Posts Tagged ‘innocence project’


Exoneration Anniversary: Jerry Miller!

Taylor Thornton — April 23, 2018 @ 4:47 PM — Comments (0)

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Happy Exoneration Anniversary Jerry Miller!!

On October 1, 1982 Jerry Miller was convicted of rape, robbery, and kidnapping and sentenced to 45 years following the brutal attack of a woman entering her vehicle in a Chicago, Illinois parking garage. Despite his alibi and the victim being unable to accurately identify her attacker, Miller was convicted based primarily on the identification by employees of the parking garage who had seen the true assailant.

In 2005 the Innocence Project took on Miller’s case. A slip worn by the victim at the time containing DNA was tested and Jerry Miller was able to be excluded. At that time, the Cook County State Attorney’s Office joined the Cook County Public Defender’s Office and the Innocence Project in filing a joint motion to vacate Jerry Miller’s conviction. The DNA testing was also able to identify the true attacker when the profile was entered into the FBI offender database. Happy 11 years of freedom Jerry Miller!!

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False Confessions: Why do the Innocent Confess?

Taylor Thornton — March 28, 2018 @ 12:00 PM — Comments (0)

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In the first post in this series, we discussed which particular groups of people were more vulnerable to giving false confessions and should thus receive special protection from such a thing. But, the truth is, giving a false confession is something anyone can fall victim to. To the average person, this concept seems baffling. It is difficult to wrap the mind around why someone would ever claim guilt for a crime they were not guilty of, especially the more heinous crimes like murder and rape. But, the fact is, hundreds of innocent people have confessed to crimes they’ve later been exonerated of. So, why does this happen?

Explaining why a false confession occurs can be categorized into three components. The first is the misclassification error. Misclassification occurs when police and detectives decide that the innocent party is definitely the guilty party that they are searching for. A false confession always starts, of course, with the police landing their targets on an innocent suspect. Police are trained in interrogation tactics that involve observing very specific body language cues almost as though they are human lie detectors. Research has shown that these are not the most accurate or reliable evaluations of whether someone is telling the truth. However, detectives might use these bodily cues to decide among themselves that this suspect is lying and proceed to an interrogation. Other mistakes can influence police to choose their guilty suspect, like that person fitting a given description of the perpetrator or simply being a person who would have motive like a family member. When investigators decide early on who they think is guilty, other errors will follow as they move forward determined to yield a confession.

The second component is the coercion error. When investigators have misclassified the guilty party, they need to yield a confession from them. The confession is incredibly important when an innocent person has been wrongly presumed guilty because there will likely be little or no other evidence to support a case against this party if they are truly innocent. Thus, investigators begin an interrogation often marked by tactics to coerce the suspect into giving the confession. One strategy is extremely long interrogations. A common theme among false confessions is having sat in interrogation rooms for unimaginable amounts of time before finally giving the confession. Suspects are physically and mentally exhausted, this weakens their ability to stand up to the interrogators. Detectives can use this weakness to their advantage in a number of ways. Investigators sometimes make promises that the suspect can go home if they simply confess, which can become shockingly enticing after 16 hours straight in an interrogation room. Often the suspect just wants to go home, so they give in and tell the interrogators whatever it is that they want to hear so that they can leave. Bad interrogators might also use methods of psychological coercion. This can include promises of leniency, threats of harsher treatment, and making the suspect believe that they have no other choice but to confess. They are often convinced that their guilt is so established that no one will ever believe them and, sometimes and most shockingly, innocent people can even be convinced that they are truly guilty of the crime when they are not. As we discussed in the first False Confessions, these tactics can be particularly effective and damaging for certain groups of people.

Finally, there is the contamination error. A very simple admission of guilt is not enough for a convincing confession. A powerful confession provides details, motives, and emotions that will convince a jury that this suspect must be guilty. Once interrogators have successfully yielded a confession of guilt from their suspect, they now need them to provide those convincing details for the confession to be powerful. This is where the contamination error can come in. In a proper interrogation, police might ask vague questions about the circumstances of the crime, without being leading, that result in the truly guilty party providing details that only they could know. This helps the police prove to a jury that a truly guilty party had to have committed this crime if they go back on their confession later on. However, when interrogating an innocent person interrogators may ask specific and guiding questions in order to get the details that they desire. This can be unintentional on the part of the investigator who truly believes that this suspect is guilty and truly wants to see justice by getting a thorough confession. This can also be more malicious on the part of a truly corrupt interrogator that desires to pin a crime on a person that they know is innocent. Interrogators may insert certain information and attempt to shape the suspects responses in order to create the narrative that they need. This can go so far as implying or even overtly providing details that only the perpetrator of the crime could know. They contaminate the confession by implying or even blatantly inserting information to strengthen their perceived narrative of events. This creates an extremely convincing confession.

When such interrogations are recorded in full, social scientists can study the exact steps taken for an innocent person to admit guilt to a crime they did not commit. Attorneys, of course, can also use this at trial to deny the validity of such a confession. But, when police do not record every part of it, and only have taped evidence of the admission of guilt itself, this can be devastating for the innocent party. With no way to provide an explanation to a jury as to why the accused would confess if they were in fact innocent, that false confession can be the most powerful piece of evidence, and sometimes the only real piece of evidence, against them that can take their life away from them. A video taped confession can protect both the accused and the investigators questioning them. It shows the full truth of the circumstances of the confession and protects the integrity of police officers who are performing their job properly by yielding real confessions without coercion.

A false confession, while it may close a case, is not justice. A wrongful conviction always leaves a guilty party on the streets free to offend again and takes away the life of an innocent. It is important to understand why someone might falsely confess in order to make proper and truthful confessions the goal over just any admission of guilt.

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The “Junk Science” Behind Bite Mark Analysis

Taylor Thornton — March 19, 2018 @ 3:21 PM — Comments (0)

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Bite mark analysis is a portion of forensic odontology. It is a way to match marks on a victim’s body with a potential perpetrator’s teeth patterns, based on the theory that the victim was bitten by the suspect. Across the country in many different cases, bite mark evidence has been used at trial. Often, the bite mark evidence is the most powerful forensic evidence going against a defendant.

The problem is, bite mark analysis has no real science or research supporting it. There are a number of reasons why testimony regarding bite mark analysis can be incredibly flawed. One reason is that when comparing a suspect’s teeth to a bite mark on a victim, it is not nearly the same as comparing to an impression made at a dentist’s office. Typically the suspects teeth are being compared to a bite into soft tissue or skin. Human skin can heal, it can swell, the body may have even decayed between the time of the crime and when the body was discovered. All of these things can warp the clarity of the bite mark and damage the accuracy of trying to match up a dental impression with the bite. In addition, the teeth of the suspect are typically being compared to a photo of the bite rather than the actual bite, which further skews the reliability.

Another reason why bite mark evidence can be very misleading is that it is presented in court as being right alongside DNA evidence. This is simply not true, DNA is definitively unique to every individual person but bite patterns are simply not this scientifically unique. In fact, it is not even close. Different analysts have come to vastly different conclusions while evaluating the same bite mark evidence. It is dangerous to present such a subjective opinion as scientific physical evidence in court because that kind of evidence is highly persuasive to a jury.

Some experts say that bite mark evidence should only be used to eliminate a potential suspect based on the bite mark not being able to have come from them. At best, bite mark testimony should only conclude that the suspect cannot be excluded from the possibility of inflicting that bite. But, according to forensic dentists, if a bite mark is the only physical evidence against the suspect and the claim is that they are the only person who could have made that bite, that is junk not science.

Bite mark testimony has been responsible for numerous wrongful convictions. One notable case is that of Kennedy Brewer. Brewer was convicted of raping and killing a three-year old girl who was found in lake with several marks on her body that forensic odontologists deemed to be bite marks. It is unclear whether these marks could have come from animals or bugs living in the lake or whether the marks had any scientific integrity after the body had decayed in a body of water. Nevertheless, bite mark testimony convicted Kennedy Brewer of capital murder and sent him to death row. When Brewer was exonerated through post-conviction DNA tests, another innocent man was also able to be exonerated. Levon Brooks was serving his sentence for a very similar rape and murder. When the real perpetrator was found through DNA in Kennedy Brewer’s case, he was found to be responsible for the additional rape and murder that Brooks was convicted of.

Another notable case of wrongful conviction due to the influence of bite mark testimony is that of Ray Krone. After testimony in court from a bite mark expert saying that Krone’s teeth matched a bite mark on the victim, Krone was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. This bite mark analysis was the only physical evidence linking him to the crime. Ray Krone was released in 2002, after 10 years in prison, following DNA evidence proving his innocence. These men were fortunate enough to have their innocence proven. But, there are still countless others sitting in jail convicted of crimes because of the power of bite mark evidence testimony.

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Exoneration Anniversary: Jason Krause

Taylor Thornton — March 01, 2018 @ 12:00 PM — Comments (0)

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Happy One Year Exoneration Anniversary to Jason Krause!

On June 24, 1994 an 18 year old man named Charles Thurman was shot and killed in his Jeep alongside his three friends Terry Eckerman, Amanda Miller, and Stacy Clark in Arizona. His friends testified that he had been causing his Jeep to backfire intentionally at the time when he was fatally shot. The shooting occurred near the home of 39 year old Jason Krause who at the time was out hunting skunks with his .22 caliber rifle. When he heard the car backfire he believed that he heard gunshots so he dropped to the ground at which point he believed that his gun accidentally fired. At least 12 people in the area that were interviewed by police said they heard gunshots that they believed to be coming from the Jeep. But when police told Krause that Thurman’s friends in the car with him reported that there was no guns in the car he told them that he must’ve been the one to shoot Thurman.

Krause was charged with second-degree murder and three counts of attempted second-degree murder. Eckerman, Miller, and Clark all testified in court that there were no guns in the car despite the .22 caliber shell casings found on the floor of Thurman’s Jeep. Another important piece of testimony came from FBI Special Agent Earnest Peele who testified as an expert in comparative bullet lead analysis (CBLA). Peele testified that the bullets found in Thurman’s body and his tires were indistinguishable from those found in Krause’s home.

When it came time for Jason Krause to take the stand he admitted that he had been out hunting skunks with his .22 caliber at the time. He said he heard what he believed were several gunshots and the sounds continued to get closer. Krause testified that he was terrified and he hit the ground, at which time his riffle fired while the Jeep passed by. He admitted that he “must have shot that boy” but he did not recall how it happened.

In May of 1996 Krause was acquitted of second-degree murder but convicted of manslaughter and three counts of attempted manslaughter. He was sentences to 10 years and 6 months in prison and served his entire sentence.

In 2007, one year after Krause’s release, the FBI started a CBLA task force after shredding any validity of CBLA as a credible forensic science. In 2008 they sent a letter to the County Attorney’s office stating that the testimony Peele gave in Krause’s trial could not be supported by the FBI because it was not supported by science. Thus, Jason Krause reached out to the Arizona Innocence Project.

A post-conviction petition was filed by his attorneys in 2012 to overturn his conviction based on the invalid CBLA testimony. At an evidentiary hearing, one expert testified that it would have been impossible for Jason Krause to have been the one to fire the fatal shot that killed Thurman. Another expert testified that the fatal shot came from the back seat. The defense argued at the hearing that it simply was not possible that Jason Krause fired the fatal shot to Thurman’s head from 50 feet away as his Jeep sped by. His trial attorney argued that if he had known the lack of validity for CBLA, he would not have argued for an accidental shooting at trial.

In 2013 the petition was denied by Judge Rick Williams because, in his opinion, this information would not have changed the jury’s opinion. He stated that Krause’s confession led the jury to convict. However, the Arizona Court of Appeals granted Krause a new trial in 2015. The prosecution tried to appeal this decision but they were denied. Finally, on March 1st 2017, the charges against Jason Krause were dismissed when the prosecution denied to retry the case.

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Reasons for Exoneration: Witness Misidentification

Victoria Inzana — November 14, 2017 @ 10:48 AM — Comments (0)

In the past Reasons for Exoneration posts, we have focused on perjury and false accusations. These statements are typically made by a witness in an intentionally malicious manner. However, this is not always the case. These statements are known as a mistaken witness identification. According to Innocence Project research, eyewitness misidentification is the greatest contributing factor to wrongful conviction. It has been found to have had a hand in wrongfully convicting about 70% of exonerees.

Despite the fact that research has proven that the human mind does not record events exactly as we see them, or recall them in exact chronological order, courts tend to find witness identifications to be very persuasive. This is why it makes up such a large percentage of wrongful convictions.

Some witness misidentification cases that the Innocence Project has worked on include a witness in a rape case being shown a photo array where the photograph of the suspect was the only photograph was marked with an “R”. Other cases include witnesses who “thought” the person “might be” the perpetrator when later, at trial, the jury was told that the witness had never wavered in their identification.

Because witness identification can be quite unreliable, there are many reforms which could be adopted to make it more accurate. Several procedures have been shown to significantly decrease the number of misidentifications such as:

  • Double- Blind/Blinded administration, where the officer administering the lineup is unaware of who the suspect is
  • A proper lineup composition, where the non-suspects in the lineup resemble the eyewitness’ description of the perpetrator, and the suspect appears similar to the fillers so he is not the only one of his race or facial hair
  • Standard Instructions, where the person viewing the lineup should be told that the perpetrator may or may not be in the lineup at that the investigation will continue regardless of the lineup result
  • Confidence Statements, which is a document that law enforcement will collect regarding the level of confidence the witness has in the identification made at the same time the identification is made.
  • Finally, a recording of procedures should be done whenever possible.

 

So far, 21 states and multiple jurisdictions have implemented these reforms.

The Innocence Project of Florida, partnering with the Innocence Project headquarters in New York, was also able to successfully pass a bill in April 2017 to reform eyewitness misidentification error here in the Florida Legislature. There is now a requirement that lineups are conducted using a double-blind or blinded procedure, and witnesses are instructed that the perpetrator may or may not be present. Should these practices be omitted, a court can consider noncompliance when deciding whether the identification can be admitted into evidence. The court must also instruct the jury that it consider whether law enforcement followed the eyewitness procedures when determining the reliability of a witness’s identification.

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Reasons for Exoneration: Perjury or False Accusation

Victoria Inzana — October 20, 2017 @ 1:00 PM — Comments (0)

Most people believe that the only reason innocent individuals are exonerated is due to new DNA evidence being revealed in their case. This blog series, Reasons for Exoneration, is intended to highlight the work that the Innocence Project accomplishes on cases that do not focus solely on DNA evidence.

This post is intended to focus on the role of perjury or false accusations in an exoneree’s trial. Perjury is known as the offense of willfully telling an untruth in a court after having taken an oath or affirmation. False accusations are when someone knowingly makes a charge of wrongdoing against another person. These perjury claims are usually proven based on a discrepancy between an initial deposition of a witness and their testimony on the stand. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, there have been 73 total exonerations in the year 2016 where perjury played a heavy role in the exoneration.

An example of a case occurred in Miami-Dade County. The defendant, Derrick Robinson had fit the description of a murderer, and so was arrested. During trial, there was an eyewitness who declared that Robinson was the killer. Robinson, who had claimed his innocence until trial had pled guilty to second-degree murder in 1989. After his conviction, another eye-witness came forward and identified a different man as the perpetrator. He revealed the actual perpetrator had threatened his family which leads to his false eye-witness report. After this new information was revealed, Robinson was exonerated in 1991.

If the testimony of the witness who had committed perjury or made a false accusation was an extremely large contribution to the initial conviction of our exonerate, and if it is possible for the representative of the Innocence Project to prove that perjury or a false accusation has happened, it is essential to an exoneree’s case.

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Today in Wrongful Conviction History: May 23

Alejandra de la Fuente — October 23, 2016 @ 9:38 AM — Comments (0)

Happy exoneration anniversary Marvin Mitchell and Orlando Boquete! Marvin was exonerated in Massachusetts in 1997 with help from the Innocence Project. nike air zoom pegasus 33 donna marvin Orlando is one of Florida’s very own exonerees and was exonerated in 2006 with help from the Innocence Project. asics kayano 23 femme He spent 13 years in prison for attempted sexual battery and burglary that he did not commit. New Balance 1300 homme Unfortunately, Chaussures New Balance he is ineligible for compensation because he managed to escape from his wrongful conviction twice before filing a motion on his own seeking DNA testing in 2003, nike internationalist femme the results of which proved he was not the perpetrator. He did, New Balance 373 femme however, Air Jordan 3 Homme fulfill his dream of becoming a U.S. Adidas Yeezy 750 Boost Homme naturalized citizen on March 27, 2015. nike tn homme 2017 Orlando and IPF have maintained close ties since his release, Nike Air Max Thea Homme Noir where we have helped him with myriad reentry issues. You can read more about his case here.

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Harward Exoneration Prompts Virginia Department of Forensic Science to Review Old Cases

Alejandra de la Fuente — October 13, 2016 @ 4:00 PM — Comments (0)

Thanks to the recent exoneration of Keith Allen Harward, the Virginia Department of Forensic Science’s (VDFS) review of old blood-typing cases was approved by the Virginia Forensic Science Board. The review will be conducted on 200 sample cases from 1982, 1986, and 1990. Harward spent 33 years in prison for the 1982 murder of a man and the rape of his wife, neither of which he committed. He was convicted in 1983 for capital murder and received a life sentence, but the conviction was overturned due to legal technical errors. Adidas Zx 500 Homme Harward was tried and convicted again in 1986 but for first-degree murder, and was once again sentenced to life. DNA testing later disproved the bite-mark testimony that helped convict him—a science whose credibility has been called into question in recent years. According to court papers, Harward’s attorneys argued that the simple blood test conducted more than 30 years ago proved Harward was not the perpetrator. Nike Roshe Run Femme David A. Pomposini, the forensic serologist for the VDFS who conducted that test, however, did not include those results in his formal report or testimony. Air Jordan 10 Homme The Innocence Project, which represented Harward, stated that Pomposini worked for the department from 1981 to 2012, during which time he also performed blood typing in Troy Webb’s case. Webb was convicted in 1988 for a rape in Virginia Beach that he did not commit, but DNA evidence exonerated him in 1996. According to a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, Pomposini should have excluded Webb as the assailant, but failed to do so. Before DNA testing became available in the early 1990s, possible perpetrator pools were narrowed down using blood-typing tests. Nike Pas Cher Those tests utilized antigens, which show a person’s blood type and are found in secretions such as saliva or sperm. New Balance 996 homme About 80 percent of people leave those antigens, while the secretions of the remaining 20 percent cannot determine a person’s blood type. Blood-typing test results revealed that Harward was a type-A secretor, which contradicted Pomposini’s formal certificate of analysis that was presented during Harward’s trial. The serologist stated that secretion-typing tests performed on seminal fluid that was left on Harward’s wife could not determine a blood type. During the 1986 trial, Pomposini testified that according to his tests, results showed the assailant was either a non-secretor, or was a secretor who failed to leave enough blood type evidence to identify his blood type. The prosecutor included those formal findings and testimony in his closing arguments to the jury during that trial, stating that although the sperm’s blood-typing did not include Harward, it also did not exclude him. The Innocence Project received Pomposini’s lab notes from the VDFS last year that revealed crucial evidence that was never presented during Harward’s trials, which is a violation. Nike Air Max 2016 Femme Those notes indicated that sperm presumably left by the assailant contained antigens that Pomposini determined to be of the O blood type. Another serologist stated in an affidavit that antigens consistent with a type-O secretor were clearly identified by Pomposini in his lab notes. According to counsel for the VDFS, until DNA testing became available in the early 1990s, they conducted routine blood group typing—the type of tests that were called into question during the Harward and Webb cases, which later incited the department to carry out the 200-case review. Nike Free 5.0 enfants The sample will consist of 100 cases from the VDFS’s eastern laboratory, and 100 from their northern laboratory. Lab notes, test results, and trial testimony will be reviewed in order to determine if there are any problems in any of the cases, along with a legal research engine that will examine appeals court opinions in cases that may be reviewed. The review team will consist of two department forensic scientists and perhaps a serologist unaffiliated with the department that would review randomly selected cases. The department may have difficulty finding qualified volunteers, as most serologists—including Pomposini—transitioned into DNA testing and many of which have since retired. Should the review team determine that an error might have been made, the department will attempt to locate the case’s prosecutor and defense lawyer. If requested and the prosecution and defense agree, or if a court order is issued, any remaining biological evidence will be tested by the VDFS. Nike Air Max Thea Femme Bleu According to the director of the VDFS, the goal of the review aims to determine whether an error that occurred was an isolated incident or if there was a systemic problem that needs to be addressed.

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Today in Wrongful Conviction History: June 11

Alejandra de la Fuente — October 11, 2016 @ 10:00 AM — Comments (0)

Happy exoneration anniversary Thomas McGowan and Frank O’Connell! Thomas was exonerated in Texas in 2008 with help from the Innocence Project. Canada Goose Citadel Parka 7848550.0 Frank was exonerated in California in 2012 with help from Centurion Ministries.

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Today in Wrongful Conviction History: July 30

Alejandra de la Fuente — July 30, 2016 @ 10:00 AM — Comments (0)

Happy exoneration anniversary Larry Johnson and Cameron Thomas!

Larry was exonerated in Missouri in 2002 with help from the Innocence Project.

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Cameron was exonerated in Texas in 2014.

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