Posts Tagged ‘forensics’

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]

Crime and punishment roundup

  • More dangerous today than in past to be a cop in America? Available evidence suggests the opposite [Radley Balko, more]
  • New York Times covers shaken-baby syndrome with look back at Louise Woodward trial [Poynter; Boston Globe on shaken baby syndrome in May; earlier]
  • Study from National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) on gaps in indigent defense misses chance to highlight voucher/choice remedies [Adam Bates, Cato]
  • The far reach of Sarbanes-Oxley: “You Can Be Prosecuted for Clearing Your Browser History” [Juliana DeVries, The Nation]
  • “Has the ‘Responsible Corporate Officer’ doctrine run amok?” [Bainbridge, earlier on Quality Egg/U.S. v. DeCoster case and mens rea]
  • Federal judge, in April: U.S. Attorney Bharara’s publicity tactics against Sheldon Silver strayed close to line [ruling via Ira Stoll]
  • Suspending drivers licenses over unpaid tickets can push poor motorists into downward spiral [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Balko]

Medical roundup

  • Scorecards on complication rates and outcomes may reveal little about who’s a bad doctor since best docs sometimes take hardest cases [Saurabh Jha, KevinMD] “Anatomy of error: a surgeon remembers his mistakes” [The New Yorker]
  • When parents and doctors don’t agree, are allegations of “medical child abuse” levied too liberally? [Maxine Eichner, New York Times; Lenore Skenazy, see also “medical kidnapping” links]
  • ABA’s Standing Committee on Medical Professional Liability derailed in bid for House of Delegates resolution endorsing unlimited punitive damages in product liability [Drug & Device Law first, second, third posts]
  • Wisconsin repeals medical whistleblower law [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]
  • “Politically Driven Unionization Threatens In-Home Care” [David Osborne, IBD]
  • Ninth Circuit upholds Washington state regulations forcing family pharmacy to dispense morning-after pills [The Becket Fund]
  • Pathologist who frequently diagnosed shaken baby syndrome loses Montana role [Missoulian]

“Judge Kozinski: Time to Rein in Prosecutors”

“In the latest issue of Georgetown Law Journal, Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals turns a critical gaze toward America’s criminal justice system. …one of [the essay’s] major themes is prosecutorial advantage, both in federal and state courtrooms.” Among his topics: judges’ and federal authorities’ reluctance to name or charge misbehaving prosecutors. He thinks the U.S. Department of Justice should drop its opposition to “a bill proposed by Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in 2012 — called the Fairness in Disclosure of Evidence Act — that would require federal prosecutors to disclose any evidence ‘that may reasonably appear to be favorable to the defendant in a criminal prosecution.'” (The Department currently follows a less demanding standard on disclosure of adverse evidence). Kozinski also “favors abolishing state judicial elections, among other recommendations.” [Jacob Gershman, WSJ Law Blog; Alex Kozinski, “Preface,” Georgetown Law Journal Annual Review of Criminal Procedure 2015]

Restoring credibility to forensics

Kick out the pseudo-science and fix the broken incentives for witnesses and information gatherers, advises Radley Balko, which happens to be good advice on the civil forensics/expert witness side as well. More from Balko: “A brief history of forensics” and some thoughts on the lessons learned, or mostly not-learned, from the satanic sex abuse cases of the 1990s. And from Ed Pilkington at The Guardian: “Thirty years in jail for a single hair: the FBI’s ‘mass disaster’ of false conviction,” earlier on that here and here.

“FBI overstated forensic hair matches in nearly all trials before 2000”

“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.” The overstatement of forensic matches favored prosecutors. “The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death,” of whom 14 have either died in prison or been executed. “The FBI errors alone do not mean there was not other evidence of a convict’s guilt.” [Spencer Hsu, Washington Post]

Washington Post begins Shaken Baby Syndrome series

Washington Post today launches an investigative series on dubious Shaken Baby Syndrome convictions. “In Illinois, a federal judge who recently freed a mother of two after nearly a decade in prison called Shaken Baby Syndrome ‘more an article of faith than a proposition of science.'” We’ve covered this developing story with many links in recent years.

Forensics and evidence roundup

  • Radley Balko begins a four-part series on the flawed science of bite mark analysis [parts one, two with Jim Hood angle]
  • Federal judge Jed Rakoff “quits commission to protest Justice Department forensic science policy” [Washington Post]
  • Disturbing, but, to those familiar with the false-memory literature, not all that surprising: “People Can Be Convinced They Committed a Crime That Never Happened” [Psychological Science on new research]
  • Exposure of faulty fire forensics leads to another release after long time served [WHP, Harrisburg; James Hugney Sr. “maintained his innocence throughout” nearly 36 years in prison following conviction in burning death of sleeping son]
  • Courts struggle with evidentiary significance of emoji [Julia Greenberg, Wired] Rap music as gang-tie evidence: “The only value it has is to scare the hell out of white juries, and it’s effective” [ABA Journal]
  • Supporters of Brian Peixoto say his Massachusetts conviction typifies problems of shaken baby forensics [Wrongful Conviction News]
  • “Allegations that NYPD cops may have planted evidence, perjured themselves and engaged in cover-ups while investigating gun cases.” [New York Times via Balko; NYDN 2011 flashback]

Police and prosecution roundup

  • At least twelve Baltimore cops sought workers’ comp for stress after using deadly force on citizens [Luke Broadwater, Baltimore Sun/Carroll County Times]
  • “D.C. Council votes to overhaul asset forfeiture, give property owners new rights” [Washington Post]
  • A different view on Ferguson: Richard Epstein defends grand jury outcome [Hoover]
  • “The House GOP leadership is blocking a police militarization reform bill from even getting a vote.” [Zach Carter, HuffPo, via @radleybalko]
  • Will potential cost of citizen public records requests sink police body-camera schemes? [Seattle Times, ABA Journal]
  • Marissa Alexander case, cited by critics of mandatory minimum sentencing, ends in plea deal [Brian Doherty, earlier, CBS Sunday Morning on mandatory minimum sentencing]
  • Forensics guy hired by Michael Brown’s family: “If they want to think I’m a physician, then more power to them.” [Radley Balko]
  • St. Louis County fines/fees: “Municipal courts charge $100 for Christmas gift of fake amnesty” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial]