Category Archives: Junk science

Dog Scent Lineups – “The Worst of Junk Science”

pointerIt was just a year ago that we posted about dog scent lineups.  At the time, we called it “one of the junkiest of the junk sciences.”  This opinion is echoed in a law suit filed just this week by a Texas woman, Megan Winfrey.  Ms. Winfrey spent 6 years in prison before her murder conviction, based on a dog scent lineup, was overturned.  Her suit calls dog scent lineups “the worst of junk science.”

Interestingly, the primary defendant in Winfrey’s suit is former Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Deputy Keith Pickett.  Pickett was identified in our earlier post as being the most infamous and notorious dog handler performing bogus dog scent lineups.  Four other officers, including the San Jacinto County Sheriff, are also named in the suit as being complicit in her wrongful conviction.

You can read the NBC News story about the Winfrey suit here, which contains a link to the actual law suit.

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

  • Is forensic odontology too unreliable?
  • Exoneree Johnathan Montgomery takes it one day at a time
  • Missouri considers eyewitness identification reform and DNA preservation bill
  • Greg Wilhoit, a former Oklahoma death-row inmate from Tulsa and nationally-known anti-death penalty advocate whose story was included in author John Grisham’s “The Innocent Man,” died Feb. 14 in Sacramento, Calif., family members said. He was 59.  Full article here
  • Upcoming symposium at the Penn Quattrone Center:  A Systems Approach to Conviction Integrity

Interesting SCOTUS Forensics Case….

Today, in Hinton v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court found the trial attorney’s failure to request funding for a sufficient expert to challenge the State’s ballistics experts constituted ineffective assistance of counsel.  Opinion here.

Study shows how ‘mob journalism’ helps convict the innocent

“The media has won deserved credit for its role in exposing wrongful convictions,” The Crime Report says. “But there are many examples of compliant coverage of prosecutors and law enforcement authorities who rush to convict the innocent on flimsy or phony evidence.”

To prove its point, the web site has published a study by crime journalist David J. Krajicek that focuses on three examples — the 1949 case of Florida’s “Groveland Four”; the conviction of Kirk Bloodsworth in the 1985 rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl near Baltimore; and the conviction of Walter McMillian for the 1986 murder of a clerk in Monroeville, Ala.

All three cases are good examples of how the news media frequently follow — and sometimes lead — police and prosecutors down the rabbit hole of bias and tunnel vision. You can read the excellent study here.

Forensic Science Reform Bill Introduced in U.S. Congress

Press release:

Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Chairman

For Immediate Release
http://commerce.senate.gov                                              Contact: Kevin McAlister, 202-224-8374
February 12, 2014

ROCKEFELLER INTRODUCES BILL TO ADVANCE FORENSIC SCIENCE REFORM

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV today reintroduced legislation to strengthen the criminal justice system, by prioritizing scientific research and supporting the development of science-based standards in the forensic disciplines.

Rockefeller’s bill, The Forensic Science and Standards Act of 2014, aims to bolster forensic science reform efforts and to maintain long-term cooperation between scientists, the legal community, law enforcement, forensic practitioners, and advocacy groups.

“We’re making real progress toward strengthening forensic science, but more must be done,” said Rockefeller. “My bill would formalize collaboration between scientists and the criminal justice system, which is the only way to put our forensic evidence standards on a solid scientific footing. This important work will help convict the guilty and protect the innocent.”

The Forensic Science and Standards Act of 2014 continues Rockefeller’s work from a related 2012 bill introduced in response to the 2009 National Academies report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward.  The report found that the interpretation of forensic evidence can be severely compromised by the lack of supporting science and standards.

Since the report’s release, Rockefeller has focused on supporting basic research in forensic science and on improving standards of practice. Rockefeller has convened three Commerce Committee hearings to highlight the need for scientific research, for enforceable national standards, and for Federal government leadership to validate and standardize forensic disciplines nationwide. The recently established National Commission on Forensic Science implements a provision in Rockefeller’s original bill, which calls for the creation of this entity.

A wide range of organizations have supported the need for basic research and standards development in the forensic sciences. Reform advocates have included the Innocence Project; the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME); the American Statistical Association (ASA); the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL); and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which is particularly concerned about the potential for bias in the criminal justice system.

A copy of the bill is available here.

