Friday, June 11, 2004

Death Penalty Forensics?

Even science may not make a death sentence infallible

In proposing a new death penalty for Massachusetts last month, Governor Mitt Romney offered firm assurance that no innocent people would be executed: Convictions, he said, will be based on science.

According to the proposal, a death-penalty verdict would require not only an especially heinous crime, but also ''conclusive scientific evidence'' of guilt. If it passed, Massachusetts would become the first state to require a scientific link to a crime to impose a death sentence.

[Conclusive scientific evidence like DNA can be planted at a crime scene?]

Romney's plan, however, comes at a difficult time for courtroom science.

[But], much scientific evidence is coming under fresh attack from lawyers and judges, either for technical unreliability or for the human errors that can color the results.

Even fingerprint analysis - once the gold standard of scientific evidence - is being questioned. Last month, an Oregon lawyer was released from custody after the FBI acknowledged he was wrongly linked to the, [false flag], Madrid terrorist train bombings through poor fingerprint analysis.

''The premise is interesting that scientific evidence is more reliable than other evidence. . . . It would be nice if it were true,'' said Simon A. Cole, an assistant professor of criminology, law and society at the University of California at Irvine. ''In the cases of wrongful conviction that we know about, scientific evidence is a very significant factor.''

Romney's plan, which would be applied only to particular first-degree murders such as killing a police officer or murders involving torture, does not require absolute scienti fic proof. Rather, it would require a jury to find evidence ''reaching a high level of scientific certainty'' that will ''strongly corroborate the defendant's guilt.''

While DNA is the most ironclad evidence now available,[?], other categories such as photographs, video and audiotapes, fingerprints and tool marks may suffice. Multiple layers of review in the plan would ensure ''as much as humanly possible'' no innocent person be sentenced to death.

Military lawyers await probe on DNA tampering

The Army's Criminal Investigation Command said nearly 500 forensic test results from all services dating back 10 years are under review after one of its examiners allegedly faked results. About 119 of those cases pertain to the Navy and Marine Corps.

Corrupt police planting DNA evidence at crime scenes

Others have raised concerns about corrupt police planting DNA evidence at crime scenes.

''We can't get to zero, but we can get close,'' said Joseph Hoffmann, a law professor at Indiana University who cochaired the panel that crafted the Romney plan.

Only a minority of murder cases have enough biological evidence to provide DNA, according to defense lawyers and crime experts. This means that the burden of proof could more often fall on far more subjective and much more controversial evidence, such as tire tracks or fingerprints. Though often presented as science by prosecutors and expert witnesses, such evidence is increasingly derided by defense lawyers and academics as an interpretive art.

''[Technicians] are actually told to develop this intuitive sense of certainty when they review fingerprint comparisons that they've obtained a match,'' said David Faigman, a University of California law professor who wrote ''Laboratory of Justice: The Supreme Court's 200-year Struggle to Integrate Science And The Law.''

He said there are no required standards for fingerprint analysis, and labs often declare a match between two prints based on years of examining fingerprints rather than a clearly spelled-out methodology. ''From a scientific standpoint,'' he said, ''that is the voodoo part.''

Faigman and other critics argue that science has a long and checkered history in the courtroom. Lawyers once used body characteristics, such the lengths of people's arms or shape of their heads, to prove a defendant's propensity to commit a crime.

In 1927, a phrenologist was called into court to ''read'' a woman accused of murdering her husband; the phrenologist declared that the suspect's chin ''tapered like the lower face of a cat,'' demonstrating treachery.''

As phrenology was being dismissed as quackery, the early 20th century saw the birth of forensic science as a specialized profession, with laboratories and experts who aimed to link suspects definitively to crime scenes.

Eventually, handwriting, fingerprints, photographs and blood samples became regularly introduced into evidence, and the belief that ''every criminal leaves a trace'' became a cornerstone of police investigations.

[Also by now, as well, other cornerstones of police investigations certainly included the 'ruling class', with their wide-spread use of 'planting or fabricating evidence at crime scenes. Evidence used to convict innocent people, evidence can easily be planted by police and set up by experts with biases to ensure 'noble cause corruption' convictions, a must for every ruling class.]

By the late 1980s, DNA testing had been widely adopted, and today technology is still marching on: A new technique called ''brain fingerprinting'', a kind of lie detector based on brain signals, was admitted into court in Iowa in 2003 in order to help free a man in prison for murdering a retired police officer. (The man was freed by the Iowa Supreme Court, although the judges did not refer to the technology in their decision.)

