Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Malcolm Alexander; Louisiana; From our 'Read this and weep department."..."Man Exonerated by DNA Evidence After Serving Nearly 38 Years in Prison for Rape He Didn’t Commit," reporter Kirstin West Savali. The Root...(Why? DNA evidence lost years ago; A terrible flawed identification process; And to make matters even worse, an incompetent defence)..."In February 1980, Alexander had a consensual sexual encounter with a white woman who asked him for money and later accused him of sexual assault. Even though the woman’s charges were unsubstantiated and no charges were ever filed against Alexander, authorities had his photo on file. That’s all they needed. Gretna police showed the antique-store owner Alexander’s picture, and she “tentatively” identified him as her assailant out of hundreds of photos shown to her. Three days later, police placed Alexander in a lineup, and by that time, the store owner was “sure” that he was the man who had attacked her. This was four months after she was attacked in the dark, from behind, at gunpoint. Alexander was the only man in the lineup whose picture had also been in the photo array."


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: In recent posts I have begun to pay more attention to cases which involve false confessions, and cases, like the Alexander case, in which the wrongful prosecution is triggered by a false identification.  I have begun to precede each 'false confession' case with the following note: "The Charles Smith 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.’ The note I will be placing on false identifications will read: Like false confessions, false identifications have been increasingly recognized as a cause of wrongful prosecutions. As the Innocence project has pointed out:'Research has shown that multiple identification procedures can contaminate a witness’s memory, causing a witness to become confused about whether he or she recognizes the person from the event or the earlier procedure, while also making the witness more confident in his or her identification.' (Other research has found  serious flaws in different aspects of the identification process. HL); Some police forces have begun to reform their identification procedures. Others seem content to follow their usual procedures, in spite of the risk involved to the suspect, and the possibility that the person who committed the crime will remain free. Ideally, standards aimed at accurate identifications will be adopted or imposed on all U.S. states and in other jurisdictions  where identification procedures are inadequate. In the meantime, this blog will continue to flag cases in which faulty identifications have led to injustice which come to our attention - injustice which cries out to be rectified and avoided."

Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog; 

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

STORY: "Louisiana Man Exonerated by DNA Evidence After Serving Nearly 38 Years in Prison for Rape He Didn’t Commit," by reporter Kirsten West Savali, published by The Root  on February 2, 2018. (Thanks to the Wrongful Convictions Blog for drawing this case to our attention. HL);

GIST: "Malcolm Alexander, who was just 21 years old when he was wrongfully convicted of aggravated rape and sentenced to life in Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola), was released from prison Monday after Jefferson Parish Judge June Darensburg overturned his conviction. Darensburg made her decision after a reinvestigation by the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office determined that Alexander did not have competent and effective counsel during his trial, and that his conviction rested heavily on a flawed, unreliable identification procedure. Her decision also rested on DNA evidence that was thought to be lost long ago. The case:  On Nov. 8, 1979, a black man allegedly entered an antique store on Whitney Avenue in Gretna, La. He allegedly grabbed the owner, a 39-year-old white woman, from behind in the empty store and raped her twice at gunpoint. The victim never clearly saw her attacker’s face. In February 198 0, Alexander had a consensual sexual encounter with a white woman who asked him for money and later accused him of sexual assault. Even though the woman’s charges were unsubstantiated and no charges were ever filed against Alexander, authorities had his photo on file. That’s all they needed. Gretna police showed the antique-store owner Alexander’s picture, and she “tentatively” identified him as her assailant out of hundreds of photos shown to her. Three days later, police placed Alexander in a lineup, and by that time, the store owner was “sure” that he was the man who had attacked her. This was four months after she was attacked in the dark, from behind, at gunpoint. Alexander was the only man in the lineup whose picture had also been in the photo array. According to the Innocence Project: Research has shown that multiple identification procedures can contaminate a witness’s memory, causing a witness to become confused about whether he or she recognizes the person from the event or the earlier procedure, while also making the witness more confident in his or her identification. After a trial that lasted one day—during which Alexander’s attorney, Joseph Tosh, failed to make an opening statement or call any witnesses for the defense, and failed to adequately cross-examine the state’s witnesses about the identification—Alexander was sentenced to life in prison on Dec. 10, 1980. Still, he never stopped insisting that he was innocent. Alexander reached out to the Innocence Project in 1996, and the organization quickly discovered that critical DNA evidence had been destroyed only four years into his sentence. Alexander’s freedom felt like an impossible dream, but in 2013, there was a break in the case. Pubic hair recovered from the antique store where the rape took place was found at the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Crime Lab. The hairs belonged to neither Alexander nor the victim. This fact, along with Alexander’s lack of competent counsel and the flawed identification procedure, was enough for Judge Darensburg to overturn his conviction. “The stakes in this case couldn’t have been higher for Mr. Alexander, who faced a mandatory sentence of life without parole, yet the attorney that he entrusted with his life did next to nothing to defend him,” said Vanessa Potkin, post-conviction litigation director at the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with the Cardozo School of Law. “It is simply unconscionable,” she continued. “Mr. Alexander was just 21 years old when he was convicted after a trial that began and ended all in the same day. We know there are many more innocent people in prison today because their lawyers did not provide effective representation, or did not have the resources to put on an adequate defense. Without effective defense counsel, our system is nothing more than a conviction mill.” Tosh was disbarred in 1999 after he was found to have been negligent in dozens of other cases. Alexander’s family was waiting to greet him when he was released from the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center, including his son, Malcolm Stewart Sr., 40, and his grandson, Malcolm III, 20, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. Malcolm Stewart was 2 years old when his father went away; Malcolm III is almost the same age his grandfather was when he was wrongfully convicted. Alexander told reporters that being free and with his family made him feel “like a newborn baby.” Though his father, Edmund Alexander, died in 2004, there was another special person waiting with arms outstretched for her baby. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for getting my child out of that place,” Alexander’s mother, Maudra Alexander, 82, told attorneys for the Innocence Project. “He’s been there for so long.”

The entire story can be found at: 
https://www.theroot.com/louisiana-man-exonerated-by-dna-evidence-after-serving-1822650927B...

Read the U.S. National Registry of Exonerations entry at the link below: "
At about 11:30 a.m. on November 8, 1979, a black man walked into a newly opened antique store in Gretna, Louisiana. The owner, B.N., a 39-year-old white woman, became suspicious. She attempted to direct him to furniture outside, but as she walked to the front door, he grabbed her from behind and clubbed her in the head with a handgun. He then forced her into a bathroom at the rear of the shop and raped her at gunpoint.  After he raped her, he led her to the telephone, which had been ringing throughout the attack. As he held her in a chokehold and threatened to shoot her, B.N. completed the call without alerting the caller. The attacker then forced her back into the bathroom and raped her again. The attacker ordered her not to move and fled. B.N. used a towel to clean herself and called police. Police found three pubic hairs on the floor of the bathroom and also took the towel into evidence. B.N. said the attacker was black with a medium complexion, in his early 20s, about six feet tall, and 165-170 pounds. She said he was wearing blue jeans, a dark windbreaker, and a navy blue watch cap.  B.N. said that he rode up to the store on a dark orange 10-speed English racing bike. 
Police broadcast the description and 10 minutes later, police stopped a black man with his jeans unzipped riding an orange 10-speed bicycle. The man was brought to the outside of antique store, and B.N. stood inside and viewed him through the front window. She said the man was not her attacker.
B.N. was then taken to a hospital where a rape kit was taken. On November 30, 1979, B.N. saw a man she thought might be her attacker. When police investigated him, they learned he worked at Superior Pontiac, a car dealership. The man's fellow employees said he was a hard worker and was not the type of person to commit a sexual assault. On December 18, 1979, police showed B.N. a photographic lineup, which included the man from Superior Pontiac, but she did not identify anyone as her attacker. In February 1980, police arrested 20-year-old Malcolm Alexander after a woman accused him of sexual assaulting her. Alexander, who is black, told police the sex occurred after he gave the woman money and that it was consensual. Alexander was not charged in that incident, but a detective believed that he fit B.N.’s description of her attacker, even though he was only 5 feet 9 inches tall. On March 24, 1980, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Department Detective O’Neil De Noux Jr. asked B.N. to view another photographic lineup that included Alexander’s photo. De Noux’s report said that B.N. identified Alexander, but that her identification was “tentative.” Three days later, on March 27, B.N. viewed a live lineup that included Alexander. He was the only person who was in both lineups—a procedure considered to be improper and suggestive because a person can subconsciously convert the memory of seeing a person in the first lineup into a memory of that person being the perpetrator. Detective De Noux was not present because he was in court, so Detective Marco Nuzzolillo conducted the lineup.  Nuzzolillo checked off the box “possible” in his report and next to it wrote “tentative.” Three hours after the live lineup, De Noux returned from court and interviewed B.N. privately. When he emerged, he reported that B.N. now said she was more than 98 percent sure that Alexander was her attacker. Alexander was arrested and charged with aggravated rape. He went to trial on November 5, 1980. The entire trial—from selection of the jury until the jury’s announcement that they found Alexander guilty—lasted one day. The entire trial transcript was only 87 pages long, and his lawyer, Joseph Tosh, did virtually nothing to defend him. It wasn’t the first or last time Tosh would fail a client—in 1999 he was disbarred based on more than 50 incidents where he took fees and did little or—frequently—nothing at all and refused to refund the money. Despite the existence of a rape kit and the towel, both of which contained semen, and the three hairs found on the floor where B.N. was raped, no forensic tests were performed. Neither the prosecutor nor the defense requested any testing on the evidence. Even though his report of the March 24, 1980 photographic lineup said that B.N.’s identification of Alexander was “tentative,” De Noux told the jury that B.N. “without hesitation identified the photograph of Malcolm Alexander as the man who perpetrated the rape on her.” Detective Nuzzolillo, who had conducted the March 27, 1980 live lineup and filled out the report marked “possible” and “tentative,” testified simply that B.N. identified Alexander. The prosecution failed to correct the detectives’ testimony or elicit any testimony regarding the police reports listing the identifications as “tentative.” Alexander’s attorney never asked any questions on cross-examination about those descriptions. Years later, attorneys for Alexander would be unable to determine whether the prosecution withheld the reports documenting the identifications as “tentative,” or if Alexander’s attorney had the reports but was so incompetent that he failed to realize their significance. B.N. testified and identified Alexander as her attacker. Again, no mention was made that her identifications had been labeled as “tentative.” Tosh presented no defense witnesses and never investigated whether Alexander, who had a steady job with a contractor at the time of the rape, had a viable alibi. Tosh made no opening statement to the jury and his closing argument took up just four pages of the trial transcript. The jury was sent out to deliberate at 5:20 p.m. By 6:16 p.m.—just 56 minutes later—they had voted to convict Alexander, returned to announce the verdict, and been dismissed. The judge sentenced Alexander to life in prison without parole. Tosh assured Alexander and his family that he would file an appeal, but he never did. When family members ultimately discovered that no appeal had been filed, they sought the help of another lawyer. That lawyer was granted permission to file an appeal although the filing deadline had lapsed. The appeal, however, was denied by the Louisiana Court of Appeal. In 1996, after reading a news article about DNA testing, Alexander asked the Innocence Project in New York for help. However, a search for the physical evidence was unsuccessful—court officials informed the Innocence Project that the evidence had been inadvertently destroyed in 1984 during a mass destruction of several hundred boxes of evidence from closed cases. A deputy clerk attributed the destruction to “human error, which should not have happened.” The Innocence Project closed the case but Alexander forged on. In 2004, after Louisiana enacted a post-conviction DNA testing law, he filed a motion for testing, hoping it would spark further searches for evidence. He also filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus.  In 2013, his efforts were rewarded when the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Department crime laboratory discovered the hairs that were recovered from the bathroom floor where B.N. was raped. The Innocence Project and the prosecution agreed to DNA testing on the hairs in 2015, and testing was performed in 2016. The tests showed that all three came from the same person. Alexander was excluded as the source of the hairs. In 2017, the Innocence Project, joined by Innocence Project New Orleans, filed a motion seeking to vacate Alexander’s conviction, citing the DNA evidence as well as the failure of Alexander’s trial defense attorney to provide an adequate legal defense. “The most reasonable conclusion is that the hairs originate from the man who repeatedly raped B.N. from behind, on the floor in the very location where these hairs were collected,” the petition said.
On January 30, 2017, Alexander’s conviction was vacated. Judge June Berry Darensburg dismissed the charge and ordered Alexander released after spending nearly 38 years in prison. Innocence Project lawyers Barry Scheck and Vanessa Potkin expressed gratitude to the prosecution and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Department.  “The DA’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office were very cooperative in trying to see what happened,” Scheck said. “We’re very appreciative of this.” Orleans Parish District Attorney Paul Connick Jr., said, “After an extensive investigation during the past two and a half years, I agreed with Mr. Alexander's post-conviction attorneys that the defense attorney during the daylong trial 37 years ago provided ineffective representation in violation of his constitutional rights.”
http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/casedetail.aspx?caseid=5274







































