Prez advisors warn: halt convictions based on pseudoscience

Hmmm. I wonder who Dr4ensic might be? The plot thickens. I’m waiting for the American Academy of Forensic Sciences to weigh in on PCAST. That response will either lend considerable credence to PCAST as a “Path Forward” or… well let’s just wait and see.

Appellate Squawk

galileo-and-telescope-detail Galileo tries to persuade the Inquisition to look at the Moon through a telescope.

A mysterious Deep Throat, known only as Dr4ensic, has leaked a draft report from a Presidential commission warning that courts are falling down on their job of keeping out junk science offered by the prosecution.  That’s mighty public-spirited of Dr4ensic, considering that the report trashes his own field of bitemark comparison, among others, as  hopelessly unscientific. Yup, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) has concluded that the highfallutin scientific jargon of expert opinions that a bitemark, fingerprint, shoe print, tire print, bullet or hair found at the crime scene could only have come from the defendant amounts to nothing but “because I say so.”  But you mustn’t peek, because the report is marked “DO NOT QUOTE OR DISTRIBUTE.”  draft-pcast-report-1-2

Nevertheless, the National District Attorneys Association has lost no time in howling…

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Bringing the Prosecutors “kicking and screaming” into the light of scientific standards.

.@ndaajustice will continue to defend our criminal justice system against those who try to undermine ithttps://twitter.com/ndaajustice/status/771802800166694912 

Here’ the stand-off:

Prosecutors’ existing forensic standards necessary for them to continue to to get convictions in the 5% of their caseload which actually goes to trial. Obviously, these same standards are used to get the other 95% to plead out.

vs………………………….

The use of methods that have considerable basis in better scientific fact rather than prosecutors’ success rate ( aka “stare decisis’) derived “beliefs.” Since science methodology is a foundational concept dating back to the Egyptians, Greeks and Hammurabi and our US Constitution is only about 228 years old raises a question. Is there some connection between the two? Plus, is all this PCAST argumentation only a metaphor for a much broader cultural context?

I certainly think there is a connection, but not by all means is it a “perfect match.” As exoneration litigation has revealed.

If all that is true, shouldn’t reasonable and rationale principles of both ( like the 6th Amendment ensuring  a “fair trial” and the earth is not flat) be acceptable in our US system of Criminal Justice?

Apparently not.

Read on for the disagreeable truth revealed in the media blasts from some big-wig prosecutors.

 

 

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Junk Science Reigns ____ So Much for True Science in the Courtroom

Excellent links to the roiling battle of science deniers in our LEO midst and similar concerns from around the world. I’ve worked cases of junk expert opinions from the US, Australia, Canada, UK, and Norway.

Wrongful Convictions Blog

We had hope, back in 2009, when the National Academy of Sciences report Forensic Science in the United States; A Path Forward was published, that there might finally be some remedy for all the junk science being used to convict innocent people. The report painted a scathing picture of the lack of true science contained in, and the invalidity of, traditional forensic disciplines; the sole exception being DNA. The report did spawn the creation of the Federal Commission on Forensic Science, which has proven, over the last three years, to be a totally toothless tiger, accomplishing essentially nothing.

Now recently, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has issued an additional report that is highly condemning of current forensic practices. You can see the PCAST report here:  pcast_forensic_science_report_final

HOWEVER, even in light of this recent report, both the FBI and the Department of Justice have stated they…

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“It’s a Joke.” More on the FBI and DOJ bad attitude on legitimate testing in forensics

Hey, just think. If the FBI and DOJ admitted (again) that they “aren’t perfect”  and “needed to test more” then imagine the change in the rate of appeals their convictions would demand? There wouldn’t be enough lawyers in this country to had the paperwork. The botched assumptions of their hair matching unit took decades to be brought to the surface.

This is from Jordan Smith at “The Intercept.”

FBI AND DOJ VOW TO CONTINUE USING JUNK SCIENCE REJECTED BY WHITE HOUSE REPORT

The DOJ lady, Loretta Lynch, gets an F for popping off with this statement while ignoring the challenges outlined by the White House (and the National Academy).

“The DOJ did not respond to The Intercept’s request for additional information, but based on her statement, it appears Lynch is saying there’s simply nothing to see here and that the criminal justice system is working just fine.”

It’s a joke

Fabricant [The NY Innocence Project director of strategic litigation] said the DOJ’s rejection out-of-hand of the White House report is disheartening. “You would think that they would want to get it right. The idea is not that we’re going to spring open the jailhouse doors and let everybody free. The idea is that scientific evidence ought to be scientific,” he said. “To simply reject the call for more research and to say that Daubert is sufficient is ludicrous, because Daubert is obviously not sufficient,” he continued. “So, the idea that you would point to the courts and to precedent for the idea that forensic evidence is good enough for government work is a joke.”

Read the full article

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Calling out the LEO forensic curmudgeons saying “Overeaching and Junk is OK”

Image result for curmudgeon meme

Much of the forensic evidence used in convictions has been found unreliable. Prosecutors want to use it anyway

Salon has compiled what’s I unkindly have called the LEO mind-set of being “Untouchable” when it comes to the using unsafe courtroom experts in order to gain convictions. Salon calls out all the players in the Criminal Justice prosecution hierarchy and quotes their self-serving, (as in their meme of  “trust us we know what we know when we see it) and in some instances almost raging push-back against scientific common sense expectations from the President’s Council Advisors on Science and Technology.

When confrontation occurs, as is seen in the successful efforts of the Innocence Project Network’s growing list of exonerations (Exoneration | The Marshal Project), the DAs metric is to move on to “other compelling evidence” proclamations (Faulty science to be reviewed in three Arkansas cases).