[The idea by the ruling class is to have a formidable tool to convict people for things like, 'state terror' and 'false flag' operations or to blame someone else who is innocent of a crime. DNA became that formidable tool. Now people who it is alleged that their DNA was found at a crime scene, would be convicted on 'flawed circumstantial evidence' based on their 'alleged' DNA being allegedly found at a crime scene.]

If history is any lesson, however, today's certainty is tomorrow's question mark. For example, the rise of DNA testing has revealed enormous failings in the microscopic hair analysis that was considered reliable a generation ago. In 2002, DNA analysis helped free a Montana man who had spent 15 years in prison for rape based in large part on faulty expert analysis of pubic hair found at the crime scene. According to the Innocence Project, which works to free wrongfully convicted people, in 25 of the first 82 DNA exonerations around the country, scientists and prosecutors presented bad or tainted science to convict a defendant.

[Note: when the police or the ruling class don't ever want a persons miscarriage of justice known, then they usually destroy the DNA evidence used to convict a person. In NSW Australia there is no Innocence Panel either.]

So concerned was the US Supreme Court about the growing role of science in the courtroom in the 1990s that the court instructed judges to act as gatekeepers for scientific evidence, scrutinizing experts and procedures to be sure scientific techniques were peer-reviewed or tested, with known and acceptable error rates.

That instruction led to the first major court decision questioning fingerprint evidence. Two years ago, a Philadelphia judge ruled an expert could not link fingerprints found at a crime scene to a defendant because the matching technique used by fingerprint experts had never been proven valid.

There was no proof, the judge said, that fingerprint analysis had been scientifically tested or its error rates calculated. The judge later reversed his decision after the FBI testified about training, procedure and error rates, but the challenge opened up the floodgates for other defense attorneys protesting fingerprint analysis.

''It has never been demonstrated that fingerprint examiners use a proven methodology,'' said Lyn Haber, a California forensic researcher.

With DNA analysis, the problem is different. [?] The scientific underpinnings of DNA analysis are welltested [?] and conceded to be solid even by critics. [? Not by this critic!]

But the certainty of a DNA match can be overshadowed by the larger question of how the DNA evidence was obtained and handled.

In the O.J. Simpson murder case, for instance, defense attorneys cast doubt on DNA results because of sloppy lab work, ultimately suggesting investigators planted the evidence at the scene. And a DNA match to a crime scene, many defense attorneys point out, only proves a suspect was there - not that he or she committed a crime.

[It doesn't even prove that they were there at all, it only proves that the DNA was there, but exactly who placed it there? Oh! Trust the false flag state terrorists they know best?]

''The problems with DNA are partly human error, or worse, human corruption,'' said Harvey Silverglate, a Boston civil-rights attorney who fears innocent people may still be convicted under the Romney plan.

Human error is also emerging as a key problem in crime labs, both in Massachusetts and around the country. Stephan Cowans, who was convicted in 1998 of shooting a police officer in a Roxbury backyard, was freed from prison this year after it was revealed the fingerprint evidence used to convict him did not come from his finger.

A recent article in Champion, a magazine published by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, noted widespread problems at crime labs across the country, many exacerbated by overwork and small budgets.

[But don't just be thrown off by crime lab mistakes because that only takes away the focus off planting evidence at crime scenes and that we cannot have a disregard for. Because the ruling class will claim that they fixed the problem with infallible crime labs, but diverted attention away from other flawed evidence problems and possibilities.]

In Massachusetts, a state report two years ago noted that space in the State Police crime lab in Sudbury was so limited that scientists had to extract evidence from suspect and victim's clothing on alternate days to avoid cross-contamination.

Stung by that report, officials say the state has since gone through a voluntary accreditation by a national board that sets standards for crime labs. [? See!!! Big Brother rubbish.]

But that is only partially true: The Sudbury lab is accredited only in DNA testing and "criminalistics,'' the analysis of trace evidence, fibers and tool markings. The offices of ballistics and fingerprint analysis are not accreditated; nor is the state's DNA database.

State officials say they are attempting to get them accredited and are also seeking a large increase in funds for that lab. [? What about other problems?] Under the death penalty plan, Romney has pledged to ensure that all labs are operating as flawlessly as possible so there will be no questions about the way evidence is collected or analyzed. [Rubbish!] If valid questions do arise, prosecutors would not seek the death penalty.

Death penalty opponents agree that if labs were better monitored and funded fully, there would be less suspicion about whether the evidence was tainted or analyzed incorrectly.

[But not less suspicion about whether evidence is planted.]

And the authors of the Massachusetts death penalty proposal are clear in wanting an independent scientific review of the collection, analysis and presentation of evidence, along with other safeguards. But as long as humans are involved in science, either analyzing it or interpreting it, mistakes can happen, others say.

''What we say in forensic science is the more certain the scientist is, the less reliable the scientist is,'' said James Starrs, a professor of law and forensic sciences at George Washington University.

''We all want to be on safe ground, always looking for a magic bullet. But our society can easily be taken in by science, and that is worrisome.''

By Beth Daley and edited by Gregory Kable posted 11 June 04

Death Penalty Links:

Clive Stafford-Smith: The Death Penalty
British lawyer Clive Stafford-Smith, who for the last 20 years has worked with death row prisoners in the U.S. is returning to his home in Britain, to fight for the Guantanamo Bay prisoners in Cuba.

Silencing the Cells: Mass Incarceration and Legal Repression in U.S. Prisons People without a voice are not people in any meaningful sense of the word. Silenced people cannot express their ideas; they can neither consent nor protest. They are reduced to being pawns in the schemes of the powerful, mendicants who must accept whatever is imposed upon them. In order to keep people in a state of subjugation, silencing their voices is essential. Nowhere is this clearer than in U.S. prisons.

U.N. Group Seeks End To Executions The United States, Japan, China, India and Muslim nations including Saudi Arabia opposed the resolution. Burkina Faso, Cuba, Guatemala, South Korea and Sri Lanka abstained.

US Execution: Huang Thanh Le
Dear Friends, this is so sad especially for our dear friend, San Nguyen. San who lives in Oklahoma worked very hard with the rest of the Vietnamese community to stop Mr. Le's execution.

US Execution: Please contact the Governor
The Vietnamese-American Community, the ACLU, and many others want the March 30 execution of Huang Thanh Le commuted.

Death penalty: a lawyer sees the light
The observation by [Cherie Blair?] "Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus" is illustrated by the two nations' differing reactions to the use of the death penalty as a legitimate punishment for murder.

Cherie Blair attacks US over death penalty in Catholic paper
Cherie Blair has renewed her attack on America's use of the death penalty. In a book review in the Catholic journal The Tablet, under her maiden name Cherie Booth, she says: "Capital cases are uniquely prone to error and thus call into question whether we can ever be really sure of obtaining the just result.

Insane prisoner granted stay in the USA
The case of a condemned killer with a history of paranoid delusions and violent outbursts raises questions about executing the mentally ill.

OHIO: Judges join dissent on execution delay
Lewis Williams - his attorneys argued that he was mentally retarded, was executed by lethal injection on Jan. 14 2004 in Lucasville, Ohio at age 45.

Mexico Awaits Hague Ruling on Citizens on U.S. Death Row
Sbaldo Torres, a convicted murderer on death row in Oklahoma, should have been dead by now, his appeals exhausted, his time up. But because 15 judges in The Hague, acting at the request of the government of Mexico, have forbidden his execution for now, he is alive in a cell in McAlester, awaiting the next move from the Netherlands.

Jury Passes On Business Of Killing
US: This drives the death penalty crowd in the legislature nuts. Yet another jury - another 12 men and women, tried and true, who had all attested to their belief in the death penalty - has refused to join in the killing business.

Ultimate Punishment: Dealing With the Death Penalty
Scott Turow has long juggled two careers‹that of a novelist and that of a lawyer. He wrote much of his first and best known legal thriller, Presumed Innocent, on the commuter train to and from work during the eight years he spent as an Assistant United States Attorney in Chicago, and he has churned out another blockbuster every third year since joining the firm of Sonnenschein Nath and Rosenthal in 1986.

A Question of Innocence Rubin Carter: Day after day, week after week, I would sit in that filthy cell, seething. I was furious at everyone. At the two state witnesses who lied, at the police who put them up to it, at the prosecutor who sanctioned it, at the judge who allowed it, at the jury who accepted it, and at my own lawyer, for not being able to defeat it.

Are you sane enough to be executed?
New York: The US Supreme Court has let stand a ruling by a federal appeals court in February that officials in the state of Arkansas had the right to force a convicted murderer to take drug treatment to make him sane enough to be executed.

Amnesty steps up campaign to abolish death penalty
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International is urging people around the world to pressure countries to abolish the death penalty. Amnesty director Irene Khan has released a statement, which raps governments for carrying out "executions".

Port Lincoln Mayor has lost the plot!
Controversial Port Lincoln Mayor Peter Davis has called for drug addicts to be given a lethal injection to cut rising illicit drug use on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula.

'LAND OF THE FREE' SET TO EXECUTE TWO PRISONERS BY FIRING SQUAD: Wanted: Willing executioners for two convicted murderers. Must be psychologically sound and familiar with .30-calibre rifles. No victims' relatives need apply.

There has been some debate whether: 'Capital punishment should be re-instated in Australia, since the terrible events that took place in Bali' In all democratic nations, every human being is considered innocent of any alleged crime, until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt by a court of law. For this reason, certain safeguards must be used for capital punishment cases.

Keith Clay was executed tonight, becoming the 300th prisoner in Texas to die by lethal injection since the rogue state resumed the death penalty 20 years ago.

" ... Our nation was built on a promise of life and liberty for all citizens. Guided by a deep respect for human dignity, our Founding Fathers worked to secure these rights for future generations, and today we continue to seek to fulfil their promise in our laws and our society.

Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
Please note the following article shows clearly the hateful, uncaring and anti-human rights attitude as reflected by the Governor of Texas (and most other elected Texas officials).

Supreme Court Justice Blocks Execution
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens blocked Indiana from putting to death its oldest death row inmate Tuesday to give the 71-year-old prisoner, who is partially deaf and blind, extra time to file federal appeals.

Stephen Romei: Death knell sounds for US capital law
GEORGE RYAN, outgoing governor of the US state of Illinois a republican who leaves office today, has put US capital punishment on the road to oblivion by commuting the sentences of all 167 of the state's death row inmates. Three were re-sentenced to 40 years' jail and the remaining 164 got life without parole.

Bush rules out death sentence review US President George W Bush says has dismissed any chance of a review of America's system of capital punishment.

Amnesty urges Bush to shut death row
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has urged US President George W. Bush to take a "moral stand" and abolish the death penalty after the Illinois Governor dramatically emptied that state's death row.

USA - A NATION IN TURMOIL: As the year 2002 draws to a close, little if anything, has changed in the United States in regards to state-sanctioned killing. Various campaigns, calls for clemency, petitions, and international condemnation, have failed to humanize U.S. politicians.

Here come de Judge - Time to Leave [266]
There have always been examples of rulings and interpretations that have supported the saying "The law is an ass". This is increasingly the case, because even the best intentioned judges are now facing an avalanche of new technologies and social change. But, it is no good making excuses for the judiciary and continuing to accept their strange interpretations. We must recognise that not only judges but the whole legal system will struggle more and more. In the end the whole system will become a farce. This is the way empires end.

Updated 2009: DNA Links:

Fresh swipe at DNA labs
Scientist Kris Bentley, whose departure yesterday follows that of forensic biologist Deanna Belzer after concerns about "inaccurate" DNA results and unvalidated equipment, issued a scathing resignation letter leaked to The Courier-Mail.

DNA leads 'CSI' cold-case squad to first arrest?
Frozen case? I don't really know what to say about them until they come up with their case. They say it involves DNA evidence but that's the only stuff we know.

Criminal's DNA filed under relative's name
The New South Wales Opposition is calling for an investigation into claims that police have entered DNA data for serious offenders under incorrect names.

DNA fingerprinting 'no longer foolproof'...
The genetic profiles held by police for criminal investigations are not sophisticated enough to prevent false identifications, according to the father of DNA fingerprinting.

PROFESSOR BARRY BOETTCHER: Now, there should be a law enacted within Queensland so that when cases come up like this they can be brought to attention and if an appropriate authority such as a judge of your Supreme Court considers that it merits further inquiry, an inquiry be ordered.

'Rape' officer clears his name
UK: A former policeman has been cleared of rape after protesting his innocence for 15 years. Judges at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh ruled that Brian Kelly, 47, had suffered a miscarriage of justice over crucial DNA evidence.

New unit investigates unsolved deaths?
A new police unit has been established to investigate more than 360 unsolved deaths in New South Wales, with many of the deaths dating back more than 30 years.

Prisoner's bid for review denied
Prisoner Roger Cheney has lost a Supreme Court action to have a judicial review of his 1993 convictions an 30-year jail sentence. Justice Shaw said he was concerned about the prisoner's claim that DNA evidence held by the police could prove his innocence. Although Cheney had requested the results of the DNA tests, he had been denied access to the forensic analysis.

QLD Prisoners DNA Bid THE curious case of Queensland's "cat lady" murder is set to test the state's legal authorities again, with the man convicted of the killing asking the Attorney-General to take the unprecedented step of releasing blood samples for DNA retesting.