Monday, February 19, 2018

Desmond Ricks; Julie Baumer; Lamarr Monson; Michigan: Why Michigan needs a forensic science commission: Amshula Jayaram and Lauren Krisai explain why in the Lansing Journal..."The United States has seen more than 2,000 exonerations of people wrongfully convicted of a crime. Of these, approximately 25 percent – more than 500 people – were erroneously convicted because of the misapplication of forensic evidence. To help prevent these errors, Michigan needs a forensic science commission. In Michigan, 17 people have been wrongly convicted due to misapplied forensic evidence in recent years. In 2008 the Detroit Crime Lab was shut down after an audit revealed serious errors in cases. The human impact can be seen in some of the cases that have been successfully litigated by the Michigan Innocence Clinic (MIC) at the University of Michigan Law School."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "Having a system that allows for wrongful convictions because of faulty science is not only a liberty issue, it’s also a public safety issue for Michigan citizens, and especially crime victims. While innocent people are incarcerated, real perpetrators are free to commit additional crimes and create additional victims. The statistics speak for themselves: in roughly half of cases involving a DNA based exoneration, the person who actually committed the crime was then identified. In the years they were undetected, these individuals went on to commit 150 additional violent crimes, including 80 rapes and 35 murders. We must do better than this."

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

COMMENTARY: "Viewpoint: Michigan needs a forensic science commission," by Amshula Jayaram, published by The Lansing State Journal on February 1, 2018. (Amshula Jayaram is a state policy advocate for the Innocence Project. Lauren Krisai is the director of criminal justice reform at Reason Foundation, a national libertarian nonprofit organization. They recently spoke on this issue at an event in Lansing sponsored by the Mackinac Center.)



GIST: "The United States has seen more than 2,000 exonerations of people wrongfully convicted of a crime. Of these, approximately 25 percent – more than 500 people – were erroneously convicted because of the misapplication of forensic evidence. To help prevent these errors, Michigan needs a forensic science commission. In Michigan, 17 people have been wrongly convicted due to misapplied forensic evidence in recent years. In 2008 the Detroit Crime Lab was shut down after an audit revealed serious errors in cases. The human impact can be seen in some of the cases that have been successfully litigated by the Michigan Innocence Clinic (MIC) at the University of Michigan Law School...These include: Desmond Ricks: Served 25 years for murder after a police crime lab expert testified that the bullets pulled from the victim’s body were definitively fired from Ricks’ mother’s gun. A quarter-century later, MIC found the bullets and the Michigan State Police concluded that the bullets were fired from an entirely different type of gun than the one Ricks’ mother owned. Julie Baumer: Served 4 years for child abuse after prosecution experts concluded her infant nephew sustained brain injuries from being shaken and/or slammed into an object. Baumer was exonerated after six new experts, all acting pro bono, examined the CT scans and discovered that the baby had actually suffered a stroke.  Lamarr Monson: Served 21 years for murder based on a confession extracted by a discredited officer even though the murder weapon, a blood-soaked toilet tank lid, had a fingerprint on it that did not match Monson. Sixteen years later, a woman came forward to reveal that her ex-boyfriend committed the murder...While many Americans may believe our forensic science system is just like CSI, where matches occur 100 percent of the time and lab analysts are never wrong, unfortunately that is not the case. Human error, contamination and in some instances, misconduct are some of the factors that can lead to a miscarriage of justice. Too often, these problems are litigated in court rather than evaluated through the scientific process, where experts can make a determination as to what happened and how. To respond to this, several states – from liberal bastions like California to conservative Texas – have created a forensic science commission comprised primarily of scientists to craft new standards for labs and to investigate when issues related to forensic evidence arise. Having a system that allows for wrongful convictions because of faulty science is not only a liberty issue, it’s also a public safety issue for Michigan citizens, and especially crime victims. While innocent people are incarcerated, real perpetrators are free to commit additional crimes and create additional victims. The statistics speak for themselves: in roughly half of cases involving a DNA based exoneration, the person who actually committed the crime was then identified. In the years they were undetected, these individuals went on to commit 150 additional violent crimes, including 80 rapes and 35 murders. We must do better than this. A strong rule of law is the foundation of our criminal justice system. Focusing on the right crimes and prosecuting them transparently and accurately is key to public safety and justice. Establishing a science based forensic commission   to ensure reliable evidence and up-to-date standards is another step towards achieving that in Michigan."

The entire commentary can be found at:
https://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/opinion/contributors/viewpoints/2018/02/01/viewpoint-michigan-needs-forensic-science-commission/1083662001/

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."

