One of the extraordinary defense presentations at the recent EL Howard hearing in Columbus MS was given by the Honorable Chris Plourd (pictured above), the presiding Judge of Imperial County, CA Superior Court.
Judge Plourd rose to the bench in 2012 after a notable career as a criminal defense attorney and an early (in the 1990s) forensic DNA expert. He has a remarkable history of being involved in US national workings groups on science and forensics.
He was chief defense counsel for Ray Krone in the 1990s when Mr. Krone was twice convicted of the murder of Kim Acona in AZ. His guilt was also sealed by another infallible bitemark expert, Dr. Raymond Rawson, an ex-state Senator from Nevada. With Plourd and Krone’s family members continuing help, Krone’s DNA exoneration occurred in 2002.
Judge Plourd’s involvement in Howard is based on Plourd’s ad-hoc ( e.g. for a specific purpose) evaluation of bitemark experts which included Dr. Michael West, the state’s star witness in Howard’s two death penalty convictions. This evaluation and West’s performance was used as character evidence unfavorable to Dr. West in these current Howard proceedings. Special Attorney General Jason Davis objected to admitting the testimony, saying the test” was subterfuge” and “a sting.” He was overruled by Judge Howard (no relation to the defendant).
In Plourd’s direct testimony, he describes the exam as “an external blind proficiency study” he planned to extend to other members of West’s bitemark group in a neutral setting in order to test their reliability. Plourd had produced an exact simulation of how self-employed forensic experts are commonly offered cases by members of the public.
Dr. West, not knowing (i.e. “blinded) the evidence sent him was from a person masquerading as a party to a bitemark case, readily accepted to review the case treated it as an actual case. West accepted his $750 fee and produced a 20 minute video of his brand of bitemark analysis.