Thursday, August 17, 2017

Reid Technique; (False confessions): Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism podcast: "Behind The Scenes Look At Controversial Police Interrogation Method."..."The then-22-year-old former Iowa City, Iowa, woman was surprised to find out that police suspected her of breaking both legs of a 15-month-old toddler. Her case reveals how a controversial method of police interrogation called the Reid Technique works, and how critics say it sometimes produces false confessions — something Varallo-Speckeen says she delivered in that July 2013 police interview. “I think we will make a great stride in reducing the rate of false confessions when we complete the move away from controversial techniques like Reid,” said Dean Strang, a Madison, Wisconsin, lawyer who has become known as one of the defense attorneys featured in the Netflix program “Making a Murderer.” That program tells the story of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man convicted of a sex assault he didn’t commit. Strang and others speak in this podcast of an IowaWatch Connection radio report that digs into the investigative method. The podcast includes portions of the recording of Varallo-Speckeen’s interrogation."

 
PODCAST:  "Behind The Scenes Look At Controversial Police Interrogation Method," by Krista Johnson with Jeff Stein,  published by The  Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism on August 7, 2017.


PHOTO CAPTION: "Nearly four years since her arrest in July 2013 for felony aggravated battery against a child, Dorothy Varallo-Speckeen stands in late spring 2017 outside her East Moline home that she and Jennifer Schafer share."

GIST: "Dorothy Varallo-Speckeen says she thought she was being called to the Moline, Illinois, police station in July 2013 to help solve a child abuse case. The then-22-year-old former Iowa City, Iowa, woman was surprised to find out that police suspected her of breaking both legs of a 15-month-old toddler. Her case reveals how a controversial method of police interrogation called the Reid Technique works, and how critics say it sometimes produces false confessions — something Varallo-Speckeen says she delivered in that July 2013 police interview.  “I think we will make a great stride in reducing the rate of false confessions when we complete the move away from controversial techniques like Reid,” said Dean Strang, a Madison, Wisconsin, lawyer who has become known as one of the defense attorneys featured in the Netflix program “Making a Murderer.” That program tells the story of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man convicted of a sex assault he didn’t commit. Strang and others speak in this podcast of an IowaWatch Connection radio report that digs into the investigative method. The podcast includes portions of the recording of Varallo-Speckeen’s interrogation. The IowaWatch Connection is a weekly program featuring IowaWatch reporting. It is aired on 20 radio stations each weekend. Steps To PEACE Interviewing; The PEACE interviewing steps are used throughout the United Kingdom and in many ways advocates techniques that are polar opposite to Reid techniques."

The entire podcast can be found at
http://iowawatch.org/2017/08/07/podcast-behind-the-scenes-report-about-controversial-police-interrogation-method/

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Jeffrey Havard: Mississippi: Shaken Baby Syndrome; Radley Balko - a long-time critic of medical examiner Steven Hayne - puts his spotlight on the Havard case in his high-power, influential Washington Post column 'The Watch.'..."Controversial medical examiner backs off shaken baby claim in death penalty case."...".Part of the problem is that Hayne is incredibly slippery. It’s true that at trial, he never explicitly said that Chloe Britt had been sexually assaulted. He merely failed to object when prosecutors suggested it — and he offered up that comment that her contusion was “consistent with” penetration by an object. He undoubtedly knew the impact that would have on the jury. In 2014, Hayne unleashed another bombshell. He told the Clarion-Ledger that he never thought Britt had been sexually assaulted. He later told Havard’s attorneys that he even told prosecutors his opinion before trial, more than once."

 

GIST: "This week the controversial former Mississippi medical examiner Steven Hayne testified at a hearing for Jeffrey Havard. Havard was convicted in 2002 of sexually assaulting and shaking to death Chloe Britt, the 6-month-old daughter of Havard’s live-in girlfriend. Havard has always maintained that the infant hit her head on the toilet after he dropped her while giving her a bath. But Havard made some mistakes. He first failed to tell his girlfriend — and later doctors and investigators — that he had dropped the girl. By the time he did, they understandably no longer believed him. But the evidence against Havard has always been thin. It has mostly consisted of testimony from Hayne that Chloe Britt died from shaking, not from a blow to the head consistent with Havard’s story. The symptoms Hayne cited to make that diagnosis have since been called into question in the medical and forensics communities. But the shaken baby syndrome (SBS) diagnosis alone probably wouldn’t have allowed the state to seek the death penalty. That’s perhaps why prosecutors also alleged the sexual assault. By the time of Havard’s trial, doctors, ER nurses, the county sheriff and the local county coroner all claimed to have seen significant damage to Chloe Britt’s rectum, damage they testified was consistent with abuse. Hayne, too, seemed to concur with the sexual abuse allegation. He claimed at trial to have found a found a one-inch contusion on the girl’s anus. When the prosecutor asked Hayne what could have caused the contusion, he replied, “penetration of the rectum by an object.” But Hayne’s autopsy on the girl showed no such abuse. The one-inch contusion he claimed at trial was actually only one centimeter (he claimed he misspoke). Since Havard’s conviction, multiple medical examiners and other experts have submitted affidavits on his behalf to dispute both the SBS diagnosis and the state’s claim of sexual abuse. The Mississippi Supreme Court hasn’t shown much interest. At trial, Havard’s attorney requested funds to hire his own medical examiner to review Hayne’s work. The judge turned him down. After the conviction and death sentence, former Alabama state medical examiner Jim Lauridson submitted an affidavit on Havard’s behalf questioning Hayne’s conclusions about the sexual abuse. Lauridson pointed out that what the doctors, nurses and law enforcement officials likely saw during those frantic moments in the emergency room was a dilated anus, which often occurs in young children who are brain-dead, or shortly after death. Hayne’s own photos of the girl’s body, taken after she was cleaned up, showed no signs of sexual abuse. The Mississippi Supreme Court at first refused to even consider Lauridson’s affidavit. The court ruled that his critique of Hayne’s work was evidence that should have been introduced at trial. Of course, that was impossible, since the court refused to give Havard money to hire his own expert witness. The court didn’t consider Lauridson’s affidavit until Havard had exhausted his appeals and was in post-conviction — when such claims are much more difficult to win. When the court did finally consider Lauridson’s affidavit, in 2008, the court rejected it out of hand. Justice George Carlson’s majority opinion badly misrepresented what Lauridson wrote. To give just one example, Carlson wrote that Lauridson stated in his affidavit that “there is a possibility that Chloe Madison Britt was not sexually assaulted.’” Carlson then added, “Taking this statement to its logical conclusion, this leaves open the possibility that she was.” That of course is not the logical conclusion. Worse, the phrase “there is a possibility” doesn’t appear anywhere in Lauridson’s affidavit. Here’s what Lauridson did write: “The conclusions that Chloe Britt suffered sexual abuse are not supported by objective evidence and are wrong.” That seems pretty definitive. The only wiggle room Lauridson left was that he couldn’t completely rule out abuse until he saw the tissue slides Hayne took from the girl. Hayne had yet to turn them over. When he did, Lauridson found nothing in them to suggest sexual abuse. Nevertheless, the court voted 8-1 to uphold Havard’s conviction. The court found that, “Dr. Lauridson’s conclusion was not only contrary to that of Dr. Hayne, it was contrary to the sworn testimony from experienced emergency-room doctors and nurses.” The lone dissent was from a justice named Oliver Diaz. Regular readers of The Watch might recognize that name. When Diaz later ran for reelection to the court, an outside interest group took out TV ads attacking Diaz for his vote in that case, accusing him of voting to free a child rapist and murderer. Havard again petitioned the state Supreme Court in 2012. This time, he had an affidavit from Hayne himself. “Based upon the autopsy evidence available regarding the death of Chloe Britt,” Hayne wrote, “I cannot include or exclude to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that she was sexually assaulted.” That still wasn’t enough. ........Part of the problem is that Hayne is incredibly slippery. It’s true that at trial, he never explicitly said that Chloe Britt had been sexually assaulted. He merely failed to object when prosecutors suggested it — and he offered up that comment that her contusion was “consistent with” penetration by an object. He undoubtedly knew the impact that would have on the jury. In 2014, Hayne unleashed another bombshell. He told the Clarion-Ledger that he never thought Britt had been sexually assaulted. He later told Havard’s attorneys that he even told prosecutors his opinion before trial, more than once. This is hard to believe. If true, it would mean that the prosecutors moved forward with the sexual assault charge despite the fact that the only expert witness qualified to offer that conclusion didn’t believe it. That and the fact that Hayne’s alleged statement to prosecutors was never turned over to Havard’s defense attorneys would amount to some incredibly serious prosecutorial misconduct. It isn’t that no prosecutor is capable of such misconduct. We’ve seen it before. But Hayne’s statement is hard to swallow because of Hayne’s own actions. If he never believed Britt was sexually assaulted, why would he let the state argue precisely the opposite at Havard’s trial? Why would he let it make that argument in order to have Havard executed? Why didn’t he object when prosecutors asked him leading questions that a reasonable person should have concluded were designed to get the jury to believe something Hayne didn’t believe was true? In his opening statement, the prosecutor told jurors that Hayne would “testify for you about his findings and about how he confirmed the nurses’ and doctors’ worst fears this child had been abused and the child had been penetrated.” Why didn’t Hayne speak up then? Why did he let the prosecutor attribute opinions to him that he didn’t believe? And why did he allow Jeffrey Havard to sit on death row for nine years before finally speaking up? The more plausible explanation here is that Hayne changed his story. Why would he change his story? It’s difficult to say. (Hayne has not responded to my attempts to interview him over the years.) Perhaps he had an attack of conscience. Perhaps, now that he’s no longer allowed to do autopsies on behalf of prosecutors, he has decided he needs to burnish his reputation with defense attorneys, who are still permitted to hire him. Perhaps he has seen the lineup of medical examiners who have said he was wrong about this case and is trying to salvage his credibility. In any case, as of 2012, there hasn’t been a single medical examiner who has looked at this case who thinks Chloe Britt was sexually assaulted, including the one who testified for the prosecution. And yet the Mississippi Supreme Court stildenied Jeffrey Havard on his petition to throw out the sexual assault charge. In 2015, the court finally granted Havard permission to seek an evidentiary hearing on the validity of the shaken baby evidence. That’s the hearing that took place this week and in it, Hayne testified that he no longer believes Chloe Britt was shaken to death. But according to the Clarion-Ledger, the judge at the hearing noted that he could not allow Havard’s attorneys to question the validity of the sexual assault evidence — the state Supreme Court wouldn’t allow it. It may be hard to comprehend why the court would give Havard relief on the shaken baby evidence but deny him on the sexual abuse claim. But I have a theory:  (Read on, at the link below, to access Balko's theory - and find out why he suspects that the court will ultimately find that there isn’t any credible evidence that he shook Chloe Britt to death  and that in the meantime,the courts will stand by the allegation that Havard sexually assaulted the girl, even though there isn’t a single medical examiner who believes it.)"