Kathmandu: Nepal. FETI (the controversial Forensic experiential Trauma Interview Technique) is spreading its wings to The Himalayas. (And the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is flying it there). The Himalayan New Service reports in a story headed "Workshop on forensic interview conducted, that "Forensic interview specialist at Department of Homeland Security of the United States of America Amy S. Allen said FETI approach aims to maintain integrity of the criminal investigation process."Studies have shown that trauma interrupts the memory process and hence information obtained from traumatised victims could be much farther from the truth. “Forensic interview is a tool to assist law enforcement agencies in determining if a crime has occurred. It is a key component to a thorough and complete investigation,” Allen said, adding, “It is conducted in a neutral setting that allows the investigators to solicit the most accurate and descriptive information.” She said forensic interview required specialised training and victims needed to feel safe and secure before they could provide reliable information."


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: In a previous post (link below) I drew attention to a supposedly effective forensic tool for use in  interviewing sexual assault complainants  which is called Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview (FETI): As indicated in the headnote to the post: "A matter of growing concern. Report obtained by this Blog indicates 'FETI' has been rejected by the U.S. Air Force..."Given the lack of empirical evidence on FETI’s effectiveness, and the large number of investigative, professional and scientific concerns regarding FETI and FETI training, the Air Force does not consider FETI as a viable option for investigative interviewing. We believe it would be inappropriate and irresponsible to discontinue the use of a robust, well-studied, effective, and empirically-validated interviewing method that is supported by the latest scientific research (the Cognitive Interview), in favor of an interviewing method that is loosely constructed, is based on flawed science, makes unfounded claims about its effectiveness, and has never once been tested, studied, researched or validated (FETI)."  The failure of police to lay rape charges  has become a political and social issue in North  America and beyond. I  am concerned, that a knee-jerk reaction based insufficient scientific research such as FETI can lead to an even greater failure of sexual assault charges - and to an epidemic of wrongful convictions. For this reason, I continue to follow  Forensic Experiential Trauma Interviews - scientific, political and legal developments, in the pages of this Blog.


Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;

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

Read our previous post on the US  Air Force Report at the link below: "Sunday December 10, 2018:
Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview: (FETI); Part 2: A matter of growing concern. Report obtained by this Blog indicates 'FETI' has been rejected by the U.S. Air Force..."Given the lack of empirical evidence on FETI’s effectiveness, and the large number of investigative, professional and scientific concerns regarding FETI and FETI training, the Air Force does not consider FETI as a viable option for investigative interviewing. We believe it would be inappropriate and irresponsible to discontinue the use of a robust, well-studied, effective, and empirically-validated interviewing method that is supported by the latest scientific research (the Cognitive Interview), in favor of an interviewing method that is loosely constructed, is based on flawed science, makes unfounded claims about its effectiveness, and has never once been tested, studied, researched or validated (FETI)."
https://smithforensic.blogspot.ca/2017/12/forensic-experiential-trauma-interview_10.html
-----------------------------------------------------------

STORY: "Workshop on forensic interview conducted," by The Himalayan News Service, published on February 19, 2018.

GIST: "Patan High Court Judge Tek Narayan Kuwar said forensic experiential trauma interview could be started from any district in cases of rape, human trafficking, domestic violence, pornography and child prostitution.  The approach is designed to gather information. The approach is designed to gather information about a traumatic event from the witnesses  rather than the victims. According to him, FETI approach towards criminal investigation could be adopted as per Article 21 of the constitution. Access to justice, fair treatment, restitution, compensation and assistance are the basic principles of justice adopted under FETI approach. Forensic interview specialist at Department of Homeland Security of the United States of America Amy S Allen said FETI approach aims to maintain integrity of the criminal investigation process. Studies have shown that trauma interrupts the memory process and hence information obtained from traumatised victims could be much farther from the truth. “Forensic interview is a tool to assist law enforcement agencies in determining if a crime has occurred. It is a key component to a thorough and complete investigation,” Allen said, adding, “It is conducted in a neutral setting that allows the investigators to solicit the most accurate and descriptive information.” She said forensic interview required specialised training and victims needed to feel safe and secure before they could provide reliable information. DSP Ganga Panta said Nepal Police was the only authority to investigate human trafficking cases."

The entire story can be found at:
https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/workshop-forensic-interview-conducted/

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."









Barry Jones' Arizona: A major two part opus by Liliana Segura: (The Intercept); The Marshall Project: "The case of Arizona death row inmate Barry Jones came back to court in Tucson late last year for a hearing about whether his trial lawyers were so inept they violated his constitutional right to a fair trial. But the hearing also highlighted how weak the prosecution was to begin with and why, decades after Jones’ conviction, there is little reason to have any confidence in the jury’s verdict." (More superb analysis by journalist and editor Liliana Segura. HL);


PUBLISHER'S NOTE:  The first part -"What happened to Rachel Gray (Twenty-two years after Arizona sent Barry Jones to Death Row, the state's case has fallen apart) - appeared on October 23, 2017. The second part - Death by Dereliction -  "Tunnel vision: Arizona prosecutors double down on murder theory  as the evidence crumbles around them" - recently appeared appeared on February 9, 2018. (Lilian Segura  is a journalist and editor with a longtime focus on prisons, prisoners, and the failings and excesses of the U.S. criminal justice system — from wrongful convictions to the death penalty. She covered these and other issues most recently as an editor at The Nation, where she edited a number of award-winning stories. Previously she was a senior editor at AlterNet, where she was in charge of civil liberties coverage during the early days of Obama’s presidency.She has appeared on CNN International, MSNBC, Democracy Now! and several other news outlets. Her writing has been reprinted in numerous places, from prison publications to “The Best American Legal Writing” to, most recently, the collection “Against Equality: Prisons Will Not Protect You.” Liliana is on the board of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and the Applied Research Center, a U.S. racial justice think tank.) The cases are of particular interest to this blog because...Because of their length they cannot be reduced. But here are some highlites:

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog; 

