Saturday, April 25, 2015


It is no longer a surprise to most citizens of the United States that the legal system is broken and law enforcement agencies arrogantly abuse our human rights.

An acquaintance of mine who has many decades of experiences as a tough, honest, law enforcement leader, once told me that he considers the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) better suited to be known as the Federal Bureau of Incompetence.

I have personally seen the FBI screw up badly and continue like it hasn’t made a mistake. We've seen how  poorly they treated national security before 9/11, and for years under the leadership of the infamous J.Edgar Hoover, functioned as an agency of extortion to use against citizens who dared to challenge him.

People lie all of the time. 

Lying seems to be the most popular pastime in the World. 

In America, lying is pervasive and knows no limits. People, corporations, agencies, religions, just about anyone alive will lie to protect their own asses, regardless of those damaged by the lies.

Given all of this, it is not unexpected that law enforcement, first responders, prosecutors, coroners, associated agencies, in all of their arrogance, routinely lie in Court "because they can".

It is naive to believe that the standards of their sworn duty to protect would guide them to be any more truthful.
Recent admissions from the FBI and Department of Justice "confirm long-suspected problems with subjective, pattern-based forensic techniques, like hair and bite-mark comparisons, that have contributed to wrongful convictions in more than one-quarter of 329 DNA-exoneration cases since 1989."

That link points back to 2012 coverage of problems with FBI forensic analysis, but the existence of shoddy forensics has been so clear for so long in so many different state and local jurisdictions that the following conclusion is difficult to avoid: Neither police agencies nor prosecutors are willing to call for the sorts of reforms that would prevent many innocents from being wrongfully convicted, imprisoned.

Much more important to myself, as a son and father of victims, is that these lack of reforms, no transparency are deliberate as to the: fabrication of false evidence, incompetence of those conducting investigations, indifference by them to obtain the real truth, self protective systemic codes of lying, omissions of facts, all done to protect those who supposedly are sworn to provide justice, perpetuating the cruel illusion of justice served, and creates results that never bring the real criminals, the truly guilty to justice.

The Justice Department and FBI have in the past week formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.

Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.
Ignorance of the problem is not an acceptable excuse and the history of this appears to be deliberately, systemically ingrained in a code of "circling" the wagons" to protect the asses of those in the justice system both on the Federal, State, and local levels.

This is all about cases involving demonstrable forensic misadventures. 

That is, it is about cases where forensic and law enforcement experts have provided false / erroneous testimony, or false / erroneous findings, with dire consequences. 

Sometimes this occurs out of ignorance and sometimes it occurs by accident from those who know better. 

And sometimes what appears to be accidental at first is in fact a successfully concealed fraud, as over the years investigation and litigation have revealed a more disturbing truth about some of these "misadventures".

Among recent examples:
  • At a Massachusetts drug lab, a chemist was sent to prison after admitting that she faked the results in perhaps tens of thousands of drug cases, calling into question thousands of drug convictions that ended with people in prison.
  • In St. Paul, Minnesota, an independent review of the crime lab found "major errors in almost every area of the lab's work, including the fingerprint and crime scene evidence processing that has continued after the lab's drug testing was stopped in July. The failures include sloppy documentation, dirty equipment, faulty techniques and ignorance of basic scientific procedures. Lab employees even used Wikipedia as a 'technical reference' in at least one drug case. The lab lacked any clean area designated for the review and collection of DNA evidence. The lab stored crime-scene photos on a computer that anyone could access without a password."
  • In Colorado, the Office of the Attorney General documented inadequate training and alarming lapses at a lab that measured the amount of alcohol in blood.
  • In Detroit, police shut down their crime laboratory "after an audit uncovered serious errors in numerous cases. The audit said sloppy work had probably resulted in wrongful convictions, and officials expect a wave of appeals, auditors re-examined 200 randomly selected shooting cases and found serious errors in 19."
  • In Philadelphia, "three trace-evidence technicians have flunked a routine test administered to uphold the police crime lab’s accreditation, police brass announced Tuesday. Each technician tests hundreds of pieces of evidence a year for traces of blood and semen, so if investigators determine that the methods are problematic, it could throw countless court cases into question ... "
  • In North Carolina, "agents withheld exculpatory evidence or distorted evidence in more than 230 cases over a 16-year period. Three of those cases resulted in execution. 
The above examples are a highly incomplete sample from just the last decade.

Go back a bit farther to 2004 and you'll find a New York Times report on major problems in a Texas metropolis:

The police crime laboratory in Houston, already reeling from a scandal that has led to retesting of evidence in 360 cases, now faces a much larger crisis that could involve many thousands of cases over 25 years. Six independent forensic scientists, in a report to be filed in a Houston state court today, said that a crime laboratory official because he either lacked basic knowledge of blood typing or gave false testimony which helped convict an innocent man of rape in 1987.

The panel concluded that crime laboratory officials might have offered ''similarly false and scientifically unsound'' reports and testimony in other cases, and it called for a comprehensive audit spanning decades to re-examine the results of a broad array of rudimentary tests on blood, semen and other bodily fluids. 

Elizabeth A. Johnson, a former director of the DNA laboratory at the Harris County medical examiner's office in Houston, said the task would be daunting. ''A conservative number would probably be 5,000 to 10,000 cases,'' Dr. Johnson said. ''If you add in hair analysis, it's off the board.''   

There are many more horror stories in most every state.

One major barrier to improving forensic evidence in criminal trials is that in most jurisdictions, the state has a monopoly on experts. Crime lab analysts and medical examiners (and to a lesser extent DNA technicians) typically work for the government and are generally seen as part of the prosecution's "team," much like the police and investigators. 

Yes, science is science, and it would be nice to believe that scientists will always get at the truth no matter whom they report to.
  • There is widespread lying, corruption, and pressure from prosecutors and other law-enforcement officials all over our Country on crime lab analysts to produce results that would help secure convictions. And the pressure has worked.
But studies have consistently shown that even conscientious scientists can be affected by cognitive bias. A scientist whose job performance is evaluated by a senior official in the district attorney or state attorney general's office may feel subtle pressure to return results that produce convictions. 

In cases in which district attorneys' offices contract work out to private labs, private pathologists, the labs, Dr's, other experts may feel pressure, even if it's not explicit (though sometimes it is) to produce favorable results in order to continue the business relationship.

I know personally of at least 3 cases where those involved in the investigations of murders, wrongful death cases were explicitly told by their superiors to lie, cover up the truth in order to protect "reputations" of those whose incompetence actually killed the victims, or in other ways caused the failure of the real criminals involved from being brought to justice.

The horrible truth is that it is more important to these scum to keep their agencies, their own worthless jobs, by lying at any cost, because they consider themselves the law, and above the law.

Indeed, according to Business Insider, "In many jurisdictions, crime labs receive money for each conviction they contribute to, according to a 2013 study in the journal Criminal Justice Ethics. Statutes in Florida and North Carolina mandate that judges provide labs with remuneration “upon conviction” and only upon conviction. Alabama, Arizona, California, Missouri, Wisconsin, Tennessee, New Mexico, Kentucky, New Jersey, and Virginia are among the states with similar provisions."

Five specific reforms that have been proposed are as follows:
Forensic counsel for the indigent: 
In many jurisdictions, indigent defendants aren't given access to their own forensic experts. As a result, the only expert witnesses are often testifying for the prosecution. This undermines the whole adversarial basis of our criminal justice system. Indigent defendants should be given vouchers to hire their own experts, who can review the forensic analysis and conclusions of each prosecution expert.         
      Expert independence:

Crime labs, DNA labs, and medical examiners, coroners shouldn't serve under the same bureaucracy as district attorneys and police agencies.

If these experts must work for the government, they should report to an independent state agency.

There should be a wall of separation between analysis and interpretation. 

When the same expert performs both the analysis and interpretation, defense experts are often at a disadvantage, having to rely on the notes and photos of the same expert whose testimony they're disputing.
Rivalrous Redundancy:  
Whether the state uses its own labs or contracts out to private labs, evidence should periodically and systematically be sent out to yet another competing lab for verification. 

The state's labs should be made aware that their work will occasionally be checked but not told when. 

In addition to helping discover errors that might otherwise go undetected, the introduction of competition to government labs would all but remove any subconscious incentive to appease police and prosecutors and would strengthen the incentive for a more objective analysis.
Statistical analysis:
The results from forensic labs should be regularly analyzed for statistical anomalies. Labs producing unusually high match rates should throw up red flags for further examination. 

For example, in 2004 Houston medical examiner Patricia Moore was found to have diagnosed shaken-baby syndrome in infant autopsies at a rate several times higher than the national average. This led to an investigation and the reopening of several convictions that had relied on Moore's testimony.

       Mask the evidence:  

A 2006 U.K. study by researchers at the University of Southampton found that the error rate of fingerprint analysts doubled when they were first told the circumstances of the case they were working on. 

Crime lab technicians and medical examiners should never be permitted to consult with police or prosecutors before performing their analysis. 

To the extent that it's possible, evidence should be stripped of all context before being sent to the lab. Ideally, state or city officials might hire a neutral "evidence shepherd," whose job would be to deliver crime-scene evidence to the labs and oversee the process of periodically sending evidence to secondary labs for verification.

Imagine the intense opposition by the currently entrenched legal system if crime lab analysts and medical examiners were to report to an "Inspector General", or the most senior member in the relevant independent office that would oversee them.

Yet they happily embrace the inverse and shamelessly call it a justice system.

They will do anything to perpetuate their very existence regardless of how dysfunctional and catastrophic the status quo damages human lives.

That is what bureaucracies do. 

The horrific results speak for themselves.