Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Sonja Farak: Annie Doukhan; White elephant cases; Judge finds prosecutor misconduct in handling of Amherst drug lab cases, The Boston Globe (reporter Shawn Musgrave) reports..." A Springfield judge has vacated several drug cases connected to a former state chemist after finding that two former state prosecutors committed misconduct. In a lengthy ruling, Judge Richard J. Carey of Hampden County Superior Court concluded that the two prosecutors “tampered with the fair administration of justice” by deliberately concealing documents and making misrepresentations to a judge. Carey found their conduct “constitutes a fraud upon the court.” Carey dismissed the convictions of seven defendants and allowed another to withdraw his guilty plea. The dismissals stem from evidence tested by Sonja Farak, a former state chemist at the Amherst drug laboratory who was arrested in early 2013 after a colleague noticed samples were missing. She pleaded guilty in 2014 to stealing from narcotics evidence and was sentenced to eighteen months in jail. At the time of her arrest, State Police seized drugs and paraphernalia from Farak’s car, as well as work sheets she completed as part of substance abuse therapy. The work sheets showed that her tampering with evidence began earlier than was revealed at trial or in subsequent proceedings. Judge Carey determined that two former assistant attorneys general — Anne Kaczmarek and Kris Foster — compounded the damage done by Farak, and that their actions were “in many ways more damning.” The prosecutors took steps to conceal these work sheets from the court and local prosecutors, as well as from defendants challenging Farak’s analysis in their cases, he found."



Image result for "white elephant"

In the years since I started publishing this Blog I have become increasingly disturbed by the 'white elephant' in the room: Sheer, unadulterated, willful   misconduct in the criminal justice system - much  of it involving forensic evidence - committed by lab technicians,  pathologists, police officers, prosecutors and others.  Think Annie Dookhan; Think Sonia Farak; Think David Kofoed; Think Charles Smith; Think Ken Anderson; Think Gene Morrison. Think Michael West;  Think Anne Kaczmarek; Think  Kris Foster   I have therefore decided to run this image of a white elephant at the top of every applicable post henceforth, to draw our reader's attention to   what I see as a major problem in all too many criminal justice system's - my own included.  Harold Levy; Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;
"Reformers have for years recommended that all forensic labs be independent from law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies' and this is a key reform promoted by The Justice Project (2008). But fixing these problems is only half the answer' because half of the wrongful convictions attributed to misleading forensic evidence involved deliberate forensic fraud' evidence tampering' and/or perjury.
From "The Elephant in the Crime Lab," by co-authored by Sheila Berry and Larry Ytuarte; Forensic Examiner; Spring, 2009;

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STORY: "Judge finds prosecutor misconduct in handling of Amherst drug lab cases," by reporter Shawn Musgrave, published by The Boston Globe on June 26, 2017.

PHOTO CAPTION:  "Sonja Farak, a forensic chemist in the State Crime Lab in Amherst who stole from narcotics samples to feed her addiction, stood during her arraignment in 2013."



