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FBI admits flaws in hair analysis over decades

FBI admits flaws in hair analysis over decades
The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000. Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence. The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions. The FBI errors alone do not mean there was not other evidence of a convict’s guilt. Related:  US of A Justice System

Fed-up cops post pictures of vagrants online NYPD cops fed up with vagrants making life miserable in the city are taking matters into their own hands — by snapping photos of quality-of-life scofflaws and posting them online. The Sergeants Benevolent Association is spearheading the effort, emailing a letter to members Monday urging them and their families and friends to take pictures to document the decline of the city. “As you travel about the city of New York, please utilize your smartphones to photograph the homeless lying in our streets, aggressive panhandlers, people urinating in public or engaging in open-air drug activity, and quality-of-life offenses of every type,” says the letter from SBA President Ed Mullins, a major critic of Mayor Bill de Blasio. The union then “will notify our public officials in writing of what is being observed,” he said. Modal Trigger “We will refer issues to the proper agencies, and we will help create accountability across the board.” “We, the ‘Good Guys,’ are sworn to protect our citizens.

How the flawed ‘science’ of bite mark analysis has sent innocent people to prison This is part one in a four-part series. The rest of the series will be posted next week. Before he left the courtroom, Gerard Richardson made his mother a promise. “I told her that one day she’d see me walk out of that building a free man,” he says. Her response nearly broke him. “She said, ‘Gerard, I’ll be dead by then.’” Richardson, then 30, had just been convicted for the murder of 19-year-old Monica Reyes, whose half-naked body was found in a roadside ditch in Bernards Township, N.J. There were only two pieces of evidence implicating him. “I thought it was crazy,” Richardson says. Despite his certainty, Titunik’s analysis consisted of little more than a one-page report identifying Richardson as the culprit. In fact, when questioned at trial about his methodology — about why he was able to single out Richardson as the biter — Titunik relied on a more detailed report offered by Richardson’s own expert witness, Norman Sperber, also a bite mark analyst.

The American Nightmare: the Tyranny of the Criminal Justice System How can the life of such a manBe in the palm of some fool’s hand?To see him obviously framedCouldn’t help but make me feel ashamed to live in a landWhere justice is a game.—Bob Dylan, “Hurricane” Justice in America is not all it’s cracked up to be. Just ask Jeffrey Deskovic, who spent 16 years in prison for a rape and murder he did not commit. James Bain spent 35 years in prison for the kidnapping and rape of a 9-year-old boy, but he too was innocent of the crime. Mark Weiner got off relatively easy when you compare his experience to the thousands of individuals who are spending lifetimes behind bars for crimes they did not commit. In the meantime, Weiner lost his job, his home, and his savings, and time with his wife and young son. The system that should have worked didn’t, because the system is broken, almost beyond repair. Unfortunately, in the real world, justice is harder to come by, fairness is almost unheard of, and truth rarely wins. It wasn’t always this way.

Judge Backs Charges Against Cleveland Officers in Killing of Tamir Rice Acting under a rarely used provision of Ohio state law, a judge found probable cause Thursday to charge Cleveland police Officer Timothy Loehmann with murder in the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice last year. Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Ronald Adrine also found cause to support negligent homicide charges against Officer Frank Garmback, Loehmann's partner, who is accused of standing by after Loehmann shot Tamir in November at a recreation center, where Tamir was playing with a pellet gun. Adrine agreed with local activists known as the "Cleveland 8" who took the unusual step of independently seeking charges because, they said, they'd lost confidence in the grand jury investigation. The ruling is only advisory and doesn't affect the separate grand jury investigation. Adrine — saying he wasn't performing an "end around" of the city or the county — said the choice to lodge charges remains with Cuyahoga County and Cleveland prosecutors. Related: Read the Judge's Full Order (PDF)

FBI’s flawed forensics expert testimony: Hair analysis, bite marks, fingerprints, arson. Photo by Victorburnside/Thinkstock For more stories like this, like Slate on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. The Washington Post published a story so horrifying this weekend that it would stop your breath: “The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.” Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate. What went wrong? Chillingly, as the Post continues, “the cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death.” The massive review raises questions about the veracity of not just expert hair testimony, but also the bite-mark and other forensic testimony offered as objective, scientific evidence to jurors who, not unreasonably, believed that scientists in white coats knew what they were talking about. Sen. There is no lack of good ideas for reform.

The New Science of Sentencing C riminal sentencing has long been based on the present crime and, sometimes, the defendant’s past criminal record. In Pennsylvania, judges could soon consider a new dimension: the future. Pennsylvania is on the verge of becoming one of the first states in the country to base criminal sentences not only on what crimes people have been convicted of, but also on whether they are deemed likely to commit additional crimes. As early as next year, judges there could receive statistically derived tools known as risk assessments to help them decide how much prison time — if any — to assign. Risk assessments have existed in various forms for a century, but over the past two decades, they have spread through the American justice system, driven by advances in social science. The tools try to predict recidivism — repeat offending or breaking the rules of probation or parole — using statistical probabilities based on factors such as age, employment history and prior criminal record. Like this story?

