Federal prosecutors will dismiss indictments against 28 defendants in Washington, D.C., drug cases as the FBI investigates an agent accused of tampering with evidence, including narcotics and guns, The Washington Post reports.
The Post says 14 of the defendants had already pleaded guilty and were serving sentences. Prosecutors said they can withdraw their guilty pleas and the charges will be dropped. You can read the story here.
Dallas County (TX) District Judge Mark Stoltz issued findings of fact and conclusions of law last week before recommending that the murder convictions of Dennis Lee Allen and Stanley Orson Mozee be overturned. The two men were subsequently released after each had served 15 years in prison. The judge’s findings will now go before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for review. ABC News WFAA 8 reported (here) that the two are expected to be exonerated.
Allen and Mozee were convicted of the 1999 murder of Reverend Jesse Borns Jr., who was found stabbed outside his workplace, a retail store. No physical evidence linked the men to the crime. The conviction was won on the unrecorded confession of Mozee — who immediately recanted and claimed he was coerced into signing the police-written statement — and the testimony of two jailhouse informants. The informants denied under oath at trial that they were promised compensation for their testimony. Continue reading
The Innocence Project has posted a notice on its website, with a link to a press release, about the recently released report by the Nation Academy of Sciences on memory and eyewitness identification.
From the report: “the legal standard that most courts use regarding the admissibility of eyewitness testimony was established before most of the scientific research was conducted.”
The report endorses the following procedures for police lineups:
- Blind Administration — Research shows that the risk of misidentification is sharply reduced if the police officer administering a photo or live lineup is not aware of who the suspect is. This prevents the witness from picking up intentional or unintentional clues from the officer conducting the lineup.
- Confidence Statements — Immediately following a lineup, the eyewitness should be asked to describe in his or her own words how confident he or she is in the identification. As the report notes, the level of confidence a witness expresses at the time of trial is not a reliable predictor of accuracy. Having the witness describe their level of confidence at the time an identification is made will provide juries with a useful tool for judging the accuracy of the identification.
- Instructions — The person viewing the lineup should be told that the perpetrator may not be in the lineup and that the investigation will continue regardless of whether the witness identifies a suspect.
- Videotape the procedure — The report recommends that police electronically record the identification procedure to preserve a permanent record of the procedure.
Most recent data from the National Registry of Exonerations shows that for the 1,467 wrongful convictions currently in the registry, 35% had mistaken eyewitness identification as a contributing factor.
See the Innocence Project posting here.
“Most prosecutors are hard-working, honest and modestly paid,” The Economist says. “But they have accumulated so much power that abuse is inevitable.” The magazine explains how prosecutors became “the kings of the courtroom,” and how this contributes to wrongful convictions, here.