GIST; Part One: "Since the day of his arrest in 1994, Barry Lee Jones has insisted he did not rape or kill his girlfriend’s 4-year-old daughter, Rachel Yvonne Gray. Jailed on the same day the child’s lifeless body arrived at a Tucson hospital, Jones admitted she’d been injured on his watch, repeatedly saying she had fallen from his parked yellow work van the day before, hitting her head. Jones said Rachel told him a little boy had pushed her out. But even if it was true, that did not explain the bruises covering her body, or the abdominal injury that took her life. Almost no physical evidence linked Jones to Rachel’s injuries — and there was nothing to show he was guilty of rape. But when children die under mysterious circumstances, early suspicion typically falls on the adults who were closest to them in their final hours. On that day, witnesses said, that person was Jones. He and Rachel’s mother, Angela Gray, were tried back to back in 1995; Gray was convicted of child abuse but acquitted of murder. Jones was sentenced to die. After more than 20 years insisting upon his innocence, Jones won a rare evidentiary hearing from a U.S. district judge, set to begin October 30. Attorneys with the Arizona Federal Public Defender’s Office plan to argue that Jones’s trial was fundamentally unfair, marred by ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights. Moreover, they say, bad lawyering at the post-conviction level left the trial attorneys’ failures unaddressed, resulting in a horrible miscarriage of justice. If his lawyers succeed, Jones could win a new trial — or even be released from prison. Poor defense representation and a lack of physical evidence are both hallmarks of wrongful convictions. The files in Jones’s case reveal many more. They show a rush to judgment, tunnel vision by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, and a shifting theory of the crime by the state. Prosecutors relied on the most dubious kinds of evidence, from flawed forensics to the eyewitness accounts of young children. Vital pieces of evidence were lost, concealed, or never collected to begin with. More recently, DNA testing on one key item has failed to implicate Jones."

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

GIST: Part Two: "Medical experts testified that Rachel Gray’s fatal injury could not possibly have occurred within the window presented at trial."...(Detective) Pesqueira apologized. But patience was in short supply. Her investigation had sent a man to death row. For 23 years, that man had sworn he was innocent. There were good reasons to think he might be telling the truth, but prosecutors had fought to preserve his conviction. Now, revisiting her role as lead investigator, Pesqueira gave vexing testimony. There were just too many clues she had apparently missed; conspicuous leads she had failed to see...The investigative records in the Jones case were riddled with holes. Most alarming, there was no sign that Pesqueira ever sought critical information about how, exactly, Rachel was killed. The child had died as a result of a sharp blow to the abdomen that perforated part of her small intestine, the duodenum. Leakage from the tear caused a deadly condition called peritonitis, which, if left untreated, can lead to septic shock. To estimate when the blow occurred, a pathologist testified, one would need to thoroughly investigate when Rachel showed her earliest symptoms of illness. Pesqueira never did.The investigative records in the Jones case were riddled with holes. Most alarming, there was no sign that Pesqueira ever sought critical information about how, exactly, Rachel was killed. The child had died as a result of a sharp blow to the abdomen that perforated part of her small intestine, the duodenum. Leakage from the tear caused a deadly condition called peritonitis, which, if left untreated, can lead to septic shock. To estimate when the blow occurred, a pathologist testified, one would need to thoroughly investigate when Rachel showed her earliest symptoms of illness. Pesqueira never did...Instead, she had drawn conclusions based on her own first impressions at the hospital. “I do my own examination,” she told the grand jury in 1994. “Medical personnel are not in the room.” Given Rachel’s appearance — and the estimate that she had died in the early hours of May 2, 1994 — Pesqueira concluded she had been fatally beaten the day before. This made Jones the likeliest suspect. In a deposition before the 2017 hearing, Pesqueira was asked if she had ever identified anyone who might have hurt Rachel in the days before May 1. “I had no reason to believe [her injury] had gone that long, so no,” she said. If Pesqueira had expanded her investigation, she would have found plenty of alternative suspects."

Part One can be read at:

https://theintercept.com/2017/10/23/barry-jones-arizona-death-row-rachel-gray/

Part Two can be read at:

https://theintercept.com/2018/02/09/arizona-death-row-barry-jones-evidentiary-hearing/

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."

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Prof. Mark Godsey: Cincinnati; (Ohio Innocence Project); Profile of an accomplished battler for justice...“Blind Injustice” author takes on our “medieval” criminal justice system," by Julie Kemble Borths in Movers and Makers."..."Published in October 2017, the book chronicles the lessons the Hyde Park resident has learned and the people he has met as director of the OIP. Godsey, working with other clinical professors and a team of energetic students, has overseen cases in which 25 prisoners have been released on the grounds of innocence. Whether through litigation involving DNA testing, new witnesses, expert testimony or evidence of police misconduct, Godsey said the OIP sheds light on the criminal justice system and its flaws."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "In his book, Godsey said, he emphasizes how society needs to “wake up” and see how psychological theories of the 1800s still color America’s criminal justice system. It’s an approach that says jurors can tell instantly whether someone is telling the truth. It is a deep-seated belief that no one would confess unless he or she were truly guilty and a belief system that elevates the accuracy of any first-person account. But in case after case, innocence project efforts have shown the flaws of those psychological theories. Godsey said his book addresses several reasons why these flaws exist, including confirmation bias, the power of suggestion and the inability of people to accurately recall events, especially emotional ones. Much social science research on all three elements shows that humans are more likely to believe things that support what they already believe, that they can be easily led – even to the point of confession – by the suggestion they did do something, and that human memory is prone to mistakes. But this research has not changed the way police investigate crimes, governments prosecute them or courts try them. And it has not changed the way politicians discuss criminal justice. These powerful and complex problems propel “Blind Injustice” and inspire others to take a closer look."

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

REVIEW: “Blind Injustice." A former prosecutor exposes the psychology and politics of wrongful convictions” author takes on our “medieval” criminal justice system," by Julie Kemble Borths, published by Movers and Makers on January 24, 2018.

