Immigration agents X-raying migrants to determine age isn’t just illegal, it’s a misuse of science

Immigration agents X-raying migrants to determine age isn’t just illegal, it’s a misuse of science
— Read on

Up to this point, US Office of Homeland Security (ICE) doesn’t really care about this one bit.

Posted in expert testimony, Forensic Science, Forensic Science Bias, forensic science misconduct | Leave a comment

Forensics: Detecting lies with machines doubious and doubtful.

Lie detections looks awesome in the movies. Generally used by authorities to spook suspects into confessing.

Posted in Forensic Science Bias, forensic science reform protecting the innocent, junk forensic science | Tagged | Leave a comment

Forensics: More cases where age assessment by dentists leads to incorrect immigration outcomes

Among clear evidence that ICE and Homeland is violating their own mandate NOT to use wisdom teeth and bone analysis, it is still a large money-maker for dentists when they are hired by ICE and Homeland to put children into adult detention. Here’s a quote from this LA Times article.

“In a report for an attorney this year opposing the use of third molar estimates, Dr. Mike Bowers, a dentist who practices forensic odontology, stated that “dental aging should be considered an indicator of the biological maturity of a growing child. It was not developed to be used for individual age identification.”

“The court system demands a clear determination, and the tool they’re using is not capable of doing that,” Bowers said.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Forensics: UK police love this “conclusive” bitemark opinion – DNA never gets mentioned

Five teeth out of 32 seems enough for everyone in this murder conviction in the UK. The dentist looks satisfied on the video. (the 3rd video in the article). Problems about expert error rates, etc., always go out the window when police run the news show.

It is striking that a country which introduced DNA profiling to the world, would go back to 1970’s bitemark techniques that have been instrumental in dozens of wrongful convictions.

Posted in criminal justice reform, DNA profiling | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Toothless Texas inmates denied dentures in state prison – Houston Chronicle

Toothless Texas inmates denied dentures in state prison – Houston Chronicle
— Read on

Reading towards the bottom of this shows that ex-lawyers ( the US Supreme Court in 1976 ) determined the “standard of care” for prison inmates instead of health care professionals. Just as lawyers always do, their reasoning is vague, indeterminable, and ineffective.

Posted in human rights violations | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Senseless Legal Precedent That Enables Wrongful Convictions | The New Republic

The top of the legal pyramid in the US claim Constitutional rights and associated case law do not “extend” to pre-trial negotiations. This affects 95% of criminal cases that occur in the country. This regressive thinking puts other cases influencing personal and civil rights at risk.

A federal appeals court has ruled that prosecutors can withhold evidence that may prove defendants innocent before they plead guilty.
— Read on

Posted in criminal justice reform, human rights violations, wrongful convictions | Leave a comment

Forensics: Grits for Breakfast: Most crime labs accused innocent person in DNA mixture study

Grits for Breakfast: Most crime labs accused innocent person in DNA mixture study
— Read on

The dark side of the NIST DNA mis-identification report covered in my last blog. Subterfuge and disclaimers to quash use in court by NIST government sponsored managers. Contributors to the study blew the whistle on NIST. Sounds just like the ABFO bitemarkers ploys over their failed “Construct Validation” study.

Posted in AAFS, ABFO, costs of wrongful convictions, Crime lab scandal, criminal justice reform, CSI, DNA mixtures, DNA profiling, Forensic Science Bias, wrongful convictions | Tagged | Leave a comment

Forensics: Police crime labs continue to mess up DNA mixture identifications. Courts slow to respond.

The Dangers of DNA Testing

In a new study, 74 out of 108 crime laboratories implicated an innocent person in a hypothetical bank robbery.

Sept. 21, 2018

By Greg Hampikian

Dr. Hampikian is a professor of biology at Boise State University.

Police evidence bag containing DNA swabs.Tek Image/Science Photo Library, via Getty Images

Before you give the police a DNA sample, read an alarming new study of crime laboratories published this summer, the largest study of its kind.

Researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology gave the same DNA mixture to about 105 American crime laboratories and three Canadian labs and asked them to compare it with DNA from three suspects from a mock bank robbery.

