning," attorneys for the ACLU wrote. "Farak's misconduct was compounded by the (attorney general's office's) discovery violations because Assistant Attorney Generals intentionally suppressed evidence about Farak's drug abuse and deliberately deceived the Superior Court and defense lawyers." "Every single case affected by Sonja Farak and the Amherst lab scandal should be dismissed -- and prosecutors should be held accountable for identifying and notifying defendants with potentially tainted convictions, both in this scandal and others," said David Hoose, president of Hampden County Lawyers for Justice, in a statement."

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"The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts is asking the state's highest court to dismiss all cases tainted by the misconduct of former state drug lab chemist Sonja Farak. "Doing right by the victims of the drug lab scandal is critical to restoring the integrity of the criminal justice system and an important step toward addressing the criminalization of substance abuse," said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, in a statement. Farak was arrested in 2013 for stealing samples from the Amherst drug lab to feed her own addiction. She later pleaded guilty to evidence tampering and drug charges. The fallout from her case is ongoing. The ACLU's request to the Supreme Judicial Court comes after an SJC ruling in a separate case involving Hinton Drug Lab chemist Annie Dookhan, who pleaded guilty in 2013 to falsifying the results of drug tests. In that case, the Supreme Judicial Court did not allow for all cases touched by Dookhan to be automatically dismissed. But the court said prosecutors must review all 24,000 cases and determine which ones could be prosecuted again. Ultimately, 21,500 cases were dismissed due to the scandal. The ACLU, joined by the Committee for Public Counsel Services, Hampden County Lawyers for Justice and others, is now arguing that every case involving Farak should be dismissed. They argue, in a court motion, that because the attorney general's office did not disclose information relevant to the case about Farak's mental health history, that misconduct warrants the dismissal of all related cases. There are thousands of cases potentially affected. A Hampden Superior Court judge ruled in June that the "intentional and deceptive actions" of two assistant attorneys general "ensured that justice would certainly be delayed, if not outright denied, and in the process, they violated their oaths as assistant attorneys general and officers of the court." The ACLU says the Farak case is worse than the Dookhan case because of the prosecutorial misconduct. The organization wrote in its court brief that the Farak case "represents a complete collapse of the criminal justice system." "It cannot be blamed on a sole 'bad apple,' because Farak's conduct was just the beginning," attorneys for the ACLU wrote. "Farak's misconduct was compounded by the (attorney general's office's) discovery violations because Assistant Attorney Generals intentionally suppressed evidence about Farak's drug abuse and deliberately deceived the Superior Court and defense lawyers." "Every single case affected by Sonja Farak and the Amherst lab scandal should be dismissed -- and prosecutors should be held accountable for identifying and notifying defendants with potentially tainted convictions, both in this scandal and others," said David Hoose, president of Hampden County Lawyers for Justice, in a statement."
http://www.masslive.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/09/aclu_asks_for_dismissal_of_all.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.