Database clears up crimes?
NSW Police Minister John Watkins said at the launch of a Sydney conference of international forensic experts meeting to mark 100 years of fingerprinting in NSW. He said the collection of DNA from prisoners and suspects in NSW during the past two years had led to more than 5,400 matches on the forensic database.

A Question of Innocence
Katrina Bolton: The promise of DNA freeing the innocent as well as convicting the guilty has been repeated by politicians across Australia, usually while DNA laws are being expanded. The promise was made as a national DNA database, ‘Crimtrac’ was created, and it was made as NSW introduced legislation giving unprecedented powers to take DNA samples from prisoners, by force if necessary.

Weak Carr Government suspends Innocence Panel
It's a callous disregard for justice! The panel takes applications from convicted prisoners for DNA evidence to be analysed a move that may help in a future court appeal.

JUST BEAT IT! Govt lauds crime-solving technology?
The New South Wales Government says advances in crime solving technology are helping the progress of hundreds of police investigations.

DNA testing causes debate in murder case
The use of voluntary DNA testing in the investigation of a murder case in New South Wales has been applauded by victim support groups who are ill informed about the process said Justice Action's spokesperson Gregory Kable.

Abolition of double jeopardy law a political stunt: NSW Opp
Why draconian laws? What about the re-trial by media that goes along with it? Twice shy?

The NSW government has finally appointed somebody (Justice John Nader) to head up its Innocence Panel and has produced leaflets and forms for people convicted of serious crimes (eg murder) to apply for DNA testing if they believe it may help prove their innocence. You can get the info by phoning 1300 881 717 or writing to the panel at GPO Box 45 Sydney NSW 2001.

Is the Westminster System flawed?
Most people would say Lady Di got the boot and NSW has so much trouble getting the Innocence Panel moving. I said hey, what's going on!

Murder charge first for DNA data bank link, but not the same as solving the murder Mass DNA testing of prisoners has led to the first NSW case of a person being charged with a previously unsolved murder as a result of a controversial gene-matching data bank. The Herald reported 25 Nov 02 "a DNA saliva swab led to the charging of a former prisoner with the bashing murder of a woman. Police had been unable to find any witnesses or suspects following the murder in Sydney's inner city two years ago. Detectives had admitted they faced a tough job finding the killer."

Prisoners can prove innocence for $20
Les Kennedy Daily Telegraph reported today that" Prisoners who believe that DNA will prove they were wrongly convicted will have the chance to prove their innocence for a mere $20 administration fee. The move comes 20 months after NSW inmates were asked to provide DNA for comparison with a databank of DNA from unsolved crime scenes for possible convictions.

DNA yours or mine?
Now they have isolated two genes that they say tells you if you're more likely to be depressed. What does that mean? It could mean that you should stay in jail because you are more likely than not to continue your offending behaviour according to a Department of Corrective Services Forensic Psychiatrist.

DNA = Do Not Assume - DNA Controversies!
The national DNA database of all known offenders proposed by Prime Minister Tony Blair could mean that innocent people will be accused of crimes they did not commit.

DNA Evidence of Bipartisanship
Last week the U.S. Congress passed the Justice for All Act, which includes provisions of the Innocence Protection Act. As of this posting, the legislation has not yet been signed by President Bush. Attached is an analysis of the legislation prepared by the Justice Project.

DNA - A Shadow of Doubt
One case points to misinterpretation of evidence that helped put a man behind bars. The other shows just how easy it is to plant falsely incriminating DNA evidence. As our forensic techniques become ever more sensitive, so the possibility of abuse continues to grow.

Here come de Judge - Time to Leave [266]
There have always been examples of rulings and interpretations that have supported the saying "The law is an ass". This is increasingly the case, because even the best intentioned judges are now facing an avalanche of new technologies and social change. But, it is no good making excuses for the judiciary and continuing to accept their strange interpretations. We must recognise that not only judges but the whole legal system will struggle more and more. In the end the whole system will become a farce. This is the way empires end.

2nd Renaissance -15 The Rabbits And The Wolves [180]
Historically, there have been periods when legal distinctions between animals and humans have been blurred. For instance, in medieval Europe, in the 14th and 15th centuries, numerous trials and executions of animals occurred. One source identifies 34 recorded instances of pigs having been tried and cruelly put to death. Besides pigs; rats, chickens, goats, and bees were similarly tried. Some of the pigs were fully dressed in human clothes at the time they were, inevitably, found guilty. In one case a vicar excommunicated a flock of sparrows that infested his church. All this happened despite the theological stance that animals had no soul, and no morals or conscience. They could not really be guilty of transgressing the Rule of Law.