GIST: A Springfield judge has vacated several drug cases connected to a former state chemist after finding that two former state prosecutors committed misconduct. In a lengthy ruling, Judge Richard J. Carey of Hampden County Superior Court concluded that the two prosecutors “tampered with the fair administration of justice” by deliberately concealing documents and making misrepresentations to a judge. Carey found their conduct “constitutes a fraud upon the court.” Carey dismissed the convictions of seven defendants and allowed another to withdraw his guilty plea. The dismissals stem from evidence tested by Sonja Farak, a former state chemist at the Amherst drug laboratory who was arrested in early 2013 after a colleague noticed samples were missing. She pleaded guilty in 2014 to stealing from narcotics evidence and was sentenced to eighteen months in jail. At the time of her arrest, State Police seized drugs and paraphernalia from Farak’s car, as well as work sheets she completed as part of substance abuse therapy. The work sheets showed that her tampering with evidence began earlier than was revealed at trial or in subsequent proceedings. Judge Carey determined that two former assistant attorneys general — Anne Kaczmarek and Kris Foster — compounded the damage done by Farak, and that their actions were “in many ways more damning.” The prosecutors took steps to conceal these work sheets from the court and local prosecutors, as well as from defendants challenging Farak’s analysis in their cases, he found. Kaczmarek left the attorney general’s office in 2014 and is now an assistant clerk magistrate in Suffolk County. “I am proud of my 16 years of working for the people of Massachusetts. I disagree with the Court’s decision and the characterization of my conduct in this case,” said Kaczmarek. Foster is now general counsel at the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. She did not respond to a request for comment. “The nature and scope of governmental misconduct by Kaczmarek and Foster in withholding evidence was severe,” Carey wrote. “It continued for a prolonged period, in violation of many drug lab defendants’ constitutional rights.” Kaczmarek, who led Farak’s prosecution and also prosecuted former state chemist Annie Dookhan, cited these work sheets in memos to her supervisors. She also provided copies to Farak’s defense attorney, but not to the Hampden District Attorney’s Office, which was responsible for passing along pertinent evidence to defendants. In response to motions from defense attorneys, Foster told a judge that all relevant materials had already been turned over, characterizing such motions as a “fishing expedition.” Foster later testified that she never actually reviewed the evidence files to determine what had not been turned over, and that she intentionally wrote a “vague” letter to the judge to avoid representing that she had. Carey found that the two prosecutors “managed to withhold the mental health worksheets through deception.” He rejected Kaczmarek’s explanation that she forgot about the work sheets, and deemed Foster’s actions “inexcusable.” In March, the state attorney general’s office acknowledged that both prosecutors made mistakes, but argued that they were not severe enough to warrant throwing out convictions. But Carey determined that the circumstances demanded that the cases be dismissed in order to deter misconduct by prosecutors in the future. “The ramifications from their misconduct are nothing short of systemic,” Carey wrote. “Had the AGO made timely disclosures of the mental health worksheets, many of the defendants before me now . . . would not have spent as much time incarcerated.” Attorneys for the defendants welcomed the ruling. “In not turning over this vital evidence, the attorney general ensured that a scandal would devolve into a travesty of justice,” said Springfield-based lawyer Jared Olanoff. “Judge Carey did brilliant, fearless work concerning the misconduct committed by the prosecutors who intentionally withheld exculpatory evidence,” said attorney James McKenna."




The entire story can be found at:
https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/06/26/judge-finds-prosecutor-misconduct-handling-amherst-drug-lab-cases/UUAzZe9Yh37dxVMRP0x7KJ/story.html

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

Monday, June 26, 2017

Tonya Lucas; Maryland; Arson 'science' case; Baltimore Woman Accused of Killing Six Children in Fire Faces Retrial, U.S. News and World Report reports..."Lucas' case is among dozens in the United States in recent decades in which faulty arson investigation has led to reversed convictions and exonerations. She won a new trial last year after prosecutors admitted the arson science used to convict her on murder and arson charges had been discredited. Neither side gave details on the discredited arson evidence on Monday. During opening statements, prosecutors said Lucas was seen setting the fire in her home and wanted to cover up the abuse of her emaciated 2-year-old son, as well as to get other housing through the Red Cross. The night before the blaze, Lucas had told neighbors living in the basement how to escape from a fire, according to prosecutor Rita Wistoff-Ito. "These children, their lives were snuffed out 25 years ago by the actions of their mother. Their lives were stolen from them." Lucas offered oral sex to a man in exchange for crack cocaine the morning of the fire, and he saw her setting lighter fluid alight in the building, Wistoff-Ito said. Six children ages 2 months to 12 years died, and a seventh child survived. As the prosecutor read out the names of her dead children, Lucas hung her head and dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief. Michele Nethercott, Lucas' attorney, told jurors the original investigation of the blaze had been mishandled through a lack of documentation and analysis and now-debunked arson science. "In the last 25 years, firefighters have learned a lot about how fire starts, how they develop and how they spread," she said in her opening statement. Investigators' main mistake was trying to find out who had set the fire instead of probing how it started, Nethercott added."


STORY:"Retrial starts for Baltimore woman accused of killing six children in fire," by reporter Ian Simpson (Reuters), published by U.S. News and World Report, on June 26, 2017.

GIST: "A Baltimore woman charged with killing six of her children in a 1992 fire should be acquitted because the arson evidence in the case has been discredited, her lawyer said at the start of her retrial on Monday. But a Maryland prosecutor told jurors there was still enough evidence to find Tonya Lucas, 53, guilty of a crime that officials at the time called one of the worst in Baltimore's history. Lucas' case is among dozens in the United States in recent decades in which faulty arson investigation has led to reversed convictions and exonerations. She won a new trial last year after prosecutors admitted the arson science used to convict her on murder and arson charges had been discredited. Neither side gave details on the discredited arson evidence on Monday. During opening statements, prosecutors said Lucas was seen setting the fire in her home and wanted to cover up the abuse of her emaciated 2-year-old son, as well as to get other housing through the Red Cross. The night before the blaze, Lucas had told neighbors living in the basement how to escape from a fire, according to prosecutor Rita Wistoff-Ito. "These children, their lives were snuffed out 25 years ago by the actions of their mother. Their lives were stolen from them." Lucas offered oral sex to a man in exchange for crack cocaine the morning of the fire, and he saw her setting lighter fluid alight in the building, Wistoff-Ito said. Six children ages 2 months to 12 years died, and a seventh child survived. As the prosecutor read out the names of her dead children, Lucas hung her head and dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief. Michele Nethercott, Lucas' attorney, told jurors the original investigation of the blaze had been mishandled through a lack of documentation and analysis and now-debunked arson science. "In the last 25 years, firefighters have learned a lot about how fire starts, how they develop and how they spread," she said in her opening statement. Investigators' main mistake was trying to find out who had set the fire instead of probing how it started, Nethercott added."

The entire story can be found at:

https://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2017-06-26/baltimore-woman-accused-of-killing-six-children-in-fire-faces-retrial

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;

David Harold Eastman: Australian Capital Territory (ACT) to spend millions of more dollars on a retrial - (in spite of Justice Ian Binnie's report saying Eastman is innocent and calling for compensation. Publisher's Note: ("In spite of Binnie's opinion - the opinion of a brilliant, highly respected former Supreme Court of Canada judge - the CT is determined to go to retrial come hell or high water, no matter what the cost - even though those dollars could be a start to pay David Eastman for his wrongful imprisonment over many years because of the state's bungling." HL.) ABC News.


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: According to ABC News,  (article below) The Australian Capital  Territory will be spending millions of dollars to retry David Eastman for the alleged murder of  Assistant Commissioner Colin Winchester. Eastman was freed in 2014 after almost 20 years behind bars, when an inquiry found forensic evidence linking him to the killing  was flawed. In a report to the New Zealand government, Former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Ian Binnie said David Bain was innocent and deserved compensation because botched police work caused him to serve 13 years in prison.  (According to a Globe and Mail story, Binnie described the Bain case as a combination of several notorious wrongful conviction cases in Canada, saying it "seems to be like Milgaard, Morin, Sophonow and Marshall rolled into one fireball. In spite of Binnie's opinion the opinion of a brilliant, highly  respected former Supreme Court of Canada judge, the ACT seems  determined to go to retrial come hell or high water, no matter what the cost - even though those dollars could be a start to pay David Eastman for his wrongful imprisonment over many years because of the state's bungling. How does The ACTustify its never ending persecution of David Eastman?  ACT  As Victims of Crime commissioner John Hinchey put it: ""Justice can't be measured by the amount of money we spend on it," he said. "Here we have the most senior police officer in the ACT murdered in cold blood outside his house." What message would we send the community if we halted proceedings because the costs had come to a stage where people thought we shouldn't proceed? "That's not justice to the family of Colin Winchester, and it's not justice to our ACT Policing force." Proceeding with a retrial -  and fighting tooth and nail to avoid paying a cent to David Eastman in order to appease "the people" is certainly not justice - not  the justice that counts.

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

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STORY: "ACT Attorney-General defends $26m bill for accused cop killer's legal proceedings," by reporters Elizabeth Byrne and Elise Scott,  published by ABC News on January 20, 2017;


GIST: "The ACT's top legal figure has defended government spending around the legal battle and upcoming retrial of David Eastman, who is accused of shooting dead the territory's top police officer in 1989. Mr Eastman was freed in 2014 after almost 20 years behind bars, when an inquiry found forensic evidence linking him to the killing of Assistant Commissioner Colin Winchester was flawed.
His conviction was quashed and a retrial was scheduled for next year, having been repeatedly delayed. As the case drags on, costs associated with Mr Eastman's prosecution continue to rise. Where will the $7 million in new money go: $2.4m to ACT Law Courts and Tribunal; $2.3m to the DPP; $1.9m to Legal Aid Commission to fund Mr Eastman's defence; $800,000 to cover associated police costs......... But ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said the government funding was tied to decisions made by the Director of Public Prosecutions, outside of his control. "The decision to prosecute is independent of government," he said. "It's not for the government to be commenting in any way on any individual court case. "The funding that is allocated is an amount that covers the court costs, the prosecution costs, the policing costs, and the defence costs." This year's ACT budget included more than $7 million in new money for the case - in anticipation of Mr Eastman's retrial. ACT Victims of Crime Commissioner John Hinchey said the rising budget figures were necessary to the public interest in order to determine what happened to Mr Winchester. "Justice can't be measured by the amount of money we spend on it," he said. "Here we have the most senior police officer in the ACT murdered in cold blood outside his house." What message would we send the community if we halted proceedings because the costs had come to a stage where people thought we shouldn't proceed? "That's not justice to the family of Colin Winchester, and it's not justice to our ACT Policing force."

The entire story can be found at: 

http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-20/act-attorney-general-defends-$26m-bill-for-david-eastman/8635202?pfmredir=sm

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, June 25, 2017

Fran and Dan Keller: Texas: Reporter Jordan Smith's perspective on their exoneration: She conducted a reinvestigation of the case which turned up evidence that would ultimately lead to their release from prison..."When I began reinvestigating the case in 2008 for the Austin Chronicle, I was stunned to learn that police and prosecutors who had worked the case back in the early ’90s still believed some of the most outrageous allegations leveled against the Kellers. The Austin Police Department refused to release its investigative report on the case, forcing the Chronicle to take the agency to court. We ultimately won the right to full, unredacted access. After reading the report, it was not hard to understand why the department had fought to keep it secret. It was an ALL-CAPS, run-on-sentence fever dream full of breathless accusations and absent any actual investigation that could prove or disprove the claims. On multiple occasions, the lead investigator took the girl who accused the Kellers to lunch at McDonald’s before setting out for drives in the neighborhood where she would point out locations: Yes, she had been abused there; yes, she recognized the cemetery where the Kellers had killed and buried babies; yes, many of the residents of the quiet neighborhood were in on the hi-jinx. Not once did investigators question the child’s statements. My reinvestigation of the Keller case turned up evidence that would ultimately lead to their release from prison."


STORY: "Couple Exonerated 25 Years After Being Convicted of Lurid Crimes That Never Happened," by Jordan Smith, published by The Intercept on June 20, 2017. (Jordan Smith is a state and national award-winning investigative journalist based in Austin, Texas. She has covered criminal justice for nearly 20 years and during that time has developed a reputation as a resourceful and dogged reporter with a talent for analyzing complex social and legal issues, and is regarded as one of the best investigative reporters in Texas. Her work has also appeared in The NationThe Crime Report, and Salon, among other places.)

GIST: Twenty-five years after they were convicted of a crime that never happened, Fran and Dan Keller were formally exonerated on June 20 in Austin, Texas. The couple’s prosecution in 1992 was part of a wave of cases across the country amid an episode of mass hysteria known as the Satanic Panic. Beginning in the 1980s, accusations flew that the childcare industry had been infiltrated by bands of Satanists hell-bent on brainwashing and sexually abusing young children. The Kellers’ exoneration closes a decades long chapter of profound injustice for a couple that paid an exceptionally high price for the credulousness of local law enforcement.........The exoneration is the first for the nascent conviction integrity unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office under the new DA, Margaret Moore. Court documents filed Tuesday announced that there is “no credible evidence” against the Kellers. Moore said she personally reviewed the case and believes exoneration “to be a just outcome.” Fran and Dan Keller were each sentenced to 48 years in prison for the alleged sexual assault of a 3-year-old girl who was an occasional drop-in at their home daycare center on the rural outskirts of Austin. The child initially accused Dan of spanking her “like daddy” used to, but under intense and repeated questioning by her mother and a therapist, the story morphed to include claims of rape and orgies involving children. From there, the number of children alleging abuse increased and the accusations grew even more lurid and confounding: The Kellers had sacrificed babies; they held ceremonies in a local graveyard; they put blood in the children’s Kool-Aid; Fran cut off the arm of a gorilla in a local park; they flew the children to Mexico to be sexually assaulted by military officials. When I began reinvestigating the case in 2008 for the Austin Chronicle, I was stunned to learn that police and prosecutors who had worked the case back in the early ’90s still believed some of the most outrageous allegations leveled against the Kellers. The Austin Police Department refused to release its investigative report on the case, forcing the Chronicle to take the agency to court. We ultimately won the right to full, unredacted access. After reading the report, it was not hard to understand why the department had fought to keep it secret. It was an ALL-CAPS, run-on-sentence fever dream full of breathless accusations and absent any actual investigation that could prove or disprove the claims. On multiple occasions, the lead investigator took the girl who accused the Kellers to lunch at McDonald’s before setting out for drives in the neighborhood where she would point out locations: Yes, she had been abused there; yes, she recognized the cemetery where the Kellers had killed and buried babies; yes, many of the residents of the quiet neighborhood were in on the hi-jinx. Not once did investigators question the child’s statements. My reinvestigation of the Keller case turned up evidence that would ultimately lead to their release from prison. The only vaguely physical evidence that tied the couple to any wrongdoing was the testimony of a young emergency room doctor named Michael Mouw, who had examined the girl and concluded there was damage to her vaginal area that could be the result of sexual abuse. As it turned out, the doctor was wrong. Mouw told me that not long after the Kellers were convicted, he attended a medical conference where he learned that what he had interpreted as signs of abuse were nothing more than a normal variant of female genitalia. Mouw’s medical opinion had fundamentally changed, offering the Kellers an avenue to challenge their conviction. During a hearing in the summer of 2013, he unequivocally stated that there was no doubt that the child’s genitalia was normal and that he’d gotten it wrong when he examined her in 1991. He said that he tried to reach out to the Austin Police Department after he realized his error but was rebuffed by the detective, who was “convinced they were guilty.” After the 2013 hearing, DA Rosemary Lehmberg — who had been head of the office’s child abuse unit at the time of the Kellers’ prosecution — ultimately agreed that the couple had not received a fair trial, and they were released shortly before Christmas that year. While there was no doubt the couple would not be retried, over the intervening years, Lehmberg declined to take the final step and exonerate them, claiming to my former editor that she could not “find a pathway to innocence” for the Kellers. She was essentially trying to prove a negative — seeking evidence that would prove a crime never happened. Without a formal exoneration, the Kellers struggled to rebuild their lives. They were still saddled with a conviction for sexual assault of a child, which made it nearly impossible to find work or a place to live. Without an income, they had to scrape by with the help of family and food stamps, and they have not been able to get the kind of medical attention they need for health issues prompted in part by abuses they suffered in prison. The court filing Tuesday should pave the way for the Kellers to collect roughly $1.7 million each in state compensation for the 21 years they spent behind bars. Still, the outcome should not be considered a victory for the criminal justice system. With a few notable exceptions, the law enforcement officials in Austin — police and prosecutors, as well as the state’s Court of Criminal Appeals — failed the residents of the city and more importantly the Kellers by accepting the shocking allegations on their face and abdicating their duty to seek the truth of the matter. If it weren’t for the dogged support of people like Mouw and attorney Keith Hampton — who has spent more than six years toiling on the case for free in an effort to bring about this exoneration — the Kellers would still be in prison, and that is where they would have died. Contrary to what many people might think, you don’t have a right not to be convicted of a crime you did not commit. For the most part, the Constitution is silent on this point. Instead, the focus is on whether a person received a fair trial. Did you have at least minimally competent lawyers? Were you afforded the ability to cross-examine witnesses against you? If so, then your conviction — even for a crime that never happened — should stand. Once a person is convicted, the system works only to reinforce that outcome. That remains the reality for untold thousands who sit innocent behind bars today."

The entire story can be found at:
https://theintercept.com/2017/06/20/texas-couple-exonerated-25-years-after-being-convicted-of-lurid-crimes-that-never-happened/

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, June 24, 2017

Fran and Dan Keller: Texas; Historical perspective; Babysitters accused of satanic crimes exonerated after 25 years; 'History' (reporter Sarah Pruitt) provides a valuable historical perspective..."With the exoneration of the Kellers, and improved techniques used by law enforcement officers, social workers and other professionals to interview children in cases where abuse is suspected, it’s tempting to believe something like the Satanic Panic could not happen today. (Author Debbie) Nathan warned against such complacency, however, saying that the Internet has sparked all kinds of new anxieties about what children are doing online, and what kind of dangers they might be exposed to. In fact, the earlier panic may hold a lesson for us in today’s news climate, with its prevalence of conspiracy theories and unsupported rumors. “We saw this 30 years ago,” Nathan said. “It’s sort of an object lesson, what happened then, and I think it’s unfortunate that not very many people remember it.”


PUBLISHER'S NOTE:  On June 24, 2017, The Statesman published a  noteworthy letter  to the editor  from Lewis Jones, who writes that as Fran Keller's trial attorney, he was  overwhelmed with thankfulness by the actions of  prosecutors Margaret Moore and Keith Hampton. "While the dismissal of charges is a remedy, the recompense that the state of Texas is offering does not begin to compensate for the years of abuse suffered during their incarceration," he writes. " Consideration should be given to the severity of what the Kellers endured, as well as the years that they served. The unjust incarceration of Dan and Fran Keller has haunted me for years — and in my anger I ended my own legal career. Perhaps my anger on their behalf was selfish and not what they would have wished. I find myself in awe at the Keller’s ability to forgive those who prosecuted them. They have shown me what it is to move forward in this life — and for that I am thankful."
 http://www.mystatesman.com/news/opinion/letters-the-editor-june-2017/9Lz0qUezpnTbBiH54MpC0N/

Harold Levy. Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

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STORY: "Babysitters Accused of Satanic Crimes Exonerated After 25 Years," by  reporter Sarah Pruitt, published by 'History' on June 21, 2017.