The entire commentary can be found at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2017/08/16/controversial-medical-examiner-backs-off-shaken-baby-claim-in-death-penalty-case/?utm_term=.01557f19a8c1

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.

Susan Neill-Fraser; Murder Appeal: Significant Development: Bulletin: Third person charged with perverting course of justice. ABC News reports..." Police today charged a 51-year-old Sandy Bay man with perverting the course of justice. Police alleged he attempted to deliberately influence a witness to manufacture evidence at the appeal. A 57-year-old Risdon Vale man was charged on Monday and last week, Karen Patricia Nancy Keefe appeared in court charged with corrupting a witness and perverting the course of justice. The Sandy Bay man is due to appear in the Magistrates Court this afternoon."


"A third person has been charged by Tasmanian police as they investigate a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in Susan-Neill Fraser's murder appeal. Neill-Fraser is serving a 23-year sentence for the murder of her partner Bob Chappell in 2009. The 62-year-old is making a last-ditch attempt to overturn her conviction and the case is currently before the Supreme Court. Police today charged a 51-year-old Sandy Bay man with perverting the course of justice. Police alleged he attempted to deliberately influence a witness to manufacture evidence at the appeal. A 57-year-old Risdon Vale man was charged on Monday and last week, Karen Patricia Nancy Keefe appeared in court charged with corrupting a witness and perverting the course of justice. The Sandy Bay man is due to appear in the Magistrates Court this afternoon."
http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-16/third-person-charged-over-bob-chappell-case/8813102?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.

Krystal Voss; Colorado: Major Development; New trial ordered for woman convicted in 2004 of child abuse in the death of her nineteen-month-old son and sentenced to twenty years in prison...."The reversal is another setback for advocates of "shaken baby syndrome," a diagnosis that's been used in court to prosecute hundreds of caregivers for abuse over the past three decades but has been attacked by skeptics as junk science. In a 139-page opinion dated August 7, Alamosa District Court Judge Pattie Swift ruled that Voss's conviction should be thrown out because her attorneys at trial failed to summon any medical experts to challenge the prosecution's claim that Kyran Gaston-Voss's death was the result of a violent shaking. The decision comes after new testimony by nationally recognized pediatric specialists that the toddler's injuries, including a devastating brain injury, could have been caused by an accidental fall."


STORY: "Krystal Voss's "Shaken Baby" Conviction Finally Tossed," by reporter Alan Prendergast, published by Westword, on August 9, 2017. (Alan Prendergast has been a staff writer for Westword since 1995 and teaches journalism at Colorado College. His stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.)

SUB-HEADING: "Krystal Voss has always denied any role in her son's death, which experts now say could have resulted from an accidental fall."

GIST: "An Alamosa judge has ordered a new trial in the case of Krystal Voss, who was convicted in 2004 of child abuse in the death of her nineteen-month-old son and sentenced to twenty years in prison. The reversal is another setback for advocates of "shaken baby syndrome," a diagnosis that's been used in court to prosecute hundreds of caregivers for abuse over the past three decades but has been attacked by skeptics as junk science. In a 139-page opinion dated August 7, Alamosa District Court Judge Pattie Swift ruled that Voss's conviction should be thrown out because her attorneys at trial failed to summon any medical experts to challenge the prosecution's claim that Kyran Gaston-Voss's death was the result of a violent shaking. The decision comes after new testimony by nationally recognized pediatric specialists that the toddler's injuries, including a devastating brain injury, could have been caused by an accidental fall. Voss's trial counsel "performed below the standard of reasonably competent defense attorneys when they failed to adequately investigate whether the fall...could have caused Kyran’s fatal injuries," Swift wrote. The Voss case has been the subject of three Westword cover stories over the years — an extensive investigation of the conflicting witness accounts in 2003, a report on Voss's trial and conviction in 2004, and a 2015 examination of her struggle to overturn the verdict with the aid of emerging research that contradicts basic components of the shaken-baby hypothesis. On January 31, 2003, Voss showed up in an Alamosa hospital emergency room with Kyran, who was limp and unresponsive. She explained that earlier that afternoon she’d left Kyran in the care of a friend visiting from Denver, Patrick Ramirez, while she went to work at a local health-food store. About an hour after arriving at work, she’d gotten a phone call from Ramirez, telling her to come home because something was wrong with Kyran. Ramirez told her he’d been playing outside with the boy on his shoulders. He’d stumbled. Kyran fell, and the boy might have hit his head on the ground. Ramirez fell on top of him. Kyran started hollering, then seemed dizzy and unable to stand. "I wanted to believe there was no way a jury would logically convict me." The emergency-room doctor noted bruises on the child’s abdomen and signs of an acute subdural hematoma — a bleeding inside the skull. Kyran was soon flown to the intensive-care unit at Children’s Hospital in Denver, while the investigation into how he suffered such a severe head injury lurched into overdrive. After being assured by the child-abuse team at Children's that the head trauma was more likely a case of shaking than a fall, one police investigator accused Ramirez of making up his story in order to protect Voss, with whom he'd had a sexual relationship; the investigator also obtained a "confession" from a sleep-deprived Voss that she might have briefly shaken Kyran in frustration the night before she left him with Ramirez. At trial, the prosecution's medical expert asserted that the fatal injuries were consistent with a violent shaking. The jury took only six hours to deliver its verdict: guilty of knowing and reckless child abuse resulting in death. Yet the basic premises behind shaken-baby prosecutions — for example, that baby-shaking produces a unique constellation of symptoms, distinct from a short fall — have been under attack for some time, and were even back when Voss went to trial. Dr. Robert Bux, the coroner who conducted the autopsy on Kyran, told Westword in 2003 that he didn't believe in shaken-baby syndrome and found it "difficult to swallow the concept." Yet the defense never called him as a witness to refute the prosecution's medical expert. “I wanted to believe there was no way a jury would logically convict me," Voss told me two years ago. "It took at least four or five years before I started delving into the documents, and even more time to be granted a lawyer and a hearing. But I never gave up hope that things could change, because what happened here was so very wrong.” No word yet on whether Twelfth Judicial District Attorney Crista Newmyer-Olsen will appeal Judge Swift's order. The judge isn't waiting to find out; she's scheduled a hearing next week to set a date for a new trial for Voss, who's already served thirteen years of her now-vacated twenty-year sentence.
http://www.westword.com/news/shaken-baby-conviction-tossed-in-colorado-after-thirteen-years-9346481

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.

Arson 'science' (3); Cameron Todd Willingham: Texas; Bulletin: Eastern Courrier reports that his story will be told in a movie called 'Trial by Fire' - starring Jack O'Connell and Laura Dern.


STORY: "Jack O'Connell and Laura Dern to star in Trial By Fire," published by The Eastern Courrier on August 9, 2017. (Jack O'Connell and Laura Dern to star in Trial By Fire);


GIST: Jack O'Connell and Laura Dern have joined the cast of 'Trial By Fire'. The 27-year-old 'Money Monster' actor is expected to play death row inmate Cameron Todd Willingham, who was convicted of the arson deaths of his own three children, while Dern, 50, will play Elizabeth Gilbert, a Texan housewife who sets out to get him released as she believes he has been falsely convicted. The fact-based drama is being directed by Ed Zwick, who will also produce alongside Allyn Stewart & Kipp Nelson, and Alex Soros. The filmmaker became fascinated by the tale when he first red David Gann's Polk Award-winning 2009 article in The New Yorker. Zwick told Deadline: "From the moment I read David's brilliant reporting eight years ago, I have been possessed by this deeply moving, true story of injustice. "David Grann has been one of these caught-in-the-roller-of-his-typewriter guys, quietly doing great work, and now all these wonderful things are happening with his stories being made into movies, from 'Killers of the Flower Moon' to the Robert Redford piece 'Old Man and the Gun'. "The story was all there, with these two compelling characters. It is a remarkable story about people. Not just capital punishment but justice, which is a very important word right now. It has to have that pull to keep you pushing it up the hill this many years."........ Production is set to start on October 2 in Atlanta.
http://www.eacourier.com/national/entertainment/jack-o-connell-and-laura-dern-to-star-in-trial/article_23a69dc9-99e6-565d-b9c6-37d7add99348.html