GIST: "Time haunts Mark Godsey. The University of Cincinnati law professor and director of the Ohio Innocence Project never has enough of it. With a family that includes wife Michele and five children (the youngest are twin 6-month-olds), plus classroom responsibilities and oversight of a legal clinic involving UC Law students, his days are more than full. But the time of those wrongfully behind bars haunts him the most: years wasted when men and women, convicted in error and removed from their family and friends, no longer can pursue their dreams. “Opening the eyes” of Americans who don’t understand how wrongful convictions occur – and how the guilty can remain free – is why Godsey spent the last three years writing “Blind Injustice: A Former Prosecutor Exposes the Psychology and Politics of Wrongful Convictions.” Published in October 2017, the book chronicles the lessons the Hyde Park resident has learned and the people he has met as director of the OIP. Godsey, working with other clinical professors and a team of energetic students, has overseen cases in which 25 prisoners have been released on the grounds of innocence. Whether through litigation involving DNA testing, new witnesses, expert testimony or evidence of police misconduct, Godsey said the OIP sheds light on the criminal justice system and its flaws. From prosecutor to defender. His passion for this work is even more remarkable given his early career. Fresh from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, Godsey, now 49, became a prosecutor in New York. But he had his eye on teaching criminal law. When a position opened at Northern Kentucky University Chase College of Law, he took it. A professor who oversaw the new innocence project there was on sabbatical, so Godsey took his place. And law students got a chance at real-world experience. “I was reluctant,” Godsey said. He also was skeptical. Didn’t prosecutors like himself have a passion for the facts? A commitment to punishing the bad guys? At Fairfield High School, Godsey had been student council president, and he enjoyed politics. Although his family discussed social justice and political topics, he did not see himself as a liberal do-gooder. He was the kind of guy who would become a prosecutor. But with the first innocence case he supervised at Chase, his team overturned a wrongful conviction. Godsey said he realized innocence work was not just a fad, but was necessary for the legal system. In 2003, he moved to the Rosenthal Institute for Justice at UC Law, funded by a gift from Lois and Richard Rosenthal. Encouraged by the legal community, including then-Cincinnati councilman John Cranley, Godsey took over the institute’s primary component: the innocence project. Since then, he has spoken worldwide and contributed to discussions about criminal law and wrongful conviction in the national press. He pressed for changes in Ohio law to admit additional evidence after a conviction. And he became a passionate teacher who challenges his students, both in the classroom and in the OIP.  “We’ve had the same criminal justice system for hundreds of years,” Godsey said. “And 100 years from now, they will look back at us as if we were medieval.” In his book, Godsey said, he emphasizes how society needs to “wake up” and see how psychological theories of the 1800s still color America’s criminal justice system. It’s an approach that says jurors can tell instantly whether someone is telling the truth. It is a deep-seated belief that no one would confess unless he or she were truly guilty and a belief system that elevates the accuracy of any first-person account. But in case after case, innocence project efforts have shown the flaws of those psychological theories. Godsey said his book addresses several reasons why these flaws exist, including confirmation bias, the power of suggestion and the inability of people to accurately recall events, especially emotional ones. Much social science research on all three elements shows that humans are more likely to believe things that support what they already believe, that they can be easily led – even to the point of confession – by the suggestion they did do something, and that human memory is prone to mistakes. But this research has not changed the way police investigate crimes, governments prosecute them or courts try them. And it has not changed the way politicians discuss criminal justice. These powerful and complex problems propel “Blind Injustice” and inspire others to take a closer look. The arts take notice" For its 2019 season, Cincinnati Opera is partnering with the Godsey and OIP, as well as the Young Professionals Choral Collective, to present “Blind Injustice.” The first work commissioned as part of CO Next: Diverse Voices, it is based on interviews with six people exonerated through OIP efforts and featured in the book. And it is overseen by Marcus Küchle, director of artistic operations and new works development at Cincinnati Opera and the co-artistic director of Opera Fusion: New Works. Küchle said the exonerees’ stories are operatic because of the “epic injustices they had to endure.” “The key question for this piece is, how does this happen? Is this the cost of doing business? What about the love and longing for family and friends that you literally cannot get back?” Küchle said. “As we’ve interviewed them (the exonerees), I’ve also been impressed by the grace with which they all speak about it. The forgiveness. The way they have all moved beyond. And that is what will make this such a compelling piece.” Beyond that project, a documentary series is in the works. Kelly Nyks, a New York-based film writer, director and producer, said the series “will strive to shine a light on the work of Mark Godsey and the team at the innocence project. With the focus on social justice front-and-center in the national conversation, there could not be a better time to bring these tremendously compelling human stories to the fore.” “There has been a huge disconnect which makes us blind to injustice,” Godsey said. “Because we believe we have the best criminal justice system in the world, we kept thinking we’d gotten it right.” Now, “we are in a period of awakening,” Godsey said. “There are two major reforms going on right now: questioning mass incarceration and taking another look at innocence. “It’s a good time to be alive.”


The entire review can be found at:

http://moversmakers.org/2018/01/24/mark-godsey-blind-injustice-precious-resource-of-time/

Access the 'Blind Injustice Facebook page at the link below: ("The psychology and politics of wrongful conviction," by Prof. Mark Godsey of Blind Injustice.)

 https://www.facebook.com/groups/742898605877949/?hc_ref=ARQaJICs7OZqGWVtGhZT5bfBd1I8ruaAk9h3GNf7q7OvAZIiPaw9VRFQDdZ4lNM9QqA

Blind Injustice: The book:  : From the publisher:  "In this unprecedented view from the trenches, prosecutor turned champion for the innocent Mark Godsey takes us inside the frailties of the human mind as they unfold in real-world wrongful convictions. Drawing upon stories from his own career, Godsey shares how innate psychological flaws in judges, police, lawyers, and juries coupled with a “tough on crime” environment can cause investigations to go awry, leading to the convictions of innocent people. In Blind Injustice, Godsey explores distinct psychological human weaknesses inherent in the criminal justice system—confirmation bias, memory malleability, cognitive dissonance, bureaucratic denial, dehumanization, and others—and illustrates each with stories from his time as a hard-nosed prosecutor and then as an attorney for the Ohio Innocence Project. He also lays bare the criminal justice system’s internal political pressures. How does the fact that judges, sheriffs, and prosecutors are elected officials influence how they view cases? How can defense attorneys support clients when many are overworked and underpaid? And how do juries overcome bias leading them to believe that police and expert witnesses know more than they do about what evidence means?  This book sheds a harsh light on the unintentional yet routine injustices committed by those charged with upholding justice. Yet in the end, Godsey recommends structural, procedural, and attitudinal changes aimed at restoring justice to the criminal justice system." Check this link for purchase information. HL.)

https://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520287952

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."


