Author Archives: Phil Locke

“Friendship Nine’s” Convictions Vacated

F9

Pioneers of the civil rights lunch counter sit-in’s in South Carolina, known as the Friendship Nine, have had their convictions vacated and their names cleared.

See the CNN story here.

Debra Milke Trial on Hold Pending Appeal

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We’ve been following the Debra Milke case on this blog.  See here, here, and here.

Here is a recent update from TV5 KPHO in Phoenix, AZ.

Shaken Baby Syndrome Decision in Sweden

Score one for sanity, logic, reason, and science.

There has been a recent decision (October, 2014) by the Swedish Supreme Court that calls into question the scientific validity of the classic “triad” SBS diagnosis. According to the triad diagnosis, the symptoms of retinal hemorrhage, subdural hematoma, and diffuse edema of the brain are pathognomonic (exclusively indicative) of violent shaking or abusive head trauma.  The “triad” has been the mainstay of SBS prosecutions for decades, but in recent years, has come under increasingly critical scrutiny.

These quotes from the testimony of experts before the Swedish court:

It can be concluded that, in general terms, the scientific evidence for the diagnosis of violent shaking has turned out to be uncertain.”

The controversy is not about whether it is harmful to shake a child violently. The issue under discussion is with what scientific certainty it can be established how various injuries found in a child have arisen. The claim that the occurrence of the triad is strong evidence that violent shaking has occurred goes back to the late 1960s; however, the medical evidence for it was relatively thin. But the claim became generally accepted and grew into medical truth over several decades, even though the situation in terms of evidence did not change. It is known that a very large share of fundus haemorrhages are not linked to violence and arise in another way. Nor has it been shown that nerve fibers are torn, and that the brain therefore begins to swell, in connection with violent shaking. It can also be asked whether violent shaking can occur without neck injuries arising… To sum up, it can be said that the scientific support for the diagnosis of violent shaking is uncertain.

Sue Luttner, who edits the blog OnSBS, has done an excellent job of summarizing this decision and the case it involves, and has posted it on her blog here.

 

Federal Judge Blasts Yet Another Federal Prosecutor for Lying to the Court

On a recent occasion, this was a federal judge to an Assistant US Attorney:

“You’re branded a liar, and you’ll remain a liar for the rest of your life.”

For the rest of the story … see the New York Observer story here.

Update on the National Registry of Exonerations

In case you haven’t been able to check in on the National Registry of Exonerations lately, here’s an excerpt from the most recent data.  Note the total is now up to 1,512, and the trend line is definitely UP.

exon dna non

exon cont fact

exon fact crime

I won’t belabor you by pointing out some of the more obvious observations.  Just a few minutes of study will (should) lead you to some very clear conclusions.

It has been reported that the folks at the Registry are hard at work trying to incorporate the exonerations being generated by the newly formed “conviction integrity units” (CIU’s).  For these cases the prosecutors running the CIU’s may not be very motivated to have their exonerations logged into the Registry.

I can’t gush enough about how critical and important this data is.  It is this kind of HARD DATA that will provide the foundation for much needed and long overdue justice system reform.

DA to Appeal Shaken Baby Conviction Reversal

We have previously reported on the Reneé Bailey case here.

Reneé Bailey, a day care provider in Greece, New York, was convicted in 2001 of shaking 2½ year old Brittney Sheets to death.  She was confined in prison until NY State Supreme Court Justice James Piampiano granted an evidentiary hearing in the case to consider the new scientific findings regarding SBS.  She was released without bail in December, 2014, and her conviction was reversed; the first SBS conviction reversal in New York state.  See the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle story here.

Now, in a recent announcement, the Monroe County, NY District Attorney, Sandra Doorley, has declared her intention to appeal the conviction reversal.

See that Rochester Democrat & Chronicle story here.

While this is certainly not good news for Ms. Bailey, who has already served 13 years in prison, there could be a silver lining to this ominous dark cloud. If the conviction reversal is upheld on appeal, this will establish some substantial legal precedent in favor of true science, rather than outdated medical dogma, in the evaluation and disposition of SBS cases.

Stay tuned.

Wrongly Convicted NY Man Dies 4 Months After $7.5M Compensation

Dan Gristwood was convicted in 1996 of attempted murder for beating his wife with a hammer.  He signed a confession, that he did not write, after 16 hours of interrogation by the NY State Police.

In 2003, the real attacker, Mastho Davis, came forward and confessed. Gristwood was released in 2005, and ultimately awarded $7.5M for his nine years of wrongful incarceration.

Sadly, on January 3, 2015, four months after receiving payment, Dan Gristwood died from lung cancer.  See the ABC News story here.

The syracuse.com story about the case here is definitely worth a read, and reads like a script for the prototypical coerced confession.

In light of all the recent public – and police – furor about police conduct, and how they relate to the community, and how they should be respected, I can do naught but shake my head.  When the police do stuff like this, how can they claim any high ground in this discussion?  Dan Gristwood, after his release, said he thought the problem was a “few bad apples.”  That may very well be so, but guess what? Those “few” bad apples make the whole barrel stink.  And this problem belongs to the police – not the public.