New Ohio exoneration casts worries about a ‘Sessions Effect’ on criminal justice


I’m just coining a turn to a familiar forensic science phrase, but US Attorney General Session’s cancelling the NCFS  (federal forensic forensics commission) has brought added attention to flawed  police science long advertised as being a legal certainty. It quite clearly has spurred some good discussions defining the  thrashing going on between scientific thinking and prosecutors .

Let’s give his legacy a name since the public is beginning to understand that Sessions is mute regarding false convictions, false plea deals and wrongful incarcerations coming out of both ‘his’ federal system of justice and affiliated state prosecuting colleagues.

The ‘Sessions Effect’ could stick much like the ‘CSI Effect’ is used as a label about juries expecting solid physical evidence to prove guilt in criminal cases. Prosecutors complain it only exists in about 10% of their cases that actually go to trial. 95% of prosecutions end up in admissions of guilt thorugh plea bargains.

There is a twist in ‘effect’ in that Sessions clearly stands for throttling Obama’s and the US Congress decade long movement to thwart the presence of flawed, incompletely tested and outright false forensic reporting by prosecution experts.

This piece gives us a short narrative of how we got to this point in forensic science reform.

Vice article on Ohio’s latest exoneration. 

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Long look at US Terror prosecutions multiple facts – not fake – The Intercept

Trial and Terror

Cover Story

Part 1

“The U.S. government has prosecuted almost 800 people for terrorism since the 9/11 attacks. Most of them never even got close to committing an act of violence.”

with the following links.

Trial and Terror Database

The 400 Released

The Cooperators

The FBI Stings

The Country-of-Origin is a Poor Predictor. 


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Forensic Science Commentators to Watch on Twitter – Not the guy in the pic

Photo published for Opinion | Jeff Sessions wants to keep forensics in the Dark Ages

Just a part of my daily Twitter feed on the battles between politics and the forensic sciences.

Radley Balko @radleybalko Washington Post and The Watch journalist guy.

The Attack of the Bitemark Matchers. 

BettyLayne DesPortes @bldesportes  President of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Attorney

New Forensics Approaches Looking More ‘CSI’-Like

Every word of this is great: Now who will push ahead on validating forensic science disciplines?

Steven O’Dell ‏@CrimeLabBoss Chief of Forensics at Baltimore Police Department

WOW! “Massive drug lab scandal results in 20,000 convictions dropped”

Max Houck‏ @maxmhouck Ex Crime Lab Director in Washington DC. Anthropolgist and Adjunct Forensic Science  Professor in Florida

Sessions wants to keep forensic science in the dark ages

Uni Kent Forensics‏ @KentForensic Notable Forensic educator in the UK

Now who will push ahead on validating forensic science disciplines?

Spencer Hsu Washington Post 2x Pulitzer Prize finalist

Session Orders Justice Department to end Forensic Science Commission, suspend review policy. 

Erin Murphy‏ @ErinMurphysLaw Law Professor and author

Hopefully the OSAC groups at NIST are not next on Sessions’ forensic science chopping block.

More later………….




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“All Science is Provisional” Yet Legal Results are either “Guilty or Not Guilty” -Forensic Reform

Image result for science vs law

A pretty good interview of one of the “outsider” (i.e. non-forensic) scientists on the National Commission on Forensics that is (was) on the Trump/Session hit list for non-renewal.

He clearly speaks about the challenges to a “meeting of the minds” between the very diverse members of this now defunct forensic commission which has been derided as pointless by the guy who runs the USDOJ. His minion says they plan to be “open to all options.” Whatever that means in the lexicon of the alt-right.

Science Magazine 

More on Session’s pullback from Obama era changes to criminal justice principles.

“Sessions tapped Steven Cook, a federal prosecutor and outspoken opponent of criminal justice reform, to lead the charge as assistant deputy attorney general; he will be leading Sessions’s new Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety.”

The fox has the hen house in “Sweeping Change at DOJ Under Sessions.”

Yet this is happening in New York State:

“New York’s smart criminal justice reform sets example for Sessions to follow

But this is happening in Oklahoma and Texas:

Oklahoma criminal justice reform gets rocky reception in house commitee.

Outlook uncertain for bill to raise age for criminal responsibility.


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Honorable Christopher Plourd gets a position on the OSAC Forensic Governing Board

Judge Plourd has been a distinctive opponent of bitemark ‘matching’ going back to the exoneration of Ray Krone (AZ) (first pic), Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer (MS) (second pic). As a criminal defense attorney he engineered a sting operation posing as an actual bitemark case to uncover the unparalleled quackery of odontologist Michael West.

The Sting operation


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The US is Looking at Forensic Science real hard in the era of Trump/Sessions

Image result for sleuth

The game and it’s players: 100 + days of DC powerbroker alt-facts on forensics are running up against years of real science facts, crime lab failures, and over 2000 exonerations.