See Wikipedia entry at the link below: "In 2004, Gerald Hurst examined the arson evidence compiled by state deputy fire marshal Manuel Vasquez. Hurst individually discredited each piece of arson evidence, using publicly supported experiments backed by his re-creation of the elements in question, the most notable being the Lime Street fire, which created the unique 3-point burn patterns flashover.
This left only the chemical testing for accelerant. The front porch was the only place where an accelerant was verified by laboratory tests, and a photograph taken of the house before the fire showed that a charcoal grill was there. Hurst speculated that water sprayed by firefighters likely spread the lighter fluid from the melted container.[10] All twenty of the indications listed by Vasquez of an accelerant being used were rebutted by Hurst,[1] who concluded there was "no evidence of arson" — the same conclusion reached by other fire investigators.[citation needed] Hurst's report was sent to governor Rick Perry's office, as well as the Board of Pardons and Paroles along with Willingham's appeal for clemency.[21] Neither responded to Willingham's appeals. In response to allegations that he allowed the execution of an innocent man, Perry was quoted as stating "he was a wife beater".[citation needed] "The whole case was based on the purest form of junk science", Hurst later said. "There was no item of evidence that indicated arson". A spokeswoman for Governor Perry said he had weighed the "totality of the issues that led to (Willingham's) conviction". The spokeswoman added he was aware of a "claim of a reinterpretation of (the) arson testimony".[22] Since Willingham's execution, persistent questions have been raised as to the accuracy of the forensic evidence used in the conviction: specifically, whether it can be proven that an accelerant (such as the lighter fluid mentioned above) was used to start the fatal fire.[23] Fire investigator Gerald L. Hurst reviewed the case documents, including the trial transcriptions and an hour-long videotape of the aftermath of the fire scene. Hurst said in December 2004 that "There's nothing to suggest to any reasonable arson investigator that this was an arson fire. It was just a fire."[7] In June 2009, the State of Texas ordered a re-examination of the case. In August 2009, eighteen years after the fire and five years after Willingham's execution, a report conducted by Dr. Craig Beyler, hired by the Texas Forensic Science Commission to review the case, found that "a finding of arson could not be sustained". Beyler said key testimony from a fire marshal at Willingham's trial was "hardly consistent with a scientific mind-set and is more characteristic of mystics or psychics".[1][2] The prosecutor, John Jackson, and the City of Corsicana have both released formal responses to the Beyler Report on the investigation of the fire that killed Willingham's three children at the behest of the Texas Forensic Science Commission.[24] Both were sharply critical of Beyler.[17] In a 2009 article discussing the reasons why Willingham was found guilty, Jackson recalled witness statements establishing that Willingham was overheard whispering to his deceased older daughter at the funeral home, "You're not the one who was supposed to die." Jackson stated that Willingham's comment was an indicator of guilt. In a rebuttal, Grann wrote, "If the arson investigators had concluded that there was no scientific evidence that a crime had occurred — as the top fire investigators in the country have now determined — Willingham's words at the funeral would surely be viewed as a sign that he was tormented by the fact that he had survived without saving his children."[15] An August 2009 Chicago Tribune investigative article concluded: "Over the past five years, the Willingham case has been reviewed by nine of the nation's top fire scientists — first for the Tribune, then for the Innocence Project, and now for the commission. All concluded that the original investigators relied on outdated theories and folklore to justify the determination of arson. The only other evidence of significance against Willingham was twice-recanted testimony[1] by another inmate, who testified that Willingham had confessed to him. Jailhouse informants are viewed with skepticism in the justice system, so much so that some jurisdictions have restrictions against their use."[25] The Texas Forensic Science Commission was scheduled to discuss the report by Beyler at a meeting on October 2, 2009, but two days before the meeting, Texas Governor Rick Perry replaced the chair of the commission and two other members. The new chair canceled the meeting, sparking accusations that Perry was interfering with the investigation[4] and using it for his own political advantage.[26] In October 2009, the city of Corsicana released two affidavits that included statements from Ronnie Kuykendall, the former brother-in-law of Willingham, originally made in 2004. According to the affidavits, Willingham's ex-wife had told Ronnie that Willingham confessed to her that he had set the fire. Stacy Kuykendall told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on October 25, 2009[27] that during a final prison meeting just weeks before he was put to death, Willingham admitted setting the fire in response to Stacy's alleged threats of divorce the night before.[28] Journalists familiar with the case noted that Stacy Kuykendall's statement explicitly contradicted previous comments, legal testimony, and numerous published interviews before and after the execution.[29] This was also noted by Willingham's prosecutor, who said "It's hard for me to make heads or tails of anything she said or didn't say."[30] For example, earlier in 2009, Kuykendall supported her 2004 contradiction of her brother's affidavit (saying that there had been no confession) and had previously always maintained that things had been amicable between her and Willingham before the fire.[28] In 2010, she declared, "Todd murdered Amber, Karmon, and Kameron. He burnt them. He admitted he burnt them to me, and he was convicted for his crime. That is the closest to justice that my daughters will ever get."[31] A four-person panel of the Texas Forensic Science Commission investigating evidence of arson presented in the case acknowledged on July 23, 2010, that state and local arson investigators used "flawed science" in determining that the blaze had been deliberately set. It also found insufficient evidence to prove that state Deputy Fire Marshal Manuel Vasquez and Corsicana Assistant Fire Chief Douglas Fogg were negligent or guilty of misconduct in their arson work.[32] In 2010, the Innocence Project filed a lawsuit against the State of Texas, seeking a judgment of "official oppression".[33] Judge Charlie Baird held an inquiry in September 2010 in Austin, but Lowell Thompson, the Navarro County DA, appeared at the hearing with a motion for Baird to recuse himself due to conflict of interest — Baird had once affirmed Willingham's conviction while sitting as a Criminal Appeals judge, yet had also been recognized by an anti-death penalty group. When the recusal motion was denied, Thompson appealed to the Third Court of Appeals and had the proceedings stayed. (Thompson later received an award from the Texas District and County Attorneys Association for this motion and appeal.)[34][35]
In 2014, The Washington Post reported that new evidence emerged indicating that Webb had said in taped interviews that he lied on the witness stand in exchange for a prosecutor's help obtaining a reduced prison term and financial support from a rich rancher.[36] On March 3, 2015, the Texas State Bar filed a disciplinary action, Commission for Lawyer Discipline v. Jackson, against Jackson for failing to disclose information on his deal with Webb.[37] According to the complaint, "During a pretrial hearing on July 24, 1992, [Jackson] told the trial court that he had no evidence favorable to Willingham. That statement was false."[citation needed]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cameron_Todd_Willingham

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Susan Neill-Fraser: Australia: Neill-Fraser murder appeal: Bulletin: Second person to be charged with perverting course of justice. ABC News: (August 14, 2017)..." Last week, 41-year-old Karen Patricia Nancy Keefe appeared in court charged with corrupting a witness and perverting the course of justice. On Monday morning, Tasmania Police said a 57-year-old man from Risdon Vale would also be charged. He was due to appear as a witness at Neill Fraser's last-chance appeal against her conviction for the 2009 murder of her partner Bob Chappell."

 
"A second person is to be charged with perverting the course of justice, in relation to the final appeal of convicted killer Sue Neill-Fraser. Last week, 41-year-old Karen Patricia Nancy Keefe appeared in court charged with corrupting a witness and perverting the course of justice. On Monday morning, Tasmania Police said a 57-year-old man from Risdon Vale would also be charged. He was due to appear as a witness at Neill Fraser's last-chance appeal against her conviction for the 2009 murder of her partner Bob Chappell.........Susan Neill-Fraser, 62, is currently serving a 23-year jail term for the murder of Mr Chappell on board their yacht Four Winds, moored off Sandy Bay in January 2009.
After a number of attempts to prove her innocence, Neill-Fraser has another chance at freedom due to right-to-appeal legislation passed by the Tasmanian Parliament in 2015. Those laws mean Neill Fraser's legal team must convince the court there is "fresh and compelling evidence", in order to win the right to another appeal."
http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-14/second-person-charged-over-neil-fraser-murder-appeal/8803738?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.

Charlottesville: Crowdsourcing: (Mistaken identifications): Reporters Maurice Chammmah and Simone Weichselbaum (The Marshall Project) take on the pros and cons of 'crowd-sourcing' - and the risk that it can destroy people's lives and lead to wrongful convictions - in an article brilliantly headed: "Crowdsourcing the Charlottesville Investigation: The mixed blessing of an internet posse."..." It’s becoming more common, at least in Philadelphia, for defense attorneys to petition the court to order additional line-ups after police finger a suspect with the help of social media. “If the victim really doesn't know” who did it, “and is tuned into social media, and sees a frenzy of people ID’ing someone, they will latch on to it,” said Philadelphia-area defense lawyer Michael Fienman. “So many people say, ‘it must be him’. They adopt that view." Dozens of wrongful convictions have featured mistaken identifications." the Charlottesville Investigation The mixed blessing of an internet posse."


STORY BACKGROUND (Marshall Project):  "When Twitter ID’s the assailant. Internet sleuths spent Sunday trying to identify the men photographed beating 20-year-old Deandre Harris in a parking garage in Charlottesville, Va., amidst the violence last weekend. Such crowdsourced identifications present particular challenges for law enforcement, and defense lawyers sometimes claim social media can "taint" the memories of victims and witnesses.


STORY: "Crowdsourcing the Charlottesville Investigation: The mixed blessing of an internet posse, by reporters  Maurice Chammah and Simone Weichselbaum, published by The Marshall Project on August 14, 2017.