GIST:  "On June 20th, a couple who served 21 years in prison for the Satanic ritual abuse of children was formally exonerated by the district attorney in Austin, Texas, who said there is “no credible evidence” against them. The decision brings an end to one of the more prominent cases brought during the so-called Satanic Panic of the 1980s and the early 1990s, where fears of devil-worshippers influencing American children spread rapidly. During this time, hundreds of childcare providers were accused of unspeakable crimes, and many would spend years behind bars for crimes they didn’t commit. Fran and Dan Keller were convicted in 1992 of sexually abusing a three-year-old girl at their home daycare facility on the outskirts of Austin, Texas. After the girl’s initial reports of abuse (she said Dan spanked her, according to the Intercept, but later alleged rape under further questioning), the local community grew panicked. The charges leveled against the Kellers soon included supposedly Satanic rituals like baby sacrifice, the amputation of a zoo gorilla’s arm, secret graveyard ceremonies, and transportation of children to Mexico to be assaulted by members of the military. Following a trial, the Kellers were each sentenced to 48 years in prison. The Kellers were finally released in 2013 after multiple appeals, when the doctor who had provided the only physical evidence of the alleged assault recanted his testimony. This week, Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore exonerated the couple, bringing an end to the Kellers’ 25-year-long struggle to clear their names.  Though the Satanic Panic that ensnared the Kellers certainly has historical precedents (most notably the Salem Witch Trials), the panic’s more immediate roots can be traced to the tumultuous decade that preceded it. “In the 1970s, there was a lot of anxiety being put onto the idea that Satanists were controlling things and had their hands in things,” said Debbie Nathan, a longtime investigative journalist who co-authored a book about the panic, “Satan’s Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt” (2001), with Michael Snedeker. At the time, a number of gossipy urban myths were going around about Satanic influences on corporations. Procter & Gamble even had to hold a press conference in 1985 to deny allegations that their logo was the sign of the devil. According to Nathan, such myths had staying power because they reflected people’s anxieties about “corporate consumerism and corporate culture,” about women entering the work force, and especially about children being left in daycare facilities in increasing numbers. In the early 1980s, “Daycare was really demonized in ways that were way beyond the facts. There was just a lot of anxiety about public childcare, which I think was tacked onto a generalized anxiety about women going into the workforce.” In the early 1980s, these concerns unexpectedly tracked with those of feminists, who were seeking to confront violence (particularly sexual violence) against women and children. “Those two things came together and caused a really powerful panic,” Nathan said. “It was really remarkable to see all of these institutions buy into the idea that there was an international conspiracy of Satanists set out to recruit tiny kids, and somehow brainwash them so that later on when they became adults, you could sort of snap your fingers and they would go into this Satanic trance.”.........In addition to hundreds of accusations of abuse against daycare providers and other caregivers, people identified all kinds of evil influences in modern American society during the panic. People saw Satanic messages in rock music, cartoons, role-playing video games like “Dungeons and Dragons,” the theme song from “Mr. Ed” and even the diapers they put on their children. By the early ‘90s, evidence was mounting against the existence of a widespread Satanic conspiracy among childcare providers. A report in 1992 by the Department of Justice found the reports of widespread Satanic ritual abuse were not credible. In 1994, the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect released another report debunking the claims.  Thanks to increased skepticism, the Satanic Panic died down by the mid-1990s, and by now many of the cases against childcare providers have been overturned due to mishandled prosecutions. In perhaps the most notorious panic-fueled case, three Arkansas men—known as the West Memphis Three—were freed in 2011 after serving more than 18 years in prison; they had been convicted as teenagers in 1994 of the sexual assault and murder of three young boys, but DNA evidence showed they had no connection to the crime. With the exoneration of the Kellers, and improved techniques used by law enforcement officers, social workers and other professionals to interview children in cases where abuse is suspected, it’s tempting to believe something like the Satanic Panic could not happen today. Nathan warned against such complacency, however, saying that the Internet has sparked all kinds of new anxieties about what children are doing online, and what kind of dangers they might be exposed to. In fact, the earlier panic may hold a lesson for us in today’s news climate, with its prevalence of conspiracy theories and unsupported rumors. “We saw this 30 years ago,” Nathan said. “It’s sort of an object lesson, what happened then, and I think it’s unfortunate that not very many people remember it.”"
http://www.history.com/news/babysitters-accused-of-satanic-crimes-exonerated-after-25-years