On and on it goes. The central theme seems to be…”protect us from violent crime and wrongful convictions.”

Why critics worry end of forensic panel could lead to more ‘junk science‘ in courtPBS NewsHour

The same article in Hawaii

Critics worry ‘junk science‘ to reign as forensic panel ends – 9&10 News

Home featured AG Sessions: Forensic Science Panel That Helps Keep Innocent People Out of …Atlanta Black Star

Putting the Nevada police on the clock to speed up rape testing.

Couple looking for IVF find out they are biological twins.


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Bitemark victim Keith Harward talks to lame duck Forensic Science Commission

Keith Haward

An ironic event occurred at the last meeting of the NCFS meeting in DC. Exoneree Keith Harward told them not to give up despite AG Sessions is taking all forensic science reform under his prosecutorial “wing.”

Click pic to see Keith Allen Harward’s presentation on many things, including junk forensic experts and cutting corners to achieve convictions (after 26 seconds of advertising). If you could send this to Jeff Sessions at TheJusticeDept with a brief comment, I am sure Keith would appreciate it.

Harward had a large number of excellent reflections on what put him in a Virginia prison for 34 years and where we should go from here.

“When you present an expert to a jury of people, of course, whatever they say is true because the judge allows it, the prosecutor presents it. It has to be true,” he said.

“I’m sorry to hear that this commission is coming to a halt, because it sounds like y’all could be on my side.”

Full story  of Keith Allen Harward taking on the still non-repentant and obsolete bitemarkers.

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Assault on Science persisting in the US Department of Justice – Updates

Image result for anti science

The War Over Forensic Science Started Well Before Jeff Sessions-Wired

Critics worry ‘junk science‘ to reign as forensic panel ends–

QA: The U.S. Department of Justice scrapped independent forensics panel, but the scientific– Science Magazine

Matthew T. Mangino: The assault on science moves to the DOJ – Dover Post


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Medical product liability case lends itself as a framework on Junk Forensics use in US courts

If only there was a Rule for judges to take the time to use their own Rules on the subject of expert testimony on forensic subjects.

This brief review of a civil plantiff’s complaint (Jones) against biophosphonase maker Novartis travels through a pre-trial Daubert hearing shows us something about judicial rigor in the face of disjointed experts’s claims of proof to their opinions. It comes with a nifty graphic.

Bitemarks have faced 10 Dauberts’ in Texas. All resulted in judicial approval going to the bitemarkers. The only recent dent in this sorry judicial review is Texas Forensic Science Commission’s stance recommending its courts ban the bitemarkers out of court.


The Jones court specifically recites the Daubert gatekeeping function as a mandate that the trial court conduct “an exacting analysis of the foundations of expert opinions to ensure they meet the standards for admissibility under Rule 702.” Id. at *2 quoting United States v. Abreu, 406 F.3d 1304, 1306 (11th Cir. 2005). In addition, as we noted in our recent Gorsuch article, the court must also include certain elements, i.e., a specific address to each Daubert objection raised, in the opinion granting a Daubert motion to ensure it will stand up on appeal. That’s a big job.

While the Jones opinion is well-supported and stands as a very helpful example of a thorough Daubert analysis, we’re curious whether courts are often not inclined to engage in this kind of detailed, documented review because it requires so much time, effort, and judicial resources.

Full Story


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US Forensics look forward is getting confused – mirroring Trump’s crony Sessions

Image result for off the table meme

We should consider the US Department of Justice declining to renew the Natl Commission on Forensic Science just a foretelling of the retrenching push by police and prosecutor to remain outside normal scientific influences.

This agency of public safety via criminal litigation, punishment and incarceration is earning negative credits for false accusations of being ignored by Congress, the Obama administration and being a victim of ‘defense oriented’ bias since the 2009 National Academy of Sci report creating a “Path Forward” hit their radar. Or rather hit their foreheads and immediately bounced off. 

Here is today’s look at the meme-like prosecutors jumping for joy and some of their incorrigible ‘defense’ enemies from an article at ABC News. “Critics worry ‘junk science’ to reign as panel ends.” ABC has included a neat video of a recent “Science March” foretelling the April 22 nation-wide event on Earth Day.

Talking points

  • Prosecutors praise the move.
  • Defense attorneys will step up their challenges to certain forensic practices.
  • Erin Murphy – “Even if defense attorneys jump up and down and complain about it, they won’t have the power of a national commission to back them up,” said Erin Murphy, a professor at New York University School of Law. “The status quo right now is to admit it all. The status quo is where things are likely to stay.”
  • The Justice Department says concerns are premature.
  • USDOJ sub AG Andrew Goldsmith (Sally Yates replacement) – “Nothing off the table.”

Goldsmith failed to attach the time line of his boss Sessions, police crime lab people and Prosecutors’s ballistic (pun intended) responses that should dissuade the public from thinking the table even exists.

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