GIST: "Of the hundreds of photos from Charlottesville, Va., that circulated online this weekend, a few seemed destined to be cited as evidence of crimes. One photo shows three men beating 20 year-old Deandre Harris with poles in a parking garage. “I have eight staples in my head, a broken wrist, and a chipped tooth,” Harris told The Root. One attacker wore a white construction helmet, another sported a long red bead. Who were they? Internet sleuths got to work, and by Monday morning they were naming names and calling for arrests.  The name of the helmeted man went viral after New York Daily News columnist Shaun King posted a series of photos on Twitter and Facebook that more clearly showed his face and connected him to photos from a Facebook account. “Neck moles gave it away,” King wrote in his posts, which were shared more than 77,000 times. But the name of the red-bearded assailant was less clear: some on Twitter claimed it was a Texas man who goes by a Nordic alias online. Others were sure it was a Michigan man who, according to Facebook, attended high school with other white nationalist demonstrators depicted in photos from Charlottesville.  After being contacted for comment by The Marshall Project, the Michigan man removed his Facebook page from public view.  Such speculation, especially when it is not conclusive, has created new challenges for law enforcement. There is the obvious risk of false identification. In 2013, internet users wrongly identified university student Sunil Tripathi as a suspect in the Boston marathon bombing, prompting the internet forum Reddit to issue an apology for fostering “online witch hunts.” Already, an Arkansas professor was misidentified as as a torch-bearing protester, though not a criminal suspect, at the Charlottesville rallies. Beyond the cost to misidentified suspects, the crowdsourced identification of criminal suspects is both a benefit and burden to investigators.  “If someone says: ‘hey, I have a picture of someone assaulting another person, and committing a hate crime,' that's great,” said Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, the spokesman for the Seattle Police Department, which used social media to help identify the pilot of a drone that crashed into a 2015 Pride Parade. (The man was convicted in February.) “But saying, 'I am pretty sure that this person is so and so’. Well, ‘pretty sure’ is not going to cut it.”  Still, credible information can help police establish probable cause, which means they can ask a judge to sign off on either a search warrant, an arrest warrant, or both.  “You have to take more time when social media is involved just to make sure that it's the right person who you are charging, and it's not just the perception of the individual who was victimized, who just wants to ID somebody to give closure to themselves,” said Lt. John Walker, who supervises 31 detectives in the Philadelphia Police Department’s West Philadelphia office. “You have to do the right thing.”.........A successful arrest assisted by mass interest on social media doesn’t necessarily lead to a successful conviction. Prosecutors dropped the charges against a shooting suspect, Walker recalled, after his attorney argued that the identification process “was tainted” because the victim had seen the suspect’s name and photos on Facebook. It’s becoming more common, at least in Philadelphia, for defense attorneys to petition the court to order additional line ups after police finger a suspect with the help of social media. “If the victim really doesn't know” who did it, “and is tuned into social media, and sees a frenzy of people ID’ing someone, they will latch on to it,” said Philadelphia-area defense lawyer Michael Fienman. “So many people say, ‘it must be him’. They adopt that view." Dozens of wrongful convictions have featured mistaken identifications."

The entire story can be found at:

 https://www.themarshallproject.org/2017/08/14/crowdsourcing-the-charlottesville-investigation?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter&utm_source=opening-statement&utm_term=newsletter-20170815-822#.4XUs5x1Nn

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.

Arson science (2): Victor Rosario: Marshall Project: (Marshall Project brilliantly uses this case to expose the disturning reality that there have been countless cases all over the country where defendants have introduced compelling new evidence only to be denied a new trial or a new sentence because reviewing judges have concluded that the new information would not have convinced jurors to vote for acquittal."..."What the courts in Massachusetts did in this case, however, was to “look beyond the specific, individual reasons for granting a new trial to consider how a number of factors act in concert to cause a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice,” as the justices put it. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, the judges seemed to say. Doubts about the fire science would have undermined the weight jurors gave to the reliability of his confession. And doubts about his confession would have undermined the weight jurors gave to the accuracy of the forensic science employed against him at trial. Both of those factors would have cast doubt on the accuracy of the eyewitness testimony. It is impossible to say how many more convictions would be overturned on appeal if more courts around the country employed this standard, which focuses on the totality of the evidence, rather than the more restrictive standard, which emphasizes the need for cases to have a definitive end even if that end undermines confidence in the reliability of a conviction. Illinois, Kentucky, and Connecticut also employ a form of what I’ll call the “Weakest Link Standard.” But in many jurisdictions, Rosario’s appeals wouldn’t have gotten him a hearing, much less a chance to walk free."


STORY: "The Weakest Link Standard A Massachusetts case suggests a different way of judging evidence," by Andrew Cohen, published by The Marshall Project, on August 8, 2017.

BACKGROUND: "Victor Rosario was convicted of murder and arson in 1983 in a high-profile Massachusetts case. But the forensic science used against him was flawed and the “confession” police obtained through coercive means subsequently was deemed to be involuntary. Still, it was a surprise when the courts there overturned his conviction, relying on a legal standard that if applied broadly across the country would free many more wrongfully convicted defendants. In collaboration with WNYC’s “The Takeaway,” here is the latest in our “Case in Point” series."


PHOTO CAPTION: "Victor Rosario was convicted in 1983 of starting a fire that killed eight people in Lowell, Massachusetts. In 2014 that conviction was overturned. He is awaiting a prosecutor's decision about a retrial."
GIST: The Massachusetts Supreme Court earlier this year interjected itself again in the case of Victor Rosario, a man who spent 32 years in prison for a deadly fire. The justices in May refused to send Rosario back to prison and refused, too, to overturn a trial judge’s 2014 ruling that had set him free in the first place because of new doubts about the 1983 arson and murder conviction against him.



This sort of result is not uncommon in Massachusetts or around the country. New evidence is uncovered. Old witnesses recant. Prosecutors are found to have cheated. Another person confesses to the crime. Technology changes. A murder weapon is discovered with someone else’s prints on it. There are plenty of ways old convictions become “wrongful” over time. But the results of the Rosario case are notable for at least three reasons.........(Read on)...There have been countless cases all over the country where defendants have introduced compelling new evidence only to be denied a new trial or a new sentence because reviewing judges have concluded that the new information would not have convinced jurors to vote for acquittal. In these instances, judges typically look at each new issue raised and evaluate whether it, alone, would have altered the jury’s verdict. This standard makes it more likely judges will reject the appeal. What the courts in Massachusetts did in this case, however, was to “look beyond the specific, individual reasons for granting a new trial to consider how a number of factors act in concert to cause a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice,” as the justices put it.  A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, the judges seemed to say. Doubts about the fire science would have undermined the weight jurors gave to the reliability of his confession. And doubts about his confession would have undermined the weight jurors gave to the accuracy of the forensic science employed against him at trial. Both of those factors would have cast doubt on the accuracy of the eyewitness testimony. It is impossible to say how many more convictions would be overturned on appeal if more courts around the country employed this standard, which focuses on the totality of the evidence, rather than the more restrictive standard, which emphasizes the need for cases to have a definitive end even if that end undermines confidence in the reliability of a conviction. Illinois, Kentucky, and Connecticut also employ a form of what I’ll call the “Weakest Link Standard.” But in many jurisdictions, Rosario’s appeals wouldn’t have gotten him a hearing, much less a chance to walk free."

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

Jeffrey Havard: Mississippi; Shaken baby syndrome; Pathologist Steven Hayne backs off shaken baby ruling at hearing in death penalty case..."Since 2000, at least 11 Mississippians have been convicted in cases involving the shaken baby syndrome, with two of them sitting on death row. Havard is one of them. The state Supreme Court has ordered the hearing for Havard to decide if he deserves a new trial because of shifting scientific beliefs on the syndrome. In Havard’s 2002 trial, all the doctors concluded that Chloe died of the syndrome, and so did Hayne, who performed the autopsy. He said the death would be “consistent with a person … violently shaking a child back and forth to produce the injuries … The type of injuries that you can see that parallel these are in motor vehicle crashes, falls from significant heights and the like.” In court Monday, Hayne testified that a short fall can cause serious injury. He said that the term he would use now would be “abusive head trauma” to describe the injuries to Chloe, which he said included bruises on the forehead, scalp, back of head and mouth as well as bleeding between the skull and brain. He said he still believed her death was a homicide. For decades, physicians believed that a triad of symptoms provided ironclad proof that someone had shaken a child to death, known as shaken baby syndrome."..."The hearing is expected to continue this week, and Circuit Judge Forrest Johnson said he won’t rule until after he receives legal briefs from attorneys. He barred testimony on possible sexual assault, saying the state Supreme Court decision centered strictly on the shaken baby syndrome. “I have no jurisdiction to go there,” he said."

 STORY: "Pathologist backs off shaken baby ruling in death penalty case," by reporter Jerry Mitchell. published by The Clarion-Ledger on August 14, 2017.

PHOTO CAPTION:  "Jeffrey Havard, now on Mississippi’s death row, insists he accidentally dropped the baby, Chloe Madison Britt, and that she hit her head on a toilet. A hearing in court on Aug. 14 will determine if Havard will receive a new trial in the 2002 crime."

PHOTO CAPTION: "Jeffrey Havard, now on Mississippi’s death row, insists he accidentally dropped the baby, Chloe Madison Britt, and that she hit her head on a toilet. A hearing in court on Aug. 14 will determine if Havard will receive a new trial in the 2002 crime."




GIST: "Fifteen years ago, Dr. Steven Hayne told jurors Jeffrey Havard had shaken a 6-month-old baby to death, comparing the injuries to those seen in falls from significant heights. On Monday, he backed off that conclusion, testifying that “tremendous G forces can be generated in a short fall. If it’s straight to the head, then it could cause serious injury.” The 38-year-old Havard, now on Mississippi’s death row, insists he accidentally dropped the baby, Chloe Madison Britt, and that she hit her head on a toilet. Since 2000, at least 11 Mississippians have been convicted in cases involving the shaken baby syndrome, with two of them sitting on death row. Havard is one of them. The state Supreme Court has ordered the hearing for Havard to decide if he deserves a new trial because of shifting scientific beliefs on the syndrome. In Havard’s 2002 trial, all the doctors concluded that Chloe died of the syndrome, and so did Hayne, who performed the autopsy. He said the death would be “consistent with a person … violently shaking a child back and forth to produce the injuries … The type of injuries that you can see that parallel these are in motor vehicle crashes, falls from significant heights and the like.” In court Monday, Hayne testified that a short fall can cause serious injury. He said that the term he would use now would be “abusive head trauma” to describe the injuries to Chloe, which he said included bruises on the forehead, scalp, back of head and mouth as well as bleeding between the skull and brain. He said he still believed her death was a homicide. For decades, physicians believed that a triad of symptoms provided ironclad proof that someone had shaken a child to death, known as shaken baby syndrome. But new studies have raised questions about the syndrome. In 2009, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended the diagnosis of the syndrome be discarded and replaced with "abusive head trauma.” Renowned pathologist Dr. Michael Baden of New York testified Monday that the problem with the “abusive head trauma” conclusion is that it’s impossible to tell whether a person accidentally fell down the stairs or someone pushed that person. He said he absolutely disagreed with a prosecution expert who testified at the 2002 trial, claiming that Chloe's retinal hemorrhages proved that this baby had been shaken. “It’s my opinion that shaking had nothing to do with the death,” he said. “It’s my opinion that all of the injuries are consistent with blunt force impact.” The baby’s injuries are consistent with the fall that Havard described, Baden said. “With short falls, you can have fatal injuries.” When doctors overstate the case, such as with the shaken baby syndrome, “innocent people can get convicted,” he said. Under cross-examination, he said he was charging $21,000 for his fees and travel. He said he had not been paid for any of his work on the case over the past five years. In 2002, the Adams County jury convicted Havard, concluding that he was guilty of killing and sexually abusing Chloe, and sentenced him to death. The hearing is expected to continue this week, and Circuit Judge Forrest Johnson said he won’t rule until after he receives legal briefs from attorneys. He barred testimony on possible sexual assault, saying the state Supreme Court decision centered strictly on the shaken baby syndrome. “I have no jurisdiction to go there,” he said. In 2014, Hayne told The Clarion-Ledger, “I didn't think there was a sexual assault. I didn't see any evidence of sexual assault.” During Havard's capital murder trial, doctors, nurses, the sheriff and others told jurors about tears, rips, lacerations and bleeding they saw in the child's anal area. "Maybe they were looking at folds and thought they were tears," Hayne told the newspaper. "We were very careful, and we also took sections." A rape kit found no semen or foreign DNA, and he examined those sections under a microscope. His conclusion? They were no tears, rips or similar injuries to the child's rectum, he told the newspaper. "I would think that would be a definitive evaluation."

The entire story can be found at:
http://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/2017/08/14/pathologist-says-no-sexual-abuse-despite-death-penalty-conviction/563830001/

See Natchez-Democrat story (Carl Madden) at the link below (for a more detailed analysis of the on-going hearing. HL);

 http://www.natchezdemocrat.com/2017/08/15/how-did-baby-britt-die-shaken-baby-syndrome-at-center-of-hearing-in-2002-death-penalty-case/

 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;

Arson 'science.' (1): Lessons not yet learned! HL): Houston Chronicle shows how experts have cast doubt on ATF' (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) arson finding in deadly West Fertilizer explosion..."Paul Bieber, a forensic investigator who runs the Arson Research Project and has worked with attorneys to debunk outdated forensic techniques in the fire service, said he ranted on a blog about the ATF findings when they came out, to no avail. Dennis Smith, a leading expert on the technique that ATF investigators used in West, said the agency ought to recognize that forensic standards have changed and therefore change its opinion. "That's the obligation of every investigator," Smith said. 'Negative corpus"' Essentially, the ATF used a process of elimination to declare it an arson. "All reasonable accidental and natural fire scenarios were hypothesized, considered, tested and eliminated as being fire causes," ATF Special Agent Nicole Strong said in an email Tuesday, in an echo of comments the ATF made a year ago. "The only hypothesis that could not be eliminated was that the fire was incendiary. This means it was intentionally set. This conclusion was confirmed by extensive testing."..."But consultants like Smith, and advocates like Bieber, are still fighting to get the new standard adopted by investigators from the ATF down to the local firehouse. "They can use (negative corpus), and they're getting away with it because it fits the outcome they desire," Smith said. "There's always a lag time between when something's in the new edition (of the NFPA standards) and something gets changed in the field." He compared the slow rejection of negative corpus to the reluctance of some prosecutors to accept exonerations based on DNA evidence. Bieber, who reviewed all of the roughly 40 cases nationwide in which a person was exonerated on a charge of arson, said that in nearly two thirds of them, the defense proved that investigators didn't even have sufficient evidence to rule the case an arson, let alone identify a suspect. Negative corpus factored in nearly all of those cases, he said. Investigators can be easily swayed by findings that aren't related to the fire scene, he noted."


STORY: "Experts cast doubt on ATF's arson finding in deadly West Fertilizer explosion," by reporter Mark Collette, published by The Houston Chronicle, on August 2, 2017.