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;

Kevin Cooper: California: New York Times Columnist Nicolas Kristoff: "On Death Row, but Is he innocent?"..." A man named Kevin Cooper is on San Quentin’s death row awaiting execution for the murders, even though a federal judge says he probably is innocent. “He is on death row because the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department framed him,” the judge, William A. Fletcher of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, declared in a searing 2013 critique delivered in a distinguished lecture series. Fletcher was in the minority in 2009 when his court refused to rehear the case. His dissent, over 100 pages long, points to Cooper’s possible innocence and to systematic police misconduct. It’s a modern equivalent of Émile Zola’s “J’accuse.” At least 10 other federal judges have also expressed concerns about Cooper’s conviction. Many other eminent legal experts, including the then-president of the American Bar Association, have also called on Gov. Jerry Brown to intervene. The evidence of police tampering is overwhelming. When lawyers working on Cooper’s appeal asked for DNA testing on a T-shirt believed to belong to the killer, the lab found Cooper’s blood on the shirt — but also something astonishing: The blood had test tube preservative in it! In other words, it appeared to have come from the supply of Cooper’s blood drawn by the police and kept in a test tube. Kevin Cooper was sent to death row at San Quentin State Prison after his conviction for a quadruple murder. Judges and others question the reliability of the evidence. When the test tube was later examined, it had the DNA of at least two people in it. It appeared that someone had removed some of Cooper’s blood and then topped off the test tube with the blood of one or more other people to hide the deception. What’s extraordinary about the case is that not only is it likely that Cooper is innocent, but that we also have a good idea who committed the murders."


COMMENTARY: "On Death Row, but Is He Innocent?," by Nicolas Kristof, published by The New York Times on June 17, 2017.

GIST: "One June day in 1983, a California professor drove over to a neighbor’s house to pick up his 11-year-old son from a sleepover. Nobody answered the door, so the professor peered through a window — and saw a ghastly panorama of blood. The professor found his son stabbed to death, along with the bodies of Peggy and Doug Ryen, the homeowners. The Ryens’ 10-year-old daughter was also dead, with 46 wounds, but their 8-year-old son was still breathing. This quadruple murder began a travesty that is still unfolding and underscores just how broken the American justice system is. A man named Kevin Cooper is on San Quentin’s death row awaiting execution for the murders, even though a federal judge says he probably is innocent. “He is on death row because the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department framed him,” the judge, William A. Fletcher of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, declared in a searing 2013 critique delivered in a distinguished lecture series. Fletcher was in the minority in 2009 when his court refused to rehear the case. His dissent, over 100 pages long, points to Cooper’s possible innocence and to systematic police misconduct. It’s a modern equivalent of Émile Zola’s “J’accuse.” At least 10 other federal judges have also expressed concerns about Cooper’s conviction. Many other eminent legal experts, including the then-president of the American Bar Association, have also called on Gov. Jerry Brown to intervene. The evidence of police tampering is overwhelming. When lawyers working on Cooper’s appeal asked for DNA testing on a T-shirt believed to belong to the killer, the lab found Cooper’s blood on the shirt — but also something astonishing: The blood had test tube preservative in it! In other words, it appeared to have come from the supply of Cooper’s blood drawn by the police and kept in a test tube. Kevin Cooper was sent to death row at San Quentin State Prison after his conviction for a quadruple murder. Judges and others question the reliability of the evidence. When the test tube was later examined, it had the DNA of at least two people in it. It appeared that someone had removed some of Cooper’s blood and then topped off the test tube with the blood of one or more other people to hide the deception. What’s extraordinary about the case is that not only is it likely that Cooper is innocent, but that we also have a good idea who committed the murders.........There was no reliable evidence against Cooper. But he had escaped from a minimum-security prison (he walked away) where he was serving a burglary sentence and had holed up in an empty house near the Ryens’ home. A court suggested that he had killed the Ryens to steal their station wagon — although it is thought to have been parked in front of the house with the keys in it. And when the car was found, it appeared that three people with bloody clothing had sat in it. One fundamental factor in this case is Cooper’s race, and this case is a microcosm of racial injustice in the United States. The police seemed predisposed to believe the worst of a black man; Cooper was subjected to racist taunts as his case unfolded; and Democratic and Republican politicians alike have shown themselves inclined to avert their eyes, even if this leaves an innocent man on death row. As governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to act. Kamala Harris, who was state attorney general and is now a U.S. senator, was unhelpful. Governor Brown is reviewing the case, but previously as attorney general exhibited little interest. Cooper and his lawyers are not asking for a pardon right now, or even for a commutation to life imprisonment. They’re simply asking Governor Brown to order a review of the case with new DNA testing (critical testing has never been done) to indicate whether Cooper is likely guilty or innocent. They will even pay for the testing, because they believe it will both exonerate Cooper and implicate the real killers. “We’re not saying let Kevin out of jail now, we’re not saying pardon him,” noted one of his pro bono lawyers, Norman Hile. “We’re saying, let’s find out if he’s innocent.” This case is a national embarrassment. It appears that an innocent man was railroaded, in part because he is black, and the government won’t even allow crucial DNA testing. Governor Brown, will you act?""

