Posts Tagged ‘forensics’

Prosecution roundup

  • Fourth Circuit will review forfeiture case of “pre-conviction, pre-trial restraint of untainted property” [Ilya Shapiro, Cato]
  • “Voodoo Science in the Courtroom: The U.S. has relied on flawed forensic-evidence techniques for decades, falsely convicting many” [Alex Kozinski, WSJ; ABA Journal] “Highest court in Massachusetts throws out another shaken-baby syndrome conviction” [Radley Balko on Boston Globe]
  • Federal judge Andrew Hanen gets results! “Justice Department orders more ethics training for lawyers” [Politico, earlier]
  • Like settlement slush funds, contingency-fee prosecutions divert money from the public fisc to influential private players [Margaret (“Peggy”) Little, CEI]
  • California appeals court: Orange County district attorney’s office’s war on a judge was legal but represented “extraordinary abuse” [C.J. Ciaramella]
  • “New Jersey Bill Would Punish Eating, Drinking While Driving” [Reason]

White House panel questions validity of criminal forensics

“Much of the forensic analysis used in criminal trials isn’t scientifically valid, according to a draft report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. The report… raises questions about the use of bite-mark, hair, footwear, firearm and tool-mark analysis routinely used as evidence in thousands of trials annually in state and federal courts.” [Gary Fields and Kate O’Keeffe, WSJ]

Prosecution roundup

  • Deferred prosecution agreements are a powerful new tool of the administrative state, with a tendency toward lawlessness [James Copland and Rafael Mangual, Manhattan Institute] Expected judicial deference to corporate prosecution deals: sign of a broken system [Scott Greenfield citing my April piece]
  • Secrecy more common in criminal prosecutions: sealing of cases and documents, “gag orders… ex parte presentations, in camera submissions” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt]
  • “In my heart, and in my approach to law, I saw rights as a challenge, as something to be overcome.” Confessions of an ex-prosecutor [Ken White (of Popehat), Reason] “Enforcement Gone Amok: The Many Faces of Over-Enforcement in the United States” [John Beisner et al, U.S. Chamber]
  • Hunt County, Texas resident Kent Grady challenges county’s hiring of contingency-fee lawyers to go after him on environmental fines that via statutory per-day multiplication could turn a wrongly placed woodpile into a liability of $2 billion [WSJ editorial via Chamber Institute for Legal Reform]
  • “Don’t Ask Us to Turn In Our Own Executives, Business Lobby Warns” [Bloomberg on Yates memo]
  • “Scientists Looking To Fix The Many Problems With Forensic Evidence” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt]

Crime and punishment roundup

  • Judges generally aren’t supposed to jail defendants over petty fines and fees they’re unable to pay, but many do anyway. How one Texas judge resists [Ed Spillane, Washington Post]
  • Maryland legislature passes amended version of asset forfeiture bill I spoke favorably of at Annapolis press event in January [Tenth Amendment Center, background]
  • Child services hair-sample forensics: “This Canadian Lab Spent 20 Years Ruining Lives” [Tess Owen, Vice]
  • Cato’s 1995 Handbook for Congress urged repeal of Clinton crime bill, but Congress didn’t listen [Tim Lynch, Newsweek and more]
  • “The main thing going through my head was, ‘I’m never going to get a job again.’” Public shaming as punishment [Suzy Khimm, The New Republic]
  • Judge Alex Kozinski publicly names prosecutors in Washington state he thinks may have violated a defendant’s rights [Matt Ferner, HuffPo]

Crime and punishment roundup

Roanoke man pardoned on arson conviction

ornamentsVirginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has granted an unusual absolute pardon to Davey Reedy, released six years ago after many years of imprisonment on an arson murder conviction after a house fire that killed his two small children. The case is one of dozens in which forensic methods formerly used for evaluating arson have been re-examined as poorly based and unreliable. “According to the National Registry of Exonerations, 38 people have been exonerated before Reedy for arson-related crimes since 1991.” [Washington Post; earlier]

From the Post’s Christmas Day story:

After his release in 2009, he has settled back in the Roanoke area with his family. The day McAuliffe called to tell him of his exoneration, Roberta Bondurant said, he was coordinating a volunteer project.

“He’s at a place and time in his life where he’s at peace with himself,” she said. “It doesn’t help him at all in the time he has left on this planet to hold bitterness for anyone who made a mistake along the way.”

Police and prosecution roundup

  • mr-district-attorneySheriff’s group wants Facebook to ax “hate speech against police,” “anti-police rhetoric”: what could go wrong? [WDIV, Daily Caller]
  • The “Mr. District Attorney” comic book cover at right is from Jim Dedman at Abnormal Use, who as part of his Friday links roundup for years now has featured great law-related comic book covers related to law, crime, and justice. Check out his archive;
  • “Under the Microscope: The FBI Hair Cases,” on a major forensic fiasco [Al-Jazeera America documentary, auto-plays, via Scott Greenfield]
  • Knock and announce: in case from Eastern Shore of Maryland, Fourth Amendment got SWATted by militarized police [Ilya Shapiro and Randal John Meyer, Newsweek and Cato]
  • Of course the intersection of civil asset forfeiture with sex panic is one big disaster area for liberty [Elizabeth Nolan Brown] “Should Prostitution Be Legalized?” [David Boaz, Cato; Reason panel on “sex trafficking” goes on despite threatened activist disruptions]
  • Doctrine of qualified immunity shields police officers (and other public employees) from most civil liability. How does it work? [Nathan Burney at Radley Balko]
  • The U.S. Department of Justice regularly settles complaints against local police departments by extracting a promise to abide by future negotiated constraints. Federalism and constitutional concerns aside, how well do these consent decrees actually work in reforming conduct? [Marshall Project]