Saturday, February 17, 2018

James Forcillo: Ontario; 'Critical incident stress'? Lawyers for Toronto officer who fired nine shots - including six while the deceased Sammy Yatim lay on the floor of a streetcar seek to introduce on appeal 'fresh evidence' of "critical incident stress," based on new research they say was not yet available at the time of trial..."The new research stems from a study by Judith Andersen, a health psychologist who studies the physical and mental health impact of stressful and traumatic experiences. She conducted a study on a small group of officers from Toronto police’s Emergency Task Force. The research involved evaluating the officers’ cortisol and cardiovascular levels in various stressful scenarios, both in training and on the road. The tests came back with what Forcillo’s lawyers say is “objective biological measurements” indicating that — despite being highly trained — the officers’ stress arousal lasted for an average of five minutes and as long as 10 minutes."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "That proposed evidence — a recent study examining Toronto police officers’ response in dangerous situations — advances the “scientific understanding of the stress response in the law enforcement context,” according to written arguments prepared by Michael Lacy, Joseph Wilkinson and Bryan Badali.The issue is of critical relevance to the suspended officer’s defence on the all-important “second volley” of bullets — the six shots Forcillo fired while Yatim was on the floor of the streetcar, already shot by three of Forcillo’s bullets. Forcillo testified that he’d had an honest belief that Yatim was re-arming himself and getting up — a claim plainly disproven by the video evidence of the shooting. But officer’s lawyers now say there is research backing up how and why the officer’s “distorted” perception of Yatim’s movements may have been altered by a stress response. “Had the jury had the benefit of the evidence, the jury would have been more likely to accept that (Forcillo) honestly was mistaken about (Yatim)’s movement prior to the second volley . . .  In turn, they may have concluded he lacked the intent to kill necessary to convict him, believing he was acting in an “instinctive, impulsive or unthinking manner due to the stress response.”

STORY: "Lawyers for cop who shot Sammy Yatim say ‘fresh evidence’ warrants new trial," by Crime reporter Wendy Gillis, published by The Toront Star on February 17, 2018.


SUB-HEADING: "A recent study could explain why Const. James Forcillo, who shot Sammy Yatim, had a distorted perception of Yatim’s movements, Forcillo’s lawyers say."

PHOTO CAPTION: Const. James Forcillo is currently in prison serving his six-year sentence while awaiting the results of the appeal.  
GIST: "The legal team representing the Toronto police officer convicted of attempted murder in the death of Sammy Yatim says there is new evidence “capable of tipping the scales” on the case’s controversial outcome — and argues it should be heard at a new trial. Documents filed at the Ontario Court of Appeal provide greater detail about the so-called “fresh evidence” lawyers for Const. James Forcillo argue should be heard in court — research they say sheds new light on the phenomenon of “critical incident stress.” That proposed evidence — a recent study examining Toronto police officers’ response in dangerous situations — advances the “scientific understanding of the stress response in the law enforcement context,” according to written arguments prepared by Michael Lacy, Joseph Wilkinson and Bryan Badali.The issue is of critical relevance to the suspended officer’s defence on the all-important “second volley” of bullets — the six shots Forcillo fired while Yatim was on the floor of the streetcar, already shot by three of Forcillo’s bullets. Forcillo testified that he’d had an honest belief that Yatim was re-arming himself and getting up — a claim plainly disproven by the video evidence of the shooting. But officer’s lawyers now say there is research backing up how and why the officer’s “distorted” perception of Yatim’s movements may have been altered by a stress response. “Had the jury had the benefit of the evidence, the jury would have been more likely to accept that (Forcillo) honestly was mistaken about (Yatim)’s movement prior to the second volley . . .  In turn, they may have concluded he lacked the intent to kill necessary to convict him, believing he was acting in an “instinctive, impulsive or unthinking manner due to the stress response.”
Crown lawyers, meanwhile, say Forcillo’s lawyers are attempting to “revisit an issue that was addressed at trial.” “Neither at trial nor now on appeal has anyone offered the opinion that stress can cause a person to misperceive in the way (Forcillo’s lawyer) described, that is, to hallucinate that someone has raised their body up to a 45-degree angle off the floor,” Crown lawyers Howard Leibovich, Susan Reid and Michael Perlin write in a lengthy recent response. Forcillo, 34, was found not guilty of second-degree murder in the July 2013 shooting death of Yatim, 18, on a Toronto streetcar. But the jury convicted the officer of attempted murder — a confusing outcome made available by the Crown’s decision to separate Forcillo’s nine shots into two distinct volleys. Toronto police had been called to the Dundas West streetcar to investigate a young man armed with a knife and exposing himself. Once Forcillo arrived on scene, Yatim was alone on the streetcar, passengers having run off in a panic. In an exchange that took place in less than a minute, Forcillo arrived on scene and shot Yatim three times as he stood at the door of the streetcar, unleashing what experts later determined was the fatal shot to Yatim’s heart. Less than six seconds later, as Yatim lay on the floor of the streetcar, Forcillo shot at him six more times, striking him five times. It was the second volley the jury found constituted attempted murder, and that trial judge Justice Edward Then called an “egregious breach of trust.” Forcillo has appealed various aspects of the case and its outcome, including the six-year sentence handed down by Then. At the Court of Appeal last fall, his lawyers argued the shots fired by Forcillowere part of one consecutive event and should never have been split into two volleys. In a second phase of Forcillo’s appeal — so far argued only in written submissions — his lawyers are arguing they be allowed the rare ability to present new evidence to Ontario’s highest court. It’s uncommon for evidence not introduced at trial to be heard at an appeal hearing; lawyers must prove it pertains to an issue central to the case and that the evidence was not available when the trial was held. Forcillo’s lawyers have argued the new evidence provides reliable research to back up their claim that Forcillo had been experiencing “stress-caused perceptual distortions” at the time he began firing the second volley, causing him to misperceive that Yatim was rising up. The new research stems from a study by Judith Andersen, a health psychologist who studies the physical and mental health impact of stressful and traumatic experiences. She conducted a study on a small group of officers from Toronto police’s Emergency Task Force. The research involved evaluating the officers’ cortisol and cardiovascular levels in various stressful scenarios, both in training and on the road. The tests came back with what Forcillo’s lawyers say is “objective biological measurements” indicating that — despite being highly trained — the officers’ stress arousal lasted for an average of five minutes and as long as 10 minutes. According to Forcillo’s lawyers, one of the most important aspects of the study casts doubt on the testimony of now-retired Toronto deputy chief Mike Federico, a Crown witness who at trial stated the service provided training that inoculates officers against the effects of stress. Forcillo’s lawyers say the study shows the inoculation techniques used by Toronto police “do little to counteract” the effects of a natural stress response that then go on to affect the perceptions and reactions “of even highly trained” officers. Crown lawyers argue the study adds “nothing of substance” to the evidence heard at trial. They write that the research cannot be expected to affect the result from trial and, conducted in 2014, is “far from fresh;” Forcillo’s lawyers say the research was unknown at the time of the trial. While Forcillo’s lawyers are arguing that the new evidence establishes it is more likely that the officer was experiencing “perceptual distortions” when he shot Yatim, Crown lawyers say the study did not examine whether there were such distortions caused by stress. Mere evidence that officers have a physical response to stress does not “meaningfully advance the defence.” “The evidence is inadmissible, and the fresh-evidence application should be dismissed,” the Crown lawyers write. There are so far no court dates scheduled for oral arguments on the new evidence issue. Late last year, Forcillo was charged with breaching his bail conditions after he was found at another apartment, that of his fiancée, when he should have been at home. A few weeks later he was charged with perjury and attempting to obstruct justice. His bail has since been revoked and he is in prison serving his six-year sentence while awaiting the results of the appeal."