GIST: "The fertilizer plant explosion that killed 15 people and injured more than 160 in the town of West may not have been sparked by a deliberately set fire as federal investigators claimed, according to attorneys, arson experts and a former top workplace safety official under President Barack Obama. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been largely silent on the 2013 West Fertilizer explosion since it announced last year that an arsonist was responsible for the initial blaze and offered a $50,000 reward for information. No arrests have been made, and the ATF won't discuss the case beyond repeating a version of its previous announcement. But the arson finding had far-reaching implications. It delayed victims' lawsuits against the fertilizer company, gave the defendants more legal ammunition, and prompted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to put a hold on new chemical plant safety rules. Industry argued that a deliberately set fire meant new regulations were moot. Legal and forensic experts immediately spotted what they say is a weakness in the ATF's May 2016 announcement, but their concerns went largely unnoticed amid the sensational news that some evildoer - maybe even from the town that was ravaged - was responsible for the fire that turned tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer into an enormous bomb. "Our position from the beginning - even before the (announcement) - we told them that what you guys are doing is not scientifically sound," said Mo Aziz, a Houston attorney who has represented dozens of West plaintiffs. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration had its doubts, too. But the ATF closely guarded its investigation, notifying OSHA, which was seeking fines against the plant, only an hour before the news conference, said Jordan Barab, the former No. 2 OSHA official under Obama. "Even the White House could not get them to meet with anybody about it," Barab said. Paul Bieber, a forensic investigator who runs the Arson Research Project and has worked with attorneys to debunk outdated forensic techniques in the fire service, said he ranted on a blog about the ATF findings when they came out, to no avail. Dennis Smith, a leading expert on the technique that ATF investigators used in West, said the agency ought to recognize that forensic standards have changed and therefore change its opinion. "That's the obligation of every investigator," Smith said. 'Negative corpus"' Essentially, the ATF used a process of elimination to declare it an arson. "All reasonable accidental and natural fire scenarios were hypothesized, considered, tested and eliminated as being fire causes," ATF Special Agent Nicole Strong said in an email Tuesday, in an echo of comments the ATF made a year ago. "The only hypothesis that could not be eliminated was that the fire was incendiary. This means it was intentionally set. This conclusion was confirmed by extensive testing." The agency spent three years and more than $2 million investigating, interviewing over 400 people and building life-size replicas of parts of the plant. The process of elimination - or "negative corpus," in the parlance of investigators - to determine that a fire was deliberate has been part of arson investigations for at least 40 years. But in 2011, after mounting evidence that the practice led to faulty findings and even overturned convictions, Smith convinced the National Fire Protection Association to rewrite its standard. Now, relying on two papers he authored, the NFPA standard reads that "it is improper to opine a specific fire cause … that has no evidence to support it even though all other such hypothesized elements were eliminated." But consultants like Smith, and advocates like Bieber, are still fighting to get the new standard adopted by investigators from the ATF down to the local firehouse. "They can use (negative corpus), and they're getting away with it because it fits the outcome they desire," Smith said. "There's always a lag time between when something's in the new edition (of the NFPA standards) and something gets changed in the field." He compared the slow rejection of negative corpus to the reluctance of some prosecutors to accept exonerations based on DNA evidence. Bieber, who reviewed all of the roughly 40 cases nationwide in which a person was exonerated on a charge of arson, said that in nearly two thirds of them, the defense proved that investigators didn't even have sufficient evidence to rule the case an arson, let alone identify a suspect. Negative corpus factored in nearly all of those cases, he said. Investigators can be easily swayed by findings that aren't related to the fire scene, he noted. In West, early attention focused on a local paramedic who had chemicals and equipment for a small pipe bomb, but who was later ruled out as a suspect. Cases delayed:  After the arson finding, CF Industries Inc., one of the fertilizer manufacturers, sought information about the investigation. The ATF denied the request, and CF sued. Eventually, the agency handed over redacted information, but a panel of federal appellate judges allowed critical details to remain secret. An attorney for CF declined to comment. Aziz, one of several plaintiffs' attorneys in the West litigation, has settled 95 cases. Dozens more have been delayed because of the arson ruling. He said defense attorneys initially treated the finding as a kind of "get-out-of-jail-free" card, but the chilling effect on the litigation didn't last. That's because, regardless of the source of ignition, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, in an elaborate investigation, found problems with the way the fertilizer was processed and stored. And they issued recommendations to improve preparedness among firefighters. Had they known of the explosive potential at the plant, West's volunteer responders might have kept their distance and survived. Those lessons won't last if the EPA doesn't act, Barab said. OSHA, the EPA, CSB and other officials sat on the sidelines while the ATF took control of the scene at West immediately after the explosion. It's not unusual for that to last a couple of weeks. But the agencies were frustrated this time. "They spent a whole entire month there coming up with nothing," Barab said.

The entire story can be found at:

 http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Experts-cast-doubt-on-ATF-s-arson-finding-in-West-11725989.php

See also (CSIDDS: Forensics in Focus) post  (Dr. Michael Bowers) - Another glimpse at how the Fed ignores scientific proofs - arson and the ATF -  at the link below:  "Here is a long-standing federal agency, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, basking in their scientifically outdated historical about arson caused fires. They use a “process of elimination” theory of criminal actions. Others call it old fashioned and biased.........One must realize that ATF provides training modules for international. state and local law enforcement and prosecutors. All of this is reminiscent of the FBI’s hair matching bunch disseminated their scientifically rejected methods for decades. Here’s some links."
https://csidds.com/2017/08/03/a-glimpse-at-how-the-fed-ignores-scientific-proofs-arson-and-the-atf/

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, August 13, 2017

Trump Regime's Forensic Science 'Reforms': (6): Former public defender Stephen Cooper asks: "Has Jeff Sessions Rendered Crime Scene Science Useless?"..."Unconscionably putting gamesmanship in criminal litigation ahead of the uncontroversial and moral principle all good people can agree on – we don't want innocent people to be convicted and locked up (much less, put to death) in this country – the same Wall Street Journal piece notes that "[p]rosecutors notched a victory...over academics and defense attorneys in the long-running debate about what qualifies as sound crime-scene evidence versus 'junk science' used to wrongly convict defendants." No different than hungry children left alone with a whopping plate of cookies, or, greedy corporate raiders tasked with self-regulating excessive avarice, "[g]uidelines for the use of forensic evidence in court, previously developed by a partnership between the Justice Department and a panel of scientists, will now be spearheaded by a former state prosecutor who reports to the department's top leadership." What will be the predictable result of this cynical, unjust, overly cozy, and faux regulatory regime?" (Read on! HL);


QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Instead of "beacons of change," I observed that "prosecutors remain obstinately mired in the unscientific and error-prone past. Their stubborn unwillingness to improve our justice system by repetitively refusing to adopt recommended scientific reforms will result in additional murky criminal convictions marred by faulty forensic evidence." Like many, still shell-shocked Americans, I never fathomed back then that Trump might actually become President, and that everything – and I do mean everything – including the reliability of forensic science evidence in the courtroom, was, and is, about to get worse."

STEPHEN COOPER;

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COMMENTARY: "Has Jeff Sessions Rendered Crime Scene Science Useless?, by Stephen Cooper, published by City Watch  on August 10 2017. (Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015.)

SUB-HEADING: "In January 2016, bemoaning that "the more people talk about improving the use of forensic science in the courtroom, the more things stay the same," I blogged in bold in The Huffington Post: "Not nearly enough steps have been taken (in the District of Columbia, or I respectfully submit, across the country) to address the reliability problems that continue to plague forensic science in the courtroom – problems identified way back in 2009." I opined: "Lawmakers, prosecutors, defense attorneys and forensic scientists, collaboratively working together to implement the reforms the [National Academy of Sciences] recommended, have to be the beacon of change." Eight months later, after then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch rejected a bevy of responsible reforms recommended by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), I argued in an op-ed published by The Hill and several other news outlets: "Compassionate Americans concerned about the plight of wrongfully convicted citizens – folks who want our criminal justice system to operate fairly and accurately – should be outraged by the Department of Justice's pigheaded rejection of fundamental, far-reaching forensic science evidence reform." Instead of "beacons of change," I observed that "prosecutors remain obstinately mired in the unscientific and error-prone past. Their stubborn unwillingness to improve our justice system by repetitively refusing to adopt recommended scientific reforms will result in additional murky criminal convictions marred by faulty forensic evidence." Like many, still shell-shocked Americans, I never fathomed back then that Trump might actually become President, and that everything – and I do mean everything – including the reliability of forensic science evidence in the courtroom, was, and is, about to get worse. You see, under Trump and his frenemy Sessions, instead of criminal justice stakeholders "working collaboratively" to implement sensible, long overdue reforms, reforms put forth by the brightest scientists, judges, and lawyers in the country – including developing standards for validating forensic methods, training forensic examiners, and making labs independent of police and prosecutors – an August 7 Wall Street Journal headline blared, "Jeff Sessions Scuttles Forensics Partnership With Scientists." Unconscionably putting gamesmanship in criminal litigation ahead of the uncontroversial and moral principle all good people can agree on – we don't want innocent people to be convicted and locked up (much less, put to death) in this country – the  same Wall Street Journal piece notes that "[p]rosecutors notched a victory...over academics and defense attorneys in the long-running debate about what qualifies as sound crime-scene evidence versus 'junk science' used to wrongly convict defendants." No different than hungry children left alone with a whopping plate of cookies, or, greedy corporate raiders tasked with self-regulating excessive avarice, "[g]uidelines for the use of forensic evidence in court, previously developed by a partnership between the Justice Department and a panel of scientists, will now be spearheaded by a former state prosecutor who reports to the department's top leadership." What will be the predictable result of this cynical, unjust, overly cozy, and faux regulatory regime?" (Read on!  HL);



The entire commentary can be found at:  
 
 http://www.citywatchla.com/index.php/important-reads/13774-has-jeff-sessions-rendered-crime-scene-science-useless
 
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, August 12, 2017

Daniel Holtzclaw: Oklahoma; Law professor Randall Coyne asks why the secrecy with Holtzclaw filings?......"The cloak of secrecy now surrounding this case should be deeply troubling to every Oklahoman. Holtzclaw's appeal from his 2015 jury trial was proceeding routinely until prosecutors sought permission to file a motion and accompanying materials under seal — that is, privately. Rumor, which is all the public has to go on, is that problems have arisen with the lab and/or investigator in charge of analyzing critical DNA evidence."..."In late June, the judge held two days of closed-door hearings; prosecutors, a deputy police chief, and at least one witness from the DNA lab appeared. Neither Holtzclaw, his lawyers, the media nor the public were allowed in. Although a 347-page transcript of those hearings was filed, it remains — you guessed it — under seal. The black-box proceedings are troubling. Holtzclaw is directly attacking the DNA evidence used to convict him, arguing that the prosecution not only botched its gathering and analysis, but violated ethical rules by misrepresenting it to the jury. A group of six well-credentialed scientists recently agreed, releasing a detailed, 45-page report dissecting the Holtzclaw DNA techniques and testimony and slamming them as biased and inaccurate. A recently filed Open Records Act request for 15,000 pages of case-related records resulted in the release of fewer than a third — 10,000-plus pages remain withheld. Even more alarming, the city now admits it destroyed all of its DNA investigator's emails after her retirement in February. This is no way to run a criminal justice system. In 29 years of practicing and teaching criminal law in Oklahoma, I have never seen the level of sealed orders and secret, ex parte courtroom proceedings that has occurred in the Holtzclaw matter. The Court of Criminal Appeals' sealed orders even violate its own rule requiring their disclosure. The dark cloud of secrecy over the Holtzclaw case gives rise to suspicions that somebody is hiding something."



COMMENTARY: "Law professor: Why the secrecy with Holtzclaw filings?," by Law Prof Randall T. Coyne, published by newsok on August 12, 2017. (Randall Coyne is a retired professor of the University of Oklahoma College of Law, past president of the Oklahoma chapter of the ACLU, and a longtime criminal-defense attorney.)
GIST: "While former Oklahoma City cop Daniel Holtzclaw serves a 263-year sentence for 18 sex-related felonies, the Court of Criminal Appeals last month took the unusual step of entering a sealed order in his case. The cloak of secrecy now surrounding this case should be deeply troubling to every Oklahoman. Holtzclaw's appeal from his 2015 jury trial was proceeding routinely until prosecutors sought permission to file a motion and accompanying materials under seal — that is, privately. Rumor, which is all the public has to go on, is that problems have arisen with the lab and/or investigator in charge of analyzing critical DNA evidence. On May 30, the court entered two secret orders, directing unspecified proceedings to take place before Holtzclaw's trial judge. In late June, the judge held two days of closed-door hearings; prosecutors, a deputy police chief, and at least one witness from the DNA lab appeared. Neither Holtzclaw, his lawyers, the media nor the public were allowed in. Although a 347-page transcript of those hearings was filed, it remains — you guessed it — under seal. The black-box proceedings are troubling. Holtzclaw is directly attacking the DNA evidence used to convict him, arguing that the prosecution not only botched its gathering and analysis, but violated ethical rules by misrepresenting it to the jury. A group of six well-credentialed scientists recently agreed, releasing a detailed, 45-page report dissecting the Holtzclaw DNA techniques and testimony and slamming them as biased and inaccurate. A recently filed Open Records Act request for 15,000 pages of case-related records resulted in the release of fewer than a third — 10,000-plus pages remain withheld. Even more alarming, the city now admits it destroyed all of its DNA investigator's emails after her retirement in February. This is no way to run a criminal justice system. In 29 years of practicing and teaching criminal law in Oklahoma, I have never seen the level of sealed orders and secret, ex parte courtroom proceedings that has occurred in the Holtzclaw matter. The Court of Criminal Appeals' sealed orders even violate its own rule requiring their disclosure. The dark cloud of secrecy over the Holtzclaw case gives rise to suspicions that somebody is hiding something. Have we forgotten the lessons learned during the ordeal surrounding discredited, disgraced and dismissed Oklahoma City forensic chemist Joyce Gilchrist? Perhaps there's a problem with DNA evidence that will impact other cases besides Holtzclaw's. If so, it shouldn't be locked away in the judicial attic. The court immediately should unseal all orders and filings so the public — as well as other convicted defendants whose cases and lives may be impacted — can see the details. Anything less will corrode the public trust at the core of our judicial system. No need to guess about that."

The entire commentary can be found at:
http://newsok.com/article/5559842

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.