From Salon:

“Although the research is clear, many in law enforcement seem terrified that keeping pseudoscience out of prosecutions will make them unwinnable. Attorney General Loretta Lynch declined to accept the report’s recommendations on the admissibility of evidence and the FBI accused the advisors of making “broad, unsupported assertions.” But the National District Attorneys Association, which represents roughly 2,5000 top prosecutors nationwide, went the furthest, taking it upon itself to, in its own words, “slam” the report.”

http://www.salon.com/2016/09/23/if-the-evidence-is-unfit-you-must-acquit-prosecutors-are-fighting-to-keep-flawed-forensic-evidence-in-the-courtroom/

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Judges’ College puts together #PCAST forensics and FRE 702 rules 

The National Judicial College

The National JudicialCollege dives deep into explaining how overblown “feature-comparing” experts and actually ANYONE attesting to their “science” can be corralled through using rules within the Federal Rules of Evidence.

I think they must have read from all the ABFO bitemarker cases to have compiled what is contained in this lesson plan for judges.

Taking from transcripts used in actual cases, the Judicial College takes a hard stance against forensic statements such as:

“Statements suggesting or implying greater certainty are not scientifically valid and should not be permitted. In particular, courts should never permit scientifically indefensible claims such as: “zero,” “vanishingly small,” “essentially zero,” “negligible,” “minimal,” or “microscopic” error rates; “100 percent certainty” or proof “to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty;” identification “to the exclusion of all other sources;” or a chance of error so remote as to be a “practical impossibility.” ”

STOP: Read this Before Admitting ANY Forensic Evidence! | The National Judicial College 

 

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Crime lab “Congress” disses #PCAST forensic report

John Lentini on PCAST critic. “Mr. Collins fails to recognize that this “legal activism group” [ The Innocence Projects ] has done more to improve the practice of forensic science than any other organization. He also apparently did not read the long list of forensic scientists consulted by the PCAST, beginning at page 155.”

FORENSICS and LAW in FOCUS @ CSIDDS | News and Trends

Image result for whine meme

Here’s another short-sighted defense against advancing some better science in the LEO forensic industry. You can tell these are cops from their immediate use of ad hominem (personal) attacks on the panel members. This is a carbon copy of previous psuedo- “justice” types whine from the @NDAA prosecutors et al.

http://www.fslabs.org/resources/Documents_OPC/2016_0921_PS_PCAST.pdf

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Crime lab “Congress” disses #PCAST forensic report

Image result for whine meme

Here’s another short-sighted defense against advancing some better science in the LEO forensic industry. You can tell these are cops from their immediate use of ad hominem (personal) attacks on the panel members. This is a carbon copy of previous psuedo- “justice” types whine from the @NDAA prosecutors et al.

http://www.fslabs.org/resources/Documents_OPC/2016_0921_PS_PCAST.pdf

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Wrongful Conviction Blog News

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

The WCB

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Twitter Comments about “”Awake-up call on the junk science” infestation

Image result for over confidence pictures

This is just a hit-or-miss snapshot of comments and shows diversity to say the least.

Go to………”A wake-up call on the junk forensic science infesting our courtrooms” for the 164 comments at its end. By HTEdwards and JMnookin. 

Some folks show shock and concern. Others expect the pro-prosecutorial over confidence in “police sciences” to continue.

  1. CSI makes prosecutors jobs easier by implying that their techniques are foolproof and unbiased when they are not. Every forensics lab in the US is controlled by police and prosecutors and are set up to provide them the “evidence” they need to convict even if it ‘s based on plausible-sounding junk. Locally the supervisor of the DNA lab at the DC Forensics lab is the girlfriend of the lead prosecutor in DNA cases. The current director has specifically stated in her confirmation testimony that the labs job is to assist police and prosecutors. She never even suggested that accurate results should take precedence over what the needs of the prosecution.
  2. A case in point is the supposed “freeway shooter” in the Phoenix area. After arresting someone, having Governor “Pretty Boy” Ducey say, “We got him”, discovering the guy’s gun was in a pawnshop at the time of the last shooting and trying to make everyone believe that the shooter caused the accident by shooting into a tire several days before the accident happened, Phoenix, the County Attorney, etc., are all named in a huge lawsuit because other forensics experts says the so called shooter’s gun could not have fired any of the recovered bullets.More money to lawyers and to the falsely accused and higher insurance premiums all because of “junk science”.
  3. (responding the #2.) That’s not an example of “junk science”. Rather it is an example of either corruption on the part of the forensics staff, or of incompetence on the part of the forensics staff. The ability to prove that a particular bullet (projectile) came from a particular weapon is well documented, with error rates able to be calculated. If the examination of the projectile is performed in the same manner as the tests that resulted in predicable and accurate results then the scientific process has been followed.
  4. Evidence such as bite marks and latent fingerprints are eminently reliable — they show what they show (approximate tooth patterns and skin-ridge patterns). What appears to cause the authors dismay is the conclusiveness that jurors may attach to such evidence. In fact, the authors indicate that they understand the “problem” behind juror’s conclusions:

That is, the problem is not the evidence itself (some of which, like bite patterns, maynot      be very specific to individuals), but rather in the ability of defense counsel to explain the      significance (or lack thereof) of the evidence to jurors.

5. Continuing the example, the serious shortcoming of a typical bite mark is that it isn’t            very specific (usually). Everybody has about the same number of teeth, in about the              same place. Barring some really unusual tooth arrangements, a bite mark generally              won’t tell you much about who made it. Thus, in a criminal case in which a bite mark is        photographed, the photo should be admissible, but should generally be of relatively             little probative value.

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