The entire story can be read at:

https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2018/02/17/lawyers-for-cop-who-shot-sammy-yatim-say-fresh-evidence-warrants-new-trial.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."

William Amor: Illinois; Bulletin: Arson 'science' 'false confession' case: "A DuPage County judge will rule Wednesday whether to send a former Naperville man back to prison to finish serving the final year of a 23-year sentence or to set him free for the first time since 1995..."Amor was convicted in 1997 of arson and murder in connection with the 1995 death of his mother-in-law, Marianne Miceli, in a fire at a Naperville condo on the 1800 block of Baily Road. But Brennan vacated that conviction last April after ruling that advances in fire science proved the description of the crime Amor gave in his confession to police -- that he started the fire with a cigarette and a vodka-soaked newspaper -- was impossible. Amor has been free on $100,000 bail since last May awaiting his second trial." Reporter Justin Kmitch. Daily Herald.


QUOTE OF THE DAY:  "There's no way to rule out an accidental fire in this case. That's at least reasonable doubt. Science gives us reasonable doubt."

 Defense attorney Tara Thompson

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

"A DuPage County judge will rule Wednesday whether to send a former Naperville man back to prison to finish serving the final year of a 23-year sentence or to set him free for the first time since 1995. Judge Liam Brennan will decide William Amor's future at 10 a.m. in Wheaton. Amor's nearly two-week bench trial concluded Feb. 2, but Brennan said he needed time to review his notes and evidence before handing down a verdict. Prosecutors James Scaliatine and Thomas Minser, in their closing arguments this month, insisted that just because experts debunked the way Amor confessed to starting the fire doesn't mean he didn't intentionally ignite the blaze some other way. And they said Amor, 39 at the time, unemployed and down on his luck, was counting on killing Marianne Miceli to collect her life insurance policy to jump-start a better life for himself and his 18-year-old bride, Tina Miceli. They pointed to a 1995 letter Amor had written Tina in which he allegedly wrote that he had a plan for "capital gains later that summer." "He was miserable. His situation was untenable and he wanted out," Minser said after playing a snippet of Amor's audio-taped confession to Naperville police. "And his way out was to murder Marianne Miceli." As for the confession, "Believe him when he told you he's a murderer," Minser told Brennan. That confession, Amor's attorneys say, was coerced from a highly suggestible man who had just lost his home, all his belongings, his mother-in-law and, ultimately, his marriage when he was served divorce papers during his interrogation. His attorneys, from the Illinois Innocence Project, say science shows the fire would have reached a fatal level much sooner than the estimated 20 minutes it took if Amor had ignited it. Testimony showed Amor and Miceli left to see a drive-in movie showing of "Babe," a movie about "a pig who doesn't conform to his farm's social hierarchy," about 20 minutes before Marianne Miceli's 6:40 p.m. 911 call to report she was "overcome with smoke." Instead, his attorneys and their experts pointed to a theory that a small fire, possibly from a careless smoker, could have smoldered for as long as five hours before finally erupting into the fatal blaze. According to trial testimony, Marianne Miceli smoked about two packs of cigarettes a day. Amor and Tina also smoked in the home. "There's no way to rule out an accidental fire in this case," defense attorney Tara Thompson said in her closing argument. "That's at least reasonable doubt. Science gives us reasonable doubt."

http://www.dailyherald.com/news/20180216/dupage-judge-to-rule-in-naperville-mans-second-murder-trial

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."