To implement needed reforms, the Forensic Science and Standards Act of 2014 would:

         Require standards development: NIST would be directed to develop forensic science standards in consultation with standards development organizations and forensic science stakeholders. NIST would also be permitted to establish and solicit advice from discipline-specific expert working groups to identify standards development priorities and opportunities.

         Implement uniform standards: The bill would direct a national commission on forensic science – chaired by the Director of NIST and the Attorney General and comprised of research scientists, forensic science practitioners, and legal and law enforcement professionals – to recommend new science-based standards.  It would also require the Attorney General to implement these standards in Federal forensic science laboratories and to encourage standards adoption in non-Federal laboratories.

         Promote research: A National Forensic Science Coordinating Office would be established to develop a forensic science research strategy and to support the implementation of that strategy across relevant Federal agencies. The National Science Foundation would be directed to support forensic science research and the creation of forensic science research centers. All agencies with equities in forensic science would be encouraged to stimulate innovative and creative solutions to satisfy the research needs and priorities identified in the research strategy.

New Scholarship Spotlight: Cognitive bias in forensic anthropology

Itiel Dror and others have posted the newest piece on the issue of confirmation bias in forensics.  If you haven’t been introduced to Dror’s body of work yet, check it out here.  The abstract of the newest paper, which can be downloaded in full here, states:

An experimental study was designed to examine cognitive biases within forensic anthropological non-metric methods in assessing sex, ancestry and age at death. To investigate examiner interpretation, forty-one non- novice participants were semi randomly divided into three groups. Prior to conducting the assessment of the skeletal remains, two of the groups were given different extraneous contextual information regarding the sex, ancestry and age at death of the individual. The third group acted as a control group with no extraneous contex- tual information. The experiment was designed to investigate if the interpretation and conclusions of the skeletal remains would differ amongst participants within the three groups, and to assess whether the examiners would confirm or disagree with the given extraneous context when establishing a biological profile. The results revealed a significant biasing effect within the three groups, demonstrating a strong confirmation bias in the assessment of sex, ancestry and age at death. In assessment of sex, 31% of the participants in the control group concluded that the skeleton remains were male. In contrast, in the group that received contextual information that the remains were male, 72% concluded that the remains were male, and in the participant group where the context was that the remains were of a female, 0% of the participants concluded that the remains were male. Comparable results showing bias were found in assessing ancestry and age at death. These data demonstrate that cognitive bias can impact forensic anthropological non-metric methods on skeletal remains and affects the interpretation and con- clusions of the forensic scientists. This empirical study is a step in establishing an evidence base approach for dealing with cognitive issues in forensic anthropological assessments, so as to enhance this valuable forensic sci- ence discipline.

Bite-Mark Evidence: Compelling Enough to Convict the Innocent

Bite-mark evidence proved to be both powerful and unreliable in more than two dozen known cases of wrongful conviction. An article by Kathleen Hopkins for Gannett on this issue includes these specific difficulties relating to bite marks as evidence (Source: The Innocence Project and Dr. John Demas, a fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences): Continue reading

Shaken Baby Syndrome ……. Progress for True Science?

It’s been a while since we’ve posted about SBS.  It’s a complex issue that is just not coverable in a single post.  So in case you’d like a “refresher,” or if you’re new to the topic, there are links to previous WCB posts on SBS at the end of this post.

There is new science emerging all the time in this field – science that largely disputes the classic and entrenched one-size-fits-all “triad” symptom diagnosis, along with the current views of “cause & effect” regarding triad symptoms.  There are, unfortunately, people who do shake or otherwise abuse their babies, and these babies may very well present with one or more of the triad symptoms, so they cannot be dismissed without further understanding.  However, the established medical profession (including the American Academy of Pediatrics) and the justice system (particularly prosecutors) have embraced the “triad can only mean abuse” theory of cause and effect; and they have so far refused – cogently, adamantly, and combatively – to consider giving it up.  They have turned a blind eye to much of the new understandings being created by true science.  What this means is that an alarming number of innocent people continue to get swept up in the “triad dragnet,” and sent to prison.

In my view, the medical establishment has been not just tone deaf and brain dead about accepting new findings in the area; they have put up the deflector shields and aggressively resist it.  The people who hold sway in pediatric medicine seem to have a religiously fanatic attachment to this 40 year old theory.  And the prosecutors are more than happy to go along with the medical establishment, because strict adherence to the triad theory makes for easy convictions – even though they may be wrongful.  There are lots and lots of doctors ready to testify that if triad symptoms are present, it can only be abuse.  Coupled with this is the fact that the prosecution can always afford to put more experts on the stand than the defense; thereby swaying clueless juries, because the side with more experts “must be right,” regardless of the veracity of their testimony.

Let me quote Dr. Waney Squier, a noted UK pathologist, who is one of the prominent SBS truth-seekers (writing for the journal Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology, Jan..8, 2014), “The critical issue is why, after more than 40 years, shaken baby syndrome/abusive head trauma (SBS/AHT) remains controversial.  The real controversy is over whether shaking or abuse may reliably be inferred from specific findings, classically, subdural and retinal hemorrhage with encephalopathy (the triad).”  And, “For four decades, the medical profession and the courts have largely accepted the SBS/AHT (triad) hypothesis as fact.  Today, we know that the hypothesis lacks a reliable evidentiary basis …..

The bright spots of true progress on SBS seem to come at an agonizingly and glacially slow pace — but here is one.  Reneé Bailey was convicted 13 years ago of shaking 2½ year old Brittney Sheets to death.  She has been in prison ever since.  Recently, NY State Supreme Court Justice James Piampianon granted an evidentiary hearing in the case to consider the new scientific findings regarding SBS.  This is a huge deal.  It means that at least some segment of the justice system is willing to look past the prevailing medical dogma.  Read the Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle story here.

And here is another recent article, this from USA Today, questioning the traditional “science” of SBS.

Science and truth will ultimately prevail, but to paraphrase Nobel physics laureate Max Planck, “Science advances one funeral at a time.”  It’s going to take time to work our way out of this modern day version of the medical dark ages, but it will happen.  As William Shakespeare penned in The Merchant of Venice, “….. at length, truth will out.”  In the meantime, I shudder to think of all the innocent people that will suffer tragic injustice until we get there.

Previous WCB SBS Posts:

The SBS Wars,  Hang Bin Li SBS Case,  Shaken Baby Science Doubts GrowSBS Expert Testimony – This HAS to Get FixedSBS Accusations – A Modern Day Witch Hunt?SBS – Politics and “Religion” vs. New ScienceDismissed Case Raises Questions on SBS DiagnosisWitnessed Baby ShakingsThe Latest in the Medical Debate Over SBSBaby Sitters and SBSMedical “Folklore” Yields Yet Another Wrongful SBS ConvictionSBS – Where Are We? – A Reality CheckSBS: Perspectives on a Controversial DiagnosisAre There Geographic “Hotspots” for SBS?

Friday’s Quick Clicks…

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Arson Exoneration in Michigan…

Release yesterday from the Michigan Innocence Clinic:

The Michigan Innocence Clinic is very pleased to announce that our client Victor Caminata was exonerated today at the Wexford County Courthouse in Cadillac, Michigan. Mr. Caminata had served 5 years and 2 weeks of wrongful imprisonment for arson before he was released on July 2, 2013, when the Michigan Attorney General’s Office agreed that his conviction should be vacated because its experts no longer stood by the arson determination that had sent Mr. Caminata to prison to serve 9 to 40 years. Today, the AG dismissed the case with prejudice.

Mr. Caminata was convicted after the house he shared with his then-girlfriend and their children burned in 2008. An initial fire investigation concluded that the fire originated in the chimney, which was connected to a wood stove. But after the police received an anonymous tip, investigators re-examined the wreckage and found supposed signs that the fire had been intentionally set to look like a chimney fire. Remarkably, the state’s investigators never examined the interior of the chimney, which is the most basic step a fire investigator is required to take before ruling out a chimney fire.

Today’s final dismissal came almost two years after we filed a motion for relief from judgment for Mr. Caminata based on the conclusion of our experts that the state’s fire investigators had committed fundamental errors in violation of NFPA 921, that the supposed signs of arson were spurious, and that the original determination that an accidental chimney fire had burned the house was, in fact, correct.

We are especially grateful to Jim Samuels of Big Rapids, Michigan, and Mike McKenzie of Atlanta, Georgia, both of whom co-counseled the case with the Clinic on a pro bono basis, and to experts Joe Filas and Tom May, who also lent their services pro bono. Staff attorney Imran Syed led our legal team, which included at various times former co-director (now Michigan Supreme Court justice) Bridget McCormack, clinical professor Kim Thomas, and former students Blase Schmid, Adam Thompson, Kate O’Connor, Rachel Burg, Zach Dembo, Nick Hambley, Laura Andrade, Jocelin Chang, and Marc Allen, and current students Lexi Bond, Emily Goebel, and Claire Madill.

National Commission on Forensic Science…

Press release:
U.S. DEPARTMENTS OF JUSTICE AND COMMERCE NAME EXPERTS
TO FIRST-EVER NATIONAL COMMISSION ON FORENSIC SCIENCE
 
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today announced appointments to a newly created National Commission on Forensic Science.
Members of the commission will work to improve the practice of forensic science by developing guidance concerning the intersections between forensic science and the criminal justice system.  The commission also will work to develop policy recommendations for the U.S. Attorney General, including uniform codes for professional responsibility and requirements for formal training and certification.
The commission is co-chaired by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole and Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Patrick D. Gallagher.  Nelson Santos, deputy assistant administrator for the Office of Forensic Sciences at the Drug Enforcement Administration, and John M. Butler, special assistant to the NIST director for forensic science, serve as vice-chairs.
“I appreciate the commitment each of the commissioners has made and look forward to working with them to strengthen the validity and reliability of the forensic sciences and enhance quality assurance and quality control,” said Deputy Attorney General Cole.  “Scientifically valid and accurate forensic analysis supports all aspects of our justice system.”
The commission includes federal, state and local forensic science service providers; research scientists and academics; law enforcement officials; prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges; and other stakeholders from across the country.  This breadth of experience and expertise reflects the many different entities that contribute to forensic science practice in the U.S. and will ensure these broad perspectives are represented on the commission and in its work.
“This new commission represents an extremely broad range of expertise and skills,” said Under Secretary Gallagher.  “It will help ensure that forensic science is supported by the strongest possible science-based evidence gathering, analysis and measurement.
“This latest and most impressive collaboration between the Department of Justice and the National Institute of Standards and Technology will help ensure that the forensic sciences are supported by the most rigorous standards available—a foundational requirement in a nation built on the credo of ‘justice for all,’” said John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
The following commissioners were chosen from a pool of more than 300 candidates:
Suzanne Bell, Ph.D., Associate Professor, West Virginia University; Frederick Bieber, Ph.D., Medical Geneticist, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Associate Professor of Pathology, Harvard Medical School; Thomas Cech, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, University of Colorado, Boulder; Cecelia Crouse, Ph.D., Director, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Crime Laboratory;Gregory Czarnopys, Deputy Assistant Director, Forensic Services, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; M. Bonner Denton, Ph.D., Professor, University of Arizona; Vincent Di Maio, M.D., Consultant in Forensic Pathology; Troy Duster, Ph.D., Chancellor’s Professor and Senior Fellow, Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy, University of California, Berkeley; Jules Epstein, Associate Professor of Law, Widener University; Stephen Fienberg, Ph.D., Maurice Falk University Professor of Statistics and Social Science, Carnegie Mellon University; Andrea Ferreira-Gonzalez, Ph.D., Professor of Pathology and Director Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory, Virginia Commonwealth University; John Fudenberg, Assistant Coroner, Office of the Coroner/Medical Examiner, Clark County, Nevada; S. James Gates, Jr., Ph.D., University System Regents Professor and John S. Toll Professor of Physics, University of Maryland; Dean Gialamas,Crime Laboratory Director, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Scientific Services Bureau;Paul Giannelli, Distinguished University Professor and Albert J Weatherhead III and Richard W. Weatherhead Professor of Law, Case Western Reserve University; Hon. Barbara Hervey, Judge, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals; Susan Howley, Public Policy Director, National Center for Victims of Crime; Ted Hunt, Chief Trial Attorney, Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Kansas City, Missouri; Linda Jackson, Director, Virginia Department of Forensic Science;  John Kacavas, United States Attorney, District of New Hampshire; Pamela King, Assistant State Public Defender, Minnesota State Public Defender Office; Marc LeBeau, Ph.D., Senior Forensic Scientist, Scientific Analysis Section, Federal Bureau of Investigation; Julia Leighton, General Counsel, Public Defender Service, District of Columbia; Hon. Bridget Mary McCormack, Justice, Michigan Supreme Court; Peter Neufeld, Co-Director, Innocence Project, Benjamin Cardozo School of Law; Phil Pulaski, Chief of Detectives, New YorkCity Police Department; Hon. Jed Rakoff, Senior United States District Judge, Southern District of New York; Matthew Redle,Sheridan County and Prosecuting Attorney, Sheridan, Wyoming; Michael “Jeff” Salyards, Ph.D.,Executive Director, Defense Forensic Science Center, Department of the Army; and Ryant Washington, Sheriff, Fluvanna County Sherriff’s Office, Fluvanna, Virginia.
Ex-Officio Members:
David Honey, Ph.D., Assistant Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Science and Technology and Director of Science and Technology, Office of the Director of National Intelligence;Marilyn Huestis, Ph.D., Chief, Chemistry and Drug Metabolism Section, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health; Gerald LaPorte, Acting Director, Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences, National Institute of Justice; Patricia Manzolillo, Laboratory Director, Forensic Laboratory Services, U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Frances Schrotter, Senior Vice President and Chief Operation Officer, American National Standards Institute; Kathryn Turman,Program Director, Office for Victim Assistance, Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Mark Weiss, Ph.D., Division Director, Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences, National Science Foundation.
The first meeting of the Commission will be held February 3-4, 2014, at 810 7th Street, N.W., Washington, DC.  The membership list, notice of meetings, commission charter and other related material will be maintained within the General Service Administration’s Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) database at http://www.facadatabase.gov.
As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, NIST promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.  To learn more about NIST, visit www.nist.gov.
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Justice and Science — “Houston, We Have a Problem!”