The entire commentary can be  found at:
https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/06/17/opinion/sunday/kevin-cooper-death-row-innocent.html?em_pos=large&emc=edit_nk_20170616&nl=nickkristof&nlid=57629086&ref=img&te=1&_r=0&referer=

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


  • Friday, June 23, 2017

    Brendan Dassey: Wisconsin; Significant Development: Appeal court upholds ruling that Dassey's confession in the rape and murder of Teresa Halbach (featured in the Netflix series “Making a Murderer”) was involuntary..."In an Associated Press article, Steven Drizin, an expert on false confessions, Co-founder of the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth at Northwestern University, and one of Dassey’s attorneys said, “While these tactics might not have overwhelmed a seasoned criminal or a 30-year-old with a law degree, they clearly overwhelmed a 16-year-old, socially avoidant, intellectually limited (youth) who had never been interrogated by the police before.”..." In the article we get a fascinating glimpse of how officials differ in viewing common interrogation techniques that have contributed to false confessions… “The appellate panel split, with Judges Ilana Rovner and Ann Williams affirming and David Hamilton in dissent. The majority opinion by Rovner said ‘no reasonable court’ could have any confidence that Dassey’s confession was voluntary. It cited ‘the leading, the fact-feeding, the false promises, the manipulation of Dassey’s desire to please’ as among many factors that cast it in doubt. “Hamilton, in dissent, wrote: ‘The majority’s decision breaks new ground and poses troubling questions for police and prosecutors. It calls into question standard interrogation techniques that courts have routinely found permissible, even in cases involving juveniles.’ ” In this writer’s view, the problem with these “standard interrogation techniques,” which we now know risk prompting false confessions, is that they botch attempts to find the truth. This does not serve the interests of victims, defendants, or public safety.":


    STORY: "Appeals Court Concurs: Brendan Dassey’s Confession Was Involuntary," by Nancy Petro, published by The Wrongful Convictions log on June 23, 2017.

    GIST:  "Yesterday, a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal magistrate judge’s ruling that Wisconsin inmate Brendan Dassey’s confession  The state Justice Department had appealed and will likely seek a review by the 7th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court. The state also has the option of retrying Dassey within 90 days. In an Associated Press article, Steven Drizin, an expert on false confessions, Co-founder of the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth at Northwestern University, and one of Dassey’s attorneys said, “While these tactics might not have overwhelmed a seasoned criminal or a 30-year-old with a law degree, they clearly overwhelmed a 16-year-old, socially avoidant, intellectually limited (youth) who had never been interrogated by the police before.” In the article we get a fascinating glimpse of how officials differ in viewing common interrogation techniques that have contributed to false confessions… “The appellate panel split, with Judges Ilana Rovner and Ann Williams affirming and David Hamilton in dissent. The majority opinion by Rovner said ‘no reasonable court’ could have any confidence that Dassey’s confession was voluntary. It cited ‘the leading, the fact-feeding, the false promises, the manipulation of Dassey’s desire to please’ as among many factors that cast it in doubt. “Hamilton, in dissent, wrote: ‘The majority’s decision breaks new ground and poses troubling questions for police and prosecutors. It calls into question standard interrogation techniques that courts have routinely found permissible, even in cases involving juveniles.’ ” In this writer’s view, the problem with these “standard interrogation techniques,” which we now know risk prompting false confessions, is that they botch attempts to find the truth. This does not serve the interests of victims, defendants, or public safety. Attorneys Steve Drizin and Laura Nirider indicated they would seek Dassey’s immediate release. He is now 27 and has been serving a life sentence."

    The entire post can be found at:

    https://wrongfulconvictionsblog.org/2017/06/23/appeals-court-concurs-brendan-dasseys-confession-was-coerced/#more-27418

    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;