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FBI errors found in death penalty cases
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Thread: FBI errors found in death penalty cases

  1. #1
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    FBI errors found in death penalty cases

    An unprecedented federal review of old criminal cases has uncovered as many as 27 death penalty convictions in which FBI forensic experts may have mistakenly linked defendants to crimes with exaggerated scientific testimony, U.S. officials said.

    The review has led to an 11th-hour stay of execution. On May 7, Mississippi’s Supreme Court stayed the execution of Willie Jerome Manning for a 1992 double homicide hours before he was set to die by injection.

    It is not known how many of the cases involve errors, how many led to wrongful convictions or how many mistakes may now jeopardize valid convictions.

    FBI officials discussed the review’s scope as they prepare to disclose its first results later this summer. The death row cases are among the first 120 convictions identified as potentially problematic among more than 21,700 FBI Laboratory files being examined. The review was announced last July by the FBI and the Justice Department, in consultation with the Innocence Project and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

    At issue is a once-widespread practice by which some FBI experts exaggerated the significance of “matches” drawn from microscopic analysis of hair found at crime scenes.

    Since at least the 1970s, written FBI Laboratory reports typically stated that a hair association could not be used as positive identification. However, on the witness stand, several agents for years went beyond the science and testified that their hair analysis was a near-certain match.

    The federal inquiry came after the Public Defender Service helped exonerate three District of Columbia men through DNA testing that showed that three FBI hair examiners contributed to their wrongful convictions for rape or murder in the early 1980s.

    The new review listed examples of scientifically invalid testimony, including claiming to associate a hair with a single person “to the exclusion of all others,” or to state or suggest a probability for such a match from past casework.

    Whatever the findings of the review, the initiative is pushing state and local labs to take similar measures. For instance, the Texas Forensic Science Commission on Friday directed all labs under its jurisdiction to take the first step to scrutinize hair cases, in a state that has executed more defendants than any other since 1982.

    Separately, FBI officials said their intention is to review and disclose problems in capital cases even after a defendant has been executed.

    “We didn’t do this to be a model for anyone — other than when there’s a problem, you have to face it, and you have to figure how to fix it, move forward and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” FBI general counsel Andrew Weissmann said.

    David Christian “Chris” Hassell, director of the FBI Laboratory, said the review will be used to improve lab training, testimony, audit systems and research, as it has done when previous breakdowns were uncovered.

    Advocates for defendants and the wrongly convicted called the undertaking a watershed moment in police and prosecutorial agencies’ willingness to re-open old cases because of scientific errors uncovered by DNA testing.

    Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, which supports inmates who seek exoneration through DNA testing, applauded the FBI, calling the review historic and a “major step forward to improve the criminal justice system and the rigor of forensic science in the United States.”

    Under terms finalized with the groups last month, the Justice Department will notify prosecutors and convicted defendants or defense attorneys if an internal review panel or the two external groups find that FBI examiners “exceeded the limits of science” when they claimed to link crime scene hair to defendants in reports or testimony.

    If so, the department will assist the class of prisoners in unprecedented ways, including waiving statutes of limitations and other federal rules that since 1996 have restricted post-conviction appeals. The FBI also will test DNA evidence if sought by a judge or prosecutor.

    http://www.timesdispatch.com/news/na...a74039bef.html
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  2. #2
    Senior Member CnCP Legend JimKay's Avatar
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    There is a startling gap between the glamorous television world of “CSI” and the gritty reality of the forensic crime lab. With few established scientific standards, no central oversight, and poor regulation of examiners, forensics in the U.S. is in a state of crisis. In "Forensics on Trial," NOVA investigates how modern forensics, including the analysis of fingerprints, bite marks, ballistics, hair, and tool marks, can send innocent men and women to prison—and sometimes even to death row. Shockingly, of more than 250 inmates exonerated by DNA testing over the last decade, more than 50 percent of the wrongful convictions stemmed from invalid or improperly handled forensic science. With the help of vivid recreations of actual trials and cases, NOVA will investigate today’s shaky state of crime science as well as cutting-edge solutions that could help investigators put the real criminals behind bars.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/fo...-on-trial.html

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    One of the things I find appalling is the extent to which prosecutors that discover falsifications in expert testimony they put on during murder trials have to reopening the cases. Guys, if you put the evidence on at trial, you thought it mattered. Don't claim it didn't. Good to see this being fixed here.

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    Senior Member Member Johnya's Avatar
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    Thanks JimKay, I love NOVA and hope to catch this on television. This reminds me also of fraudulent "expert" witnesses, such as the Park Dietz debacle at the Andrea Yates trial. It got her the death penalty, which was overturned when it was found that Dietz' testimony was incorrect. Yates was then sentenced to a mental facility. The man just flat out lied. The sad thing is that prosecutors across the country have used his testimony in many murder cases. Don't you know the appeals attorneys then went through his testimonies for those cases with a fine tooth comb? What a waste of time and resources. Dietz had been a professional psychiatric prosecution witness for years. I don't think he has as much work now...


    Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/08/ar...ef=andreayates

    A more in-depth source: http://www.time.com/time/nation/arti...218445,00.html
    Last edited by Johnya; 08-08-2013 at 08:11 AM. Reason: added source

  5. #5
    Senior Member CnCP Legend JimKay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Johnya View Post
    Thanks JimKay, I love NOVA and hope to catch this on television.
    You can watch it online at the link I posted. It aired a while ago.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Johnya View Post
    Thanks JimKay, I love NOVA and hope to catch this on television. This reminds me also of fraudulent "expert" witnesses, such as the Park Dietz debacle at the Andrea Yates trial. It got her the death penalty, which was overturned when it was found that Dietz' testimony was incorrect. Yates was then sentenced to a mental facility. The man just flat out lied. The sad thing is that prosecutors across the country have used his testimony in many murder cases. Don't you know the appeals attorneys then went through his testimonies for those cases with a fine tooth comb? What a waste of time and resources. Dietz had been a professional psychiatric prosecution witness for years. I don't think he has as much work now...


    Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/08/ar...ef=andreayates

    A more in-depth source: http://www.time.com/time/nation/arti...218445,00.html
    The best is the bite testimony expert. Just completely wrong. Instrumental in sending many people to prison. Frankly, some of these prosecutors and experts that lie should face prison time themselves. It's no less a crime than kidnapping.

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