Forensics revisionist talks to crimelabs about “some” 1200 exonerations as “innocence fraud.”

added 12-1-2016: we can now add the President’s Council on Sci Tech’s forecast of future directions needed within most crime lab methods. Once again the law enforcement “communities” choked on 178 pg report. That would be the FBI, US DOJ, fingerprinters, toolmarkers, District Attorneys and bitemark believers. 

This post came out in 2015.

At a recent notable meeting of crime lab managers in DC, the American Society of Crime Lab Directors (aka ASCLD : a police lab certification business)  a speaker reveled the audience with multiple accusations of that “in some” exonerations, there is ongoing fraud within within the small (in comparison to the law enforcement and prosecutor industry) community of exoneration litigators.

The theme of the speaker was a vapid announcement that a conspiracy exists within the forensic reform movement and that affiliated national networks of exoneration litigators are intentionally releasing  guilty prison inmates to go forth and prey on society. (see this presentation’s summary in today’s news release here). I am sure the speaker used his own funds for this. He is touting the upcoming release of his 10 years of research on wrongful convictions which is titled the “Innocence Audit.”

I am sure the promised paper will be compelling in unexpected ways. What he seems to be doing is self-promoting. Cases contesting the basis of an exoneration is in Chicago and is a total of one.  Out of 1200 [added: now up to 1800 by the end of 2016]. How many crime labs scandal have we seen on a monthly basis? 2 a month.

Here is what the ASCLD is all about. Initiated after private conferences with the FBI, the organization grew through the 1990s via assistance from the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and later established itself as a corporation in Missouri. (see “history” on the ASCLD website). It is strongly staffed and managed by those  law enforcement agencies they now inspect and certify. That is to be expected as the forensic culture is to self-certify itself. This subject been discussed before in the 2009 NAS Report on forensics and is largely evident in the current makeup of the National Commission on Forensic Science.

Here’s the general list of  clients and customers from the ASCLD website.

396 crime laboratories are accredited by ASCLD/LAB as of May 6, 2015. The list of accredited laboratories includes 190 state laboratories, 132 local agency laboratories, 31 federal laboratories, 18 international (outside the United States) laboratories and 25 private.

344 crime laboratories are accredited under the International Testing Program, 17 crime laboratories are accredited under the International Calibration Program, and 35 crime laboratories are accredited under the Legacy Program.

AS of this date, No labs have been decertified by the ASCLD.

So, in closing, here are a few comments of my own.

I will let the targets of his accusations respond to his “warning” to the ASCLD membership as he preaching a very slanted version of “forensic reform” .

It is rather ironic his audience were the very people who claim to be joining hands (considering the AAFS adopted all 13 recommendations of the NAS Forensic report merely a week after its publication) with the Innocence Project, the FBI, prosecutorial conviction integrity units and the criminal defense bar in the future prevention of wrongful convictions within the US Criminal Justice system.

The particular list of criminal justice “threats” he seems to love to go after is basically the core of what the public and media consider as the leaders in “forensic reform.” Here are some of them.

The Center for Wrongful Convictions (Chicago); The Innocent Projects throughout the US (about 35  based at American Bar Association accredited law schools; The National Registry of Exonerations; The Marshall Project and others associated with speaking out about faulty forensic science (and other factors in wrongful convictions) who oppose his theory that forensic work in the over 1200 exonerations listed in the National Registry  was nearly flawless. 

Against these organizations he praises a single reference paper for his opinions.

 

 

 

About csidds

Dr. Michael Bowers is a long time forensic consultant in the US and international court systems.
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8 Responses to Forensics revisionist talks to crimelabs about “some” 1200 exonerations as “innocence fraud.”

  1. John Lentini says:

    Number of labs on ASCLD/LAB Probation = 0
    Number of labs whose ASCLD/LAB accreditation is revoked = 0

  2. csidds says:

    John Lentini is a noted fire science expert who is involved in bringing police trained arson investigators into the arena of empirical testing and proper education. He is central figure in the Todd Willingham post execution case which showed the flaws of police arson theories.

  3. sliter.chews.pens says:

    While I haven’t seen the entire 1 hour video, from the 4 minute video is Collins trying to make the argument that some wrongfully convicted individuals shouldn’t be released because they commit more crimes once released?

    Is he mental? Does he not understand due process?

    It sounds like he has a greater issue with recidivism or “rehabilitation” of prisoners within the U.S. criminal system. Perhaps if Avery or Manning hadn’t been wrongfully convicted in the first place, maybe they wouldn’t have committed crimes after being exonerated.

    Exonerations are extremely serious, but wrongful convictions trump that exponentially.

  4. John Lentini says:

    The revisionist Mr. Collins, in a naive and/or intentionally misleading letter to AG Lynch (May 6), says that even if a hair examiner “slightly exaggerated” either the significance of hair similarities or his own credentials, that is not really an error when considered in the context of the “totality” of the testimony. He then extrapolates his review of one case to the entire microscopic hair comparison review. Mr. Collins “totally” misunderstands the proper role of the forensic scientist in the courtroom.

    Here is the text:

    May 6, 2015
    The Honorable Loretta E. Lynch
    Attorney General of the United States

    RE: A review of an FBI case involving forensic hair comparisons
    Dear Attorney General Lynch:

    The purpose of this correspondence is to summarize a recent review that I and a colleague with extensive past experience in forensic hair comparisons conducted on transcripts associated with one of the above referenced FBI cases. The review was conducted at the request of a prosecutor here in the Midwest, and focused solely on testimony offered by an FBI examiner. I wish to explain what was revealed during this review and urge your utmost consideration of the broader scientific and judicial implications of the FBIʹs case review and other similar reviews that may occur in the future. In my professional opinion, there was an inappropriate use of the word error applied to the case we reviewed, and I believe that the prosecutor of record was dealt a disservice by receiving notification of alleged errors that, in fact, did not exist.

    Summary of the Review

    The testimony under consideration was from a 1986 conviction for first‐degree robbery and armed
    criminal action. It involved a hair comparison in which evidentiary hairs were compared by a forensic laboratory examiner at the FBI who reported a wide array of physical similarities, which were outlined during the prosecutionʹs direct examination of the expert witness. During the expert witnessʹs testimony, there were indeed instances of what could reasonably be argued as inappropriate or misleading answers to certain questions (by todayʹs standards) that seemed to slightly exaggerate the significance of the hair similarities ‐ and of the expertʹs own level of experience. But on balance, the totality of the testimony included numerous attempts by the FBI examiner to qualify the strengths and limitations of forensic hair comparisons. In doing so, the examiner gave the court sufficient opportunity to understand that hair comparisons are not a form of personal identification but are instead a way to potentially include or exclude hair strands as originating from the same person.

    Based on our review, therefore, it was not appropriate to characterize the totality of the witnessʹs
    testimony as erroneous; nor would we necessarily describe as errors those portions of the testimony we found to be questionable.

    Error Defined

    The characterization of expert testimony as being erroneous is appropriate when a trier of fact is led to believe in the truth of a set of facts, observations, or opinions that are, in fact, false. To the extent that the totality of a witnessʹs testimony somehow impedes a judge or jury in seeking answers to critical questions of guilt or innocence, the testimony may then be described as erroneous. But customary to the process of legal inquiry in the United States of America, the testimony of a witness can only be evaluated in its entirety ‐ that is to say that the totality of any witness testimony is far more important than the sum of its parts.

    Long Term Implications

    The forensic comparison of hair evidence is a legitimate and useful scientific enterprise. In the testimony I described earlier, the FBI examiner did not mislead the trier of fact regarding any substantive matters associated with the case. Similarly, the FBI examiner warned the court that hair evidence was not suitable for purposes of personal identification. And like all expert witnesses, he had no control over the questions he was asked, the intent of those questions, or the suitability of the courtroom environment at the time for ascertaining scientific truth.

    The consequences of allowing expert testimony from past cases (sometimes these cases are decades old) to be parsed and wordsmithed, particularly by attorneys or other professionals with adversarial intent and no scientific credentials, is profound and vulnerable to abuse. If not carefully controlled, it will create unnecessary but debilitating chaos for our criminal justice system, and expose competent, qualified forensic science professionals to unjustified punitive effects.

    Closing Comments

    Although I have to my credit a 20‐year career in the forensic laboratory sciences as a practitioner and administrator, I am no longer employed in these capacities and have the luxury of considering these issues from a distance. My primary professional focus is now the development of employees and organizations that provide forensic science laboratory services. Instances of professional malpractice must be prevented and corrected when they occur. I hold deep concerns, however, that the adversarialism and grandstanding that pervades our criminal justice system are harming our courts’ abilities to properly consider the weight and meaning of scientific evidence. The manner in which FBI hair cases are being reviewed and categorized, and the inflammatory notifications being sent to prosecutors, appear to magnify the problem rather than solve it.

    For whatever reason, the review of FBI hair cases appears to have been structured to maximize the
    number of errors discovered, which is egregious in itself. I respectfully urge you to work towards the
    establishment of new standards and guidelines for post‐conviction review of scientific evidence in past cases. No such standards exist at this time.

    I can be reached at (517) 803‐4063 or office@forensicfoundations.com. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can answer any questions.

    Yours Truly,
    John M. Collins Jr. MA, SHRM‐SCP

  5. Brandon Moon says:

    This has got to be one of the worst written diatribes I have ever had the misfortune of wasting my time reading.

  6. csidds says:

    Thanks Brandon. You have proved my
    primary thesis. People exist who believe exonerations and forensic reform are a conspiracy to put dangerous criminals on the street.

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