The first two suspects’ DNA was part of the mixture, and most labs correctly matched their DNA to the evidence. However, 74 labs wrongly said the sample included DNA evidence from the third suspect, an “innocent person” who should have been cleared of the hypothetical felony.

The test results are troubling, especially since errors also occur in actual casework. Just ask Dwayne Jackson of Las Vegas.

When he was 18, he was told that his DNA matched DNA from a home invasion and kidnapping of a woman and her two daughters. He was advised that a jury would most likely believe the DNA, not him. Facing a life sentence at trial, he pleaded guilty to reduced charges in 2003.

Mr. Jackson spent nearly four years in a Nevada prison, until the crime lab realized it had accidentally switched his sample with another suspect’s tube. The lab apologized, and he was released from prison.

Linda Krueger, executive director of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Criminalistics Bureau, at a news conference in 2011 where police officials apologized for a DNA error that wrongly sent Dwayne Jackson to prison for four years.Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun, via Associated Press

Tube swaps are easy to understand. But some laboratory errors are far more difficult to detect. For example, it’s hard to interpret DNA mixtures from three or more people. As DNA testing has become more sensitive, most laboratories are now able to produce profiles from anyone who may have lightly touched an object. The result is that DNA mixtures have become more common, making up about 15 percent of all evidence samples.

To assess how labs are doing with these mixtures, the institute’s researchers have conducted several national studies over the past two decades. Basically, they gave crime labs DNA from several people, as well as DNA from fake crime scenes. They asked the labs if any suspects matched the evidence. If the labs found a match, they were required to report a match statistic. This statistic indicates the odds that the match is a coincidental or innocent match.

One shocking result from the new N.I.S.T. study is that labs analyzing the same evidence calculated vastly different statistics. Among the 108 crime labs in the study, the match statistics varied over 100 trillion-fold. That’s like the difference between soda change and the United States’ gross domestic product. These statistics are important because they are used by juries to consider whether a DNA match is just coincidence.

I first learned about the results of this study in 2014, at a talk by one of its authors. It was clear that crime labs were making mistakes, and I expected the results to be published quickly. Peer-reviewed publication is important, because most judges won’t let you cite someone’s PowerPoint slide in your testimony.

But years went by before the study was published, preventing lawyers from using the findings in court, and academics from citing the results in journal articles. If some of us had not complained publicly, it may not ever have been published.

While this lapse in publication is troubling, more disturbing is that the authors try to mute the impact of their own excellent work. Neither the paper’s title nor the abstract mention the shocking findings. And the paper contains an amazing number of disclaimers.

In fact, the conclusion begins with a stark disclaimer apparently intended to block courtroom use:

The results described in this article provide only a brief snapshot of DNA mixture interpretation as practiced by participating laboratories in 2005 and 2013. Any overall performance assessment is limited to participating laboratories addressing specific questions with provided data based on their knowledge at the time. Given the adversarial nature of the legal system, and the possibility that some might attempt to misuse this article in legal arguments, we wish to emphasize that variation observed in DNA mixture interpretation cannot support any broad claims about “poor performance” across all laboratories involving all DNA mixtures examined in the past.

People serving time behind bars based on shoddy DNA methods may disagree. It is uncomfortable to read the study’s authors praising labs for their careful work when they get things right, but offering sophomoric excuses for them when they get things wrong. Scientists in crime labs need clear feedback to change entrenched, error-prone methods, and they should be strongly encouraged to re-examine old cases where such methods were used.

The good news is that there are methods to reanalyze old DNA mixture data using computer programs that can help analysts correct errors, without any new lab testing. In fact, one lesson from the study is that while only seven of the 108 labs in the study properly excluded the innocent profile, one of them used such a program (TrueAllele by Cybergenetics). Many crime labs now have access to these programs and use them on current cases. But they could and should easily go back and re-examine old DNA mixtures to correct tragic mistakes.

In fact, we have shown that this is possible. Working with Cybergenetics analysts and Innocence Network organizations in four states, our Boise State University laboratory has re-examined a few select cases and already persuaded courts to overturn a conviction in New Mexico, two in Indiana and two in Montana. We have also helped identify a new suspect in a 23-year-old murder.

While we have to go to court to get access to case data (a very time-consuming process), the crime labs don’t. They could easily review their own cases. With tens of thousands of DNA mixtures analyzed each year, there are many innocent people who hope the crime labs and courts take the national institute’s study seriously, and act quickly.

Greg Hampikian is a professor of biology at Boise State University and a co-author of “Exit to Freedom.”

Sent from my iPad

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Forensics: Runaway use of touch DNA by Prosecutors ignores it’s limitations and cautions.

Framed By Your Own Cells: How DNA Evidence Imprisons The Innocent

Marina Medvin

Tiny amounts of touch-transferred DNA have placed people at locations they had never visited and implicated people for crimes they did not commit. | Getty Images


Modern technologies can now detect and analyze DNA from samples comprised of only 16 cells. But due to the touch-transfer properties of DNA, determining how those cells reached the surface on which they were found is impossible. Tiny amounts of touch-transferred DNA have placed people at locations they had never visited and implicated people for crimes they did not commit.

Forensic technologies detecting and analyzing DNA evidence have been at the forefront of criminal investigations. Scientists have told us that the perpetrator of a crime will leave traces of his DNA at the crime scene, and if found in even in small amounts, the evidence can be used to identify the perpetrator. Finding a suspect’s DNA at a crime scene, on a victim, or on a piece of evidence, is consistently used by law enforcement to place a suspect at the scene of the crime, with the victim, or in contact with the relevant piece of evidence. Prosecutors have been representing DNA evidence as superior to all other types of identification evidence. However, research conducted at the University of Indianapolis shows that the detection of DNA does not actually indicate presence or contact. In fact, it may not narrow the scope of the investigation at all.

This is because humans shed DNA continuously, and shed DNA transfers freely between people and objects. DNA can be transferred through a handshake or touching an inanimate object, like a doorknob. Every time you shake someone’s hand you might receive some of your acquaintance’s DNA, and that of other people whose DNA had come into contact with your acquaintance’s hand. Scientists refer to this phenomenon as “secondary transfer DNA,” while journalists have been using the term “touch DNA.” I will use a more global term, “touch-transfer DNA,” to describe DNA transferring easily through contact or touch.

Imagine a man waiting at a restaurant for a business associate. His business associate opens the restaurant door, then walks over to the man and shakes the man’s hand with the same hand the associate used to open the restaurant door. The man has now received a DNA transfer of his associate’s DNA, and any DNA that the associate’s hand picked up on the restaurant door handle. If we were to swab the man’s hand for DNA, we might find the man’s DNA, his associate’s DNA, and the DNA of a few other unknown people who touched the door handle of the restaurant and whose DNA stuck around, people who the man never touched. The DNA of these other people transferred to the man’s hand through the touch-transfer properties of DNA.

Similarly, a person identified by a match of DNA discovered at a crime scene may have never come into contact with the object or the person on which his DNA was found. Yet, modern day high-tech CSI investigations do not account for the possibility that the evidence discovered at a crime scene was deposited via touch-transfer.

When DNA detection capabilities emerged in the 1980s, forensic technologies had much lower sensitivity and required large, visible samples for DNA analysis. Over the past decade, forensic technologies used by law enforcement have become so highly sensitive that the quantum of DNA required for analysis has become very low. Samples of DNA may now be invisible and so low in size and quality that older forensic equipment would not be able to detect any DNA; samples entirely invisible to the human eye. Only a sample of about 16 cells is required for modern equipment to analyze the DNA within. Compare this to the tens of thousands of skin cells that we shed each day.

The concept of obtaining identifying information from tiny bits of touch-transfer DNA was first discovered by an Australian scientist and published in 1997 under the title “DNA fingerprints from fingerprints.” The scientist discovered that tiny bits of DNA would transfer through touch, together with fingerprint markings, allowing for the collection and analysis of DNA from fingerprints left behind by culprits. Practical utility in the criminal justice world required the emergence of more sensitive technologies to detect the infinitesimal bits of evidence. Such equipment began appearing in forensic laboratories over the last 15 years. But law enforcement did not limit their search for touch-transfer DNA to just fingerprints; instead, they expanded the search for touch-transfer DNA to all objects and surfaces, irrespective of the ability to find other identifying evidence connected to that DNA, such as a fingerprint. This led to the prosecution of individuals based on DNA from low-template and low-quality samples not connected to other identifying data. Moreover, prosecutors failed to distinguish the unique nature of touch-transfer DNA and the likelihood of random and innocent touch-transfer origins, presenting it to juries as the equivalent of a smoking gun. Albeit, the Australian scientist who presented the concept of touch-transfer DNA, also noted that some people’s DNA curiously appeared on things that they had never touched.