The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden 'black site' | US news The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site. The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights. Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse, include: At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead. Brian Jacob Church, a protester known as one of the “Nato Three”, was held and questioned at Homan Square in 2012 following a police raid.

Only on San Francisco crime lab whistleblower says scandal date... More questions are being raised about the reliability of the San Francisco crime lab. The expert who exposed problems at the lab tells ABC7 News the lab supervisor offered misleading evidence in a 2010 murder trial. Lawyer and DNA expert Bicka Barlow is the one who complained to Police Chief Greg Suhr about serious problems at the crime lab. Barlow tells ABC7 News that five years ago, Boland -- then a criminalist -- misled the court during a double homicide trial by not telling anyone there was a DNA profile of the likely killer. "She didn't tell anybody about it. Barlow says the inconsistencies came out during cross examination during the trial. Attorney Tony Tamburello represented one of the suspects who was acquitted. DNA expert Rockne Harmon even spoke directly to the judge about Boland's conduct. District Attorney George Gascon has launched an investigation independent of Suhr's. Tamburello says Gascon should recuse himself from any investigation.

Denver man charged with seven felonies for handing out 'jury nullification' fliers outside courthouse A Denver man has been charged with multiple felonies after he was caught distributing fliers to educate potential jurors about the practice of “jury nullification.” The Denver Post reported that 56-year-old Mark Iannicelli set up a small booth with a sign reading “Juror Info” outside the Lindsay-Flanigan Courthouse in Denver last week. The Denver District Attorney’s Office charged Iannicelli with seven counts of jury tampering after members of the jury pool were found to be in possession of fliers describing jury nullification. Jury nullification allows juries to acquit a defendant who they may believe is guilty if they also believe that the law is unjust. A copy of the criminal complaint obtained by Kirsten Tynan of the Fully Informed Jury Association says that Iannicelli “unlawfully and feloniously attempted directly and indirectly to communicate with” seven jurors. A probable cause statement added that Iannicelli was accused of “handing out information to potential jurors.”

After Christopher Dorner’s rampage, how to build community trust in police Given its history of scandal, the LAPD has spent a decade building a kinder, gentler organization and making significant strides in community-based policing. Even past detractors, including civil rights lawyer Connie Rice, admit that the LAPD has changed since the early 1990s. But people still associate the department with events of 20 years ago: the acquittal of officers accused of beating Rodney King, the subsequent L.A. riots and the resignation of Chief Daryl Gates. The department’s problems aren’t all in the past, either: In November, a jury awarded former officer Pedro Torres $2.8 million after finding that officials retaliated when he verified claims about an allegedly racist supervisor. During the past decade, 17 officers have won million-dollar-plus verdicts in lawsuits claiming harassment, discrimination and retaliation. Indeed, some people even sympathize with Dorner, despite his unconscionable acts. The solution? Police have long resisted external oversight.

Warning by spending watchdog over forensic science work 21 January 2015Last updated at 12:27 ET Forensic science standards risk slipping since work was transferred to in-house police labs and private firms, the spending watchdog has warned. The National Audit Office said there was too little data on forensic services used by forces and companies risked being pushed out of the market. Crime scene evidence was analysed by the Forensic Science Service in England and Wales until it was axed in 2012. The Home Office said it monitored the forensic science market closely. Continue reading the main story “Start Quote How can anyone be certain, given the confusion, as to what is going to happen to the integrity of our whole criminal justice system?” End QuoteAndrew Miller MPChairman, Commons Science and Technology Committee Police are commissioning more work from their own laboratories - with an estimated £122m being spent this year - but the NAO said many in-house labs did not meet accreditation standards. "Should it worry us? Forensic transition: A timeline

huffingtonpost World's End forensic scientist findings 'misguided' 5 November 2014Last updated at 13:24 ET Christine Eadie and her friend Helen Scott were killed in October 1977 A forensic scientist in the World's End trial has been accused of making are "misguided, unjustified and positively misleading" findings in her report. Angus Sinclair, 69, denies raping and murdering 17-year-olds Helen Scott and Christine Eadie in October 1977. He is accused of carrying out the attacks along with his late brother-in-law Gordon Hamilton. The defence was disputing the findings of Geraldine Davidson during their cross examination. Ms Scott and Ms Eadie were last seen at the World's End pub in the centre of Edinburgh. Mr Sinclair said he had consensual sex with the girls and blames his brother-in-law for the teenagers' murders. 'Positively misleading' The High Court in Livingston has heard six days of evidence from Mrs Davidson. Defence counsel QC Ian Duguid produced a report from scientists commissioned by the defence that did not agree with her findings.