sciencejustice.

It’s abundantly apparent that the nature of ‘evidence’ and ‘expert testimony’ has become increasingly more scientific as the decades have rolled by.  And this is a wonderful thing, because real science is a tool for discerning the real truth and the real facts.  It means that “junk science” forensics will ultimately give way to technologies and disciplines founded upon true science, and this is what the NAS Report was all about.

However, the continuing trend for evidence and testimony to become more scientifically based brings with it some “interesting” consequences of which we need to be aware — the impacts on juries and on judges & attorneys; and whether these people are prepared to cope with all this new scientific information and discipline.

We’ll cover the issues in three sections: Juries, Judges & Attorneys, and Experts.

Continue reading

Friday’s Quick Clicks…

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  • The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently awarded the William O. Douglas Award to UW law professor Jackie McMurtrie for her nearly 20 years of work toward bringing justice to wrongly convicted individuals with the Innocence Project Northwest.
  • In more Jackie McMurtrie news, an editorial in this week’s Seattle Times praised the efforts made by attorneys and law students at the Innocence Project Northwest Clinic at the University of Washington School Of Law in their pursuit to overturn a King County man’s wrongful conviction.  Way to go Jackie!
  • California Innocence Project exoneree Brian Banks, and NFL player, signed a movie deal to tell his story
  • Bad ballistics evidence may have caused a Quebec judge to be wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife
  • Scrapping the corroboration requirement in Scotland could cause more wrongful convictions
  • Exoneree Martin Tankleff settles wrongful conviction suit for $3.4 million.
  • Illinois exoneree Alan Beamon has wrongful conviction lawsuit dismissed

Satanic ritual abuse panic seems to be unraveling

Child-abuse hysteria has produced hundreds, if not thousands, of wrongful convictions over the past 30 years. One of the most virulent strains of this hysteria was the one that started it: Satanic ritual abuse. Linda Rodriguez McRobbie offers a hopeful update here that suggests that the last vestiges of this panic are unraveling. But immense damage was done, and if the lessons left behind aren’t learned, there will be more panics and more innocent people sent to prison for crimes they didn’t commit or that didn’t even occur.

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

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  • The 2013 holiday season meant a great deal to Brandon Olebar, who, after 10 years of wrongful incarceration, got to enjoy the festivities with his family for the first time in over a decade. Olebar’s release comes thanks to the efforts of the Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW).  More….
  • In NY, Robert Jones, who has been imprisoned for 19 years for a murder he says he didn’t commit, hopes to be released after State’s key witness says she was pressured to identify him as the perp.
  • In Massachusetts, doctors believe Brian Peixoto was wrongfully convicted of child murder in an alleged junk medical science case.

Friday’s Quick Clicks…

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Are There Geographic “Hotspots” for Shaking Babies? Shaken Baby Syndrome.

The Medill Justice Project, in its now year-long effort to build a database of SBS cases, has published a portion of that data relating to the geographic occurrence of SBS.  The report identifies several SBS geographic “hotspots.”

Medill Map

What could cause this?  As Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck has jokingly suggested, maybe it’s “in the water.”  But this data does NOT support a theory that certain localities have higher percentages of more violent people who are more likely to shake their babies.  It DOES, however, support a theory that certain localities have higher concentrations of aggressive and dogmatic prosecutors and child abuse pediatricians* who ARE more likely to (wrongfully) accuse and prosecute someone for shaking their baby.  And given this, it raises serious questions with respect to the concept of “equal justice.”  What I mean by this is – if your baby experiences a short fall, and you take it to the hospital, and the baby presents with any or all of the triad symptoms, you are much more likely to go to prison if you live in Summit County, Ohio than if you live in Kane County, Illinois – even though you did NOT shake your baby.

You can read the Medill report here.

Sue Luttner has posted an article looking at this geography lesson on her blog OnSBS.  She has done a little more research on how rate of occurrence relates to geography.  You can read it here.

* (More about child abuse pediatricians in a future post.)

Exciting Case Successes Last Week in Netherlands and UK…

Last week, two innocence organizations in Europe got good news on several cases they have been working on for many months/years.

In the Netherlands, the Knoops Innocence Project obtained the exonerations Andy Melaan and Nozai Thomas in the Dutch Antilles.  The Project was able to prove through expert analysis that Thomas was working behind his computer downloading music at the time of the murder, and that Melaan was on the other side of the island (proved via phone records).  The Court also accepted that Thomas’ confession was a false confession.  The two men served eight and five years in prison respectively.   More details here.

In the UK, the Cardiff Innocence Project has had a case referred back to the Court of Appeals by the CCRC.  The defendant is Dwaine George, and his murder conviction was based on faulty GSR testimony.  More details here.   Upon hearing the news, Dwaine said: ‘ I have said from day one that it wasn’t me.  I know there are still huge hurdles ahead, but I want to prove my innocence. I just want a chance to get justice, and I want to thank Cardiff’s innocence project students for the work they have done that will hopefully give me that opportunity.’

Congrats to the Knoops and Cardiff Innocence Projects, and more importantly, to Thomas, Meelan and George….

With Today’s Release of the San Antonio Four, Texas Now On the Cutting Edge of Efforts to Free the Innocent

From the Huffington Post:

Today in Texas, four wrongfully convicted women–known as the “San Antonio Four”–had their convictions overturned and were freed. This came about thanks to the latest in a line of innovations Texas lawmakers and the Innocence Project of Texas have devised to help the wrongfully convicted. Often thought of as a rough-and-tumble, “Hang ‘Em High” state–and still leading the nation in capital punishment–Texas is surprisingly now a trendsetter for innocence reforms.

The four women exonerated today–Elizabeth Ramirez, Kristie Mayhough, Anna Vasquez, and Cassandra Rivera–were caught up in the infamous line of ritualistic child sex abuse hysteria cases of the 1980s and early 1990s. Many of these cases involved allegations against day care workers, and many experts now believe that most of the convicted were innocent victims of the witch-hunt mentality prevalent in that era…………

Read entire article here….

New Evidence Found in 1966 Hakamada Case

My previous post on Hakamada Case here. This is a case from 1966. Hakamada claims his innocence from Tokyo Detention Center, where he is held on death row. He has been held in confinement for over 45 years.

From the Mainichi:

New evidence emerges in 1966 murder case: lawyers

SHIZUOKA, Japan (Kyodo) — New evidence has emerged in a 1966 murder case that suggests the man who has been convicted and is on death row for the crime may have been wrongfully accused, his defense lawyers said Sunday.

The new evidence in favor of Iwao Hakamada, 77, may provide stronger grounds in their appeal for a retrial, the result of which will be decided by the Shizuoka District Court next spring at the earliest.

The lawyers said the new evidence came to light in the witness statements of two colleagues of Hakamada who were staying at the same company dormitory at the time of the crime in June 1966. Continue reading