Four Indianapolis scientists recently questioned the reliability of the modern day high-sensitivity forensic lab technologies used by law enforcement to identify suspects via DNA. They explained that even though current technologies utilized by forensic laboratories are now reading DNA profiles from low-template and low-quality samples, they have “not been systematically investigated.” The scientists published their findings in 2016, in the Journal of Forensic Science, under the heading: Could Secondary DNA Transfer Falsely Place Someone at the Scene of a Crime? Their answer was an unequivocal yes. Touch-transfer DNA “could falsely link someone to a crime” and forensic scientists relying on modern high-sensitivity equipment could “falsely conclude that DNA left on an object is a result of direct contact.” Their findings revealed that it is impossible for scientists to determine whether the tiny bits of DNA came into contact with evidence from a direct source or via secondary source. And, that no matter how much they tried to sanitize their experiment, unknown third-party DNA was nonetheless able to make its way into the results, highlighting the plausibility of cross-contamination with touch-transfer DNA.

The FBI standards for DNA laboratories were last updated in 2011, and, to this day, no changes have been made to reflect the 2016 Indianapolis findings. There are currently no widespread standards in place that are specifically aimed at preventing cross-contamination with touch-transfer DNA in the laboratories where various evidentiary objects are examined. This means that when objects that are placed on shared surfaces in the laboratory, to be examined or photographed, for example, they are subjected to cross-contamination by touch-transfer DNA. The same goes for the initial discovery and investigation of the evidence when the evidence is first handled by police officers.

The presentation of touch-transfer DNA as bulletproof to a jury is thus even more worrisome. During a criminal trial, lawyers for the government and for the accused are expected to present competing possibilities of how a crime could have occurred, and who may have been responsible for the crime. A jury is not confined to mathematical computation of criminal culpability. Instead, a jury is free to choose among reasonable constructions of the evidence. Overcome with anxiety and fear of making the wrong choice, jurors tend to rely on the existence of, or the lack of, forensic or DNA evidence presented to them at trial. Thus, when prosecutors present to a jury touch-transfer DNA evidence with the same oomph as large-sample DNA evidence, the jurors, under the influence of pre-set expectations for scientific evidence to prove culpability and the common notion that DNA evidence is inherently trustworthy, feel compelled to convict. The result is touch-transfer DNA can readily lead to conviction of the innocent.

In 2007, Amanda Knox was charged with the murder of her roommate based a minuscule amount of touch-transfer DNA. Knox’s DNA, and the DNA of the victim, were found on a kitchen knife that was located in the home of Knox’s friend, who was charged as a co-conspirator in the murder. Since the victim was never in the co-conspirator’s residence, the prosecution insisted that the only way for the victim’s DNA could have found its way into that home and onto that knife, would have to be through direct contact—the murder. In 2009, an Italian jury convicted Knox, even though the knife in question did not match the entry wounds on the victim’s body. It was not until 2015 that Ms. Knox was exonerated based on a more precise understanding of how DNA transferred through contact and on concerns with touch-transfer DNA cross-contamination.

In 2012, Lukis Anderson was arrested and charged with the murder of a millionaire in California. Traces of his DNA were found on the victim’s fingernails. Law enforcement crafted a theory of the case based on this evidence and Anderson’s lengthy criminal record, dangling the death penalty over Anderson’s head. Anderson was unable to effectively assist in his own defense. “Maybe I did do it,” he told his public defender, not remembering what happened on the night in question due to significant intoxication. After spending five months in jail, Anderson was released when it was uncovered that he was at the hospital when the crime occurred, recovering from intoxication. But how did his DNA get onto the victim’s fingernails? Anderson was the victim of touch-transfer DNA misinformation. The two paramedics who had treated Anderson for intoxication, hours before the millionaire was murdered, later responded to the scene of the murder with Anderson’s DNA already on them. Contact between the paramedics and the millionaire resulted in the exchange of DNA on their hands, which just happened to include Anderson’s DNA from contact that took place hours prior.

In 2014, Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw was charged with various sexual assault crimes stemming from accusations of women he encountered while on patrol. While the case initially appeared brittle, from ever-changing victim accounts to evidence contradicting the stories altogether, a speck of DNA from one of the accusers was found on the officer’s uniform pants. Unlike a visible sample of identifiable DNA (think Monica Lewinski’s blue dress stain), the DNA found on Holtzclaw’s pants was instead invisible, touch-transfer DNA. In fact, his patrol car’s door handle produced four times as much DNA as the speck on his pants. The evidence also confirms that Officer Holtzclaw searched the accuser’s purse for evidence on behalf of the police department, before he was swabbed for DNA, rummaging through her personal belongings, his hands plausibly coming into contact with a plethora of her DNA. He also used the restroom, touching his pants in the process. Consistent with touch-transfer DNA properties, an unaccounted-for and unknown male’s DNA had also been found on Holtzclaw’s pants together with the female’s DNA. Nevertheless, the prosecutor told the jury that the speck of female DNA evidence was conclusive proof of sexual contact between Holtzclaw and the victim, and then, unsupported by his own evidence, claimed that the particular DNA came from the victim’s vagina—a scientifically impossible conclusion. The jury found Holtzclaw guilty and sentenced him to 263 years in prison. His appeal is presently pending. Daniel Holtzclaw currently sits behind bars and maintains his innocence.

These are just three examples of a yet unknown total amount of criminal prosecutions based on the government’s reliance on touch-transfer DNA evidence at trial. At least one of the affected defendants, Daniel Holtzclaw, is still imprisoned. Many others may be charged in the future.

On at least one known occasion, the lack of touch-transfer DNA has been used by a government to “clear” suspects. In 2008, the Boulder County District Attorney cleared members of the JonBenet Ramsey family as suspects in the high-profile murder case when investigators did not find any touch-transfer DNA from members of the slain girl’s family on her clothes. The Ramsey case remains the exception rather than the rule.

As of now, anytime we touch a public surface, we remain fair game for criminal suspicion based on touch-transfer DNA.

Moving forward, law enforcement must reduce reliance on DNA evidence while investigating a criminal case. It is not a dependable means of understanding the connection between the DNA and the crime. For criminal trials, it should become standard practice for judges to sustain defense motions for the exclusion of DNA evidence on the grounds that DNA evidence is confusing and misleading, highly prejudicial, speculative and inherently unreliable. Otherwise, our courts risk DNA convicting the innocent.

I am a columnist and political commentator. I am also a trial attorney, recognized by Washingtonian Magazine as one of Washington DC’s Best Lawyers. I have represented…MORE


Posted in costs of wrongful convictions, CSI, DNA mixtures, DNA profiling, forensic science reform, wrongful convictions | Leave a comment

The Innocence Project takes on a DA with complaint to the NY Bar; DAs hate the idea of having any oversight to protect the public

Image result for double standards

The NY Innocence Project is using the traditional means of complaining about a district Attorney involved with one of their client’s exoneration case. Bar associations have long been used for this and historically, are ineffective in doing anything.  The California Bar is particularly worthless for this. Hence, various jurisdictions and states like NY have very recently passed a statute setting up a dedicated commission to vette the DAs.

A NY DA claims any additional oversight of their office via the  proposed and now signed Commission is “unconstitutional.”

“Although I support the overall goal of oversight and transparency for prosecutors in New York state, this legislation was passed and signed by the governor with the knowledge that it was in an unconstitutional and unworkable form,” Wojtaszek said. “In fact, the Governor’s ‘Approval Memorandum’, filed with the bill, acknowledged that the law ‘contains several flaws that were identified by the State’s Judiciary and Office of the Attorney General.’ ”

Today I read another DA saying any more oversight is a “violation of the separation of powers” intent of the Constitution. 

So, it’s a battle using Constitutional arguments by both sides. The DA’s, of course, want to preserve their immunity against their own misdeeds. The IP wants to have one DA accountable for her misdeeds that damaged Constitutional rights to a fair trial.




Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment