Glen Ford is free at last after 30 years on death row

March 12, 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2013

Good morning:

Glen Ford, 64, is a free man today after spending 30 years on death row in Louisiana for a murder he did not commit.

This awful case features police and prosecutorial misconduct, forensic fraud, lying witnesses and ineffective assistance of counsel.

The victim was Isadore Rozeman, 56, a watchmaker in Shreveport who was found shot to death behind the counter in his store. Mr. Ford worked for him occasionally doing yard work.

Police arrested Mr. Ford in November 1983 for possession of property stolen from Rozeman’s store. He was charged with the murder the following February together with George Starks, Henry Robinson and Jake Robinson.

The Death Penalty Information Center is reporting,

Prosecutors said they recently received “credible evidence” that Ford “was neither present at, nor a participant in, the robbery and murder” of which he was convicted in 1984. Ford, who has always maintained his innocence, was tried and sentenced to death by an all-white jury. One of the witnesses against him said at trial that police had helped her make up her story. A state “expert” who testified about the victim’s time of death had not even examined the body. Ford’s lead trial attorney had never tried a jury case before. A second attorney, two years out of law school, worked at an insurance defense firm. They failed to hire any experts to rebut the prosecution’s case because they believed they would have to pay for the experts themselves. The Louisiana Supreme Court earlier said it had “serious questions” about the outcome of the trial, but did not reverse Ford’s conviction. Ford may have been involved in trying to pawn jewelry from the victim that he received from one of the original codefendants.

USA Today is reporting,

Movement in Ford’s decades-old case began last year when Caddo Parish prosecutors began filing motions in federal court indicating someone other than Ford had confessed to being Rozeman’s killer. The court documents indicate a confidential informant questioned in an unrelated homicide identified Jake Robinson, one of four men initially charged in Rozeman’s murder, as the triggerman, not Ford.

Few other details were provided until Thursday, when the motion spurring Ford’s release plainly stated that if the new evidence had been known when Ford went to trial the outcome would have been different. “Indeed, if the information had been within the knowledge of the state, Glenn Ford might not even have been arrested or indicted for this offense,” the motion states

There were no eyewitnesses to the crime and the murder weapon was never found. The prosecution’s most important witness was a woman named Marvella Brown. The Atlantic reports,

With all signs pointing to the Robinsons, and with police under the impression that the one or both of the brothers still possessed the murder weapon, Ford was not immediately charged with Rozeman’s murder. He and the two Robinsons were instead charged three months later—only after Jake Robinson’s girlfriend, Marvella Brown, incriminated them by telling the police that Ford was with the Robinsons, and in the possession of a firearm, on the day of Rozeman’s murder.

/snip/

Under cross-examination, however, she told jurors that the police had helped her make up the story she had told about Ford. When Ford’s attorneys later called her to the witness stand, she told jurors that a bullet left from an old gunshot wound to her head had affected her thinking. “I did lie to the Court… I lied about it all,” she said in court.

The all-white jury took less than 3 hours to convict Mr. Ford and it subsequently recommended a death sentence.

There were no blacks on the jury because the prosecution used a peremptory challenge to strike the only one from the jury, a practice condemned by the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) in Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986).

Pursuant to Louisiana law, Mr. Ford will receive some financial compensation for being incarcerated for 30 years. The law requires the state to pay $25,000 per year of wrongful incarceration up to a maximum of $250,000 plus up to $80,000 for loss of life opportunities.

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This is our 930th post and donations are lagging. We work hard to keep you informed by filling in the blanks between the lines. After 30 years in the trenches, I am familiar with all of the rules and strategies prosecutors and defense counsel utilize. Experience counts and most of my predictions have been accurate.

Adjusting and fine tuning to dial in the white fear and racist corruption frequencies in the Florida courts took some doing, but I am on track now.

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We cannot pay our bills without your support.

Fred


Massachusetts OIG concludes Annie Dookhan acted alone

March 4, 2014

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Good evening:

Hi everyone. Not much news to report lately, so we took some time off to work on Crane’s case.

Annie Dookhan is back in the news today. She is the former laboratory technician at the Hinton State Drug Laboratory in Boston, MA who pled guilty last summer to multiple felonies, including tampering with evidence, perjury, obstruction of justice and falsely claiming that she had a masters degree in chemistry from the University of Massachusetts.

She admitted in court during her guilty plea that she had falsely claimed in many, cases since she started working at the lab in 2003, that she had detected the presence of particular controlled substances in drug exhibits by using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GCMS), which has been the universally accepted methodology used in crime laboratories since the 1970s. Instead, she had based her opinions on her own visual examination of the drug exhibits, which is an unreliable and unacceptable method. Her excuse was GCMS takes too much time.

The court sentenced Dookhan to prison for a term of 3 to 5 years. She will be subject to supervision for a 2 year period after she is released from prison.

I believe this sentence is absurd because it fails to take into account her violation of the public trust and the havoc that she caused to the defendants and their families in the cases that she handled .

CNN reported in November that officials in Governor Deval Patrick’s administration were concerned that more than 40,000 defendants might have been affected by the scandal. Governor Patrick shut down the lab and ordered Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley to commence an investigation to review all of the cases processed by the lab since 2003 to determine (1) whether other laboratory analysts also faked their results and (2) how many defendants were wrongfully convicted.

CNN is reporting today that the Office of the Inspector General has concluded Dookhan acted alone. The OIG report states,

Dookhan was the sole bad actor at the Drug Lab. Though many of the chemists worked alongside Dookhan for years, the OIG (Office of the Inspector General) found no evidence that any other chemist at the Drug Lab committed any malfeasance with respect to testing evidence or knowingly aided Dookhan in committing her malfeasance.

/snip/

The [lab] directors were ill-suited to oversee a forensic drug lab, provided almost no supervision, were habitually unresponsive to chemists’ complaints and suspicions, and severely downplayed Dookhan’s major breach in chain-of-custody protocol upon discovering it.

/snip/

John Auerbach [the former Department of Public Health Commissioner who resigned when the scandal broke] and his staff failed to respond appropriately to the report of Dookhan’s breach of protocol” and “the investigation DPH conducted was far too narrow.

/snip/

all samples in which Dookhan was the primary chemist should be treated as suspect and be subject to careful review.

The Inspector General’s Office will be supervising the retesting of all samples assigned to Dookhan, plus 2,000 additional samples in which other tests were conducted, but the results were not reported.


Coroner Exonerates Lindy Chamberlain in Dingo Baby Case

June 12, 2012

dingo

Dingo
By Woulfe
Creative Commons on Flickr

After 32 years, Elizabeth Morris, an Australian coroner, has finally corrected a terrible injustice to Lindy Chamberlain and her former husband Michael in the world famous dingo baby case by issuing a new death certificate in which she found that their baby, Azaria Chamberlain, was killed by a dingo that snatched her from the family tent in the Uluru campground near Ayer’s Rock on August 17, 1980.

Lindy saw a dingo leave the tent and when she checked on the baby she found her missing. Despite objective evidence that a dingo had taken her baby (campers heard a growl just before she cried out for help, paw prints in the doorway to the tent, dragmarks in the sand and canine hairs in the tent), most Australians did not believe her claim that a dingo had taken her baby.

In November, 1982 a jury convicted her of murder and her husband Michael of being an accessory to murder after the fact. She was sentenced to life in prison and he was sentenced to probation. They later divorced.

The critical evidence in the case was testimony by James Cameron from the UK and Australian forensic biologist, Joy Kuhl. They testified that infant blood was discovered in the Chamberlain’s car on the dashboard, in a camera bag, on a pair of scissors, and a bloody handprint on Azaria’s jumpsuit. This evidence appeared overwhelming and most Australians applauded the verdict.

Later on, however, forensic serologists reviewing the evidence determined that there was no human blood inside the vehicle or on any of the items examined by Cameron and Kuhl. Instead, they only found red paint.

Kuhl admitted that she had only conducted a presumptive test for blood. She assumed it was human blood without conducting a necessary confirmatory test. Turned out that she had obtained a false positive for human blood due to the presence of copper oxide in the stains, which is ubiquitous to the area where the Chamerlands lived.

Cameron eventually admitted to a royal commission reviewing the case that he merely assumed the handprint contained human blood; he never actually tested it.

The commission exonerated the Chamberlains in 1987 and they were pardoned and compensated.

Nevertheless, despite multiple efforts since then to persuade the coroner to amend Azaria’s death certificate, they were unsuccessful.

Finally, they succeeded after Elizabeth Morris became the coroner.

Malcolm Brown in Darwin reported for the Guardian:

When coroner Elizabeth Morris ruled that a dingo had taken baby Azaria Chamberlain from her cot in the Australian outback 32 years ago, there were smiles, tears of relief and loud applause from the packed gallery at Darwin magistrates court. But there were no surprises.

There had always been a sense of unreality in the conviction of Lindy Chamberlain, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor’s wife and respected member of the community, for cutting the throat of her nine-week-old baby. To this day, nobody has ever advanced a plausible motive.

After Chamberlain’s conviction, there were other instances of dingo attacks on children – including the fatal mauling of nine-year-old Clinton Gage on Queensland’s Bribie Island in 2001 – and they provided the critical circumstantial evidence needed to end the Azaria mystery.

Chamberlain, though remarried, embraced her former husband Michael. They had both suffered the tragedy of Azaria’s death and knew they would probably still be together had it not occurred.

Lindy embraced her son, Aidan, who was six on the night of 17 August 1980 at the Uluru campsite when Lindy let out the chilling cry: “A dingo’s got my baby!” The two wept in each other’s arms. Even Morris could barely stifle a sob when she said: “Mr and Mrs Chamberlain, please accept my sincere sympathy for the death of your special and loved daughter and sister.”

It was the end of a case that had brought international attention over three decades and had been dramatised for television, film and stage. It had even been turned into an opera.


Forensic Fraud (Part 2)

January 13, 2012

As I said yesterday in Part 1,

One of the biggest problems we’ve seen in crime labs is people testifying as experts regarding matters beyond their expertise.

This happened in Crane-Station’s case when a lab tech with a bachelor’s degree from Transylvania University in Lexington, KY, who routinely analyzes human blood samples for controlled substances in the Central Lab of the Kentucky State Crime Laboratory using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GCMC), testified as an expert toxicologist regarding the probable effects of Clonazepam on her. He was permitted to do this without objection from her lawyer, even though,

(1) he had not detected Clonazepam, or any other drugs in her blood when he analyzed her sample;

(2) he had no formal training in drug toxicology;

(3) he never had published a peer reviewed article in a professional journal on any subject;

(4) he did not know what constituted a toxic level of Clonazepam in human blood, as opposed to a safe level;

(5) the prosecutor told him that she had admitted taking her prescribed medication when she was arrested, which included Clonazepam, but he had no information regarding what dosage she had taken and when she had taken it.

Nevertheless, he was permitted to express his opinion as an ‘expert’ that she was probably under the influence of and impaired by Clonazepam when the deputy stopped her.

This was a travesty of speculative nonsense and never should have happened.

Now, how is it possible that she could have been under the influence of and impaired by Clonazepam, if he did not detect it in her blood sample?

Well, he testified that it is difficult to detect using gas chromatography and he might have been able to detect it using liquid chromatography, but the Kentucky State Crime Lab cannot afford the equipment to perform that analysis.

Could some other lab have performed the analysis?

Well, as a matter of fact, NMS Labs in Philadelphia can do it and the Kentucky State Crime Laboratory has a contract with NMS to do the test.

Did that happen in Crane’s case?

According to the Director of the Kentucky State Crime Laboratory, the lab sent her blood sample to NMS.

But Ryan Johnson claims that he did not send her blood sample to another lab and the prosecution denies that another lab tested her sample, or that there is an exculpatory lab result from NMS.

However, there is a 2-month gap between the date that Ryan Johnson completed his analysis and the date that it was approved by his supervisor.

Sure looks like he completed his analysis and sent her sample to NMS. They tested it and sent it back reporting an exculpatory result confirming his analysis without generating a written report, so his supervisor reviewed and signed off on his exculpatory result. Then the prosecution turned over his report without mentioning the NMS report.

NMS has referred all inquiries to the prosecutor and, as I said, the prosecutor claims there is no NMS Report or analysis.

This is the kind of bullshit that we are dealing with.


Forensic Fraud (Part 1)

January 12, 2012

Forensic fraud is an ongoing serious problem in our courts.

For example, in State v. Kunze, 97 Wn.App. 832, 988 P.2d 977 (1999), the Washington State Court of Appeals reversed David Kunze’s conviction for killing James McCann, a man who had informed him four days earlier that he was going to marry Kunze’s ex-wife. Kunze and his ex-wife had divorced 8 months earlier after 18 years of marriage and Kunze was reportedly upset when he heard the news. The court related the pertinent facts as follows.

In the early morning hours of December 16, 1994, an intruder entered the Clark County home of James McCann. McCann was asleep in the master bedroom. His son Tyler, age 13, was asleep in another bedroom. The intruder bludgeoned McCann in the head with a blunt object, causing his death. The intruder also bludgeoned Tyler in the head, causing a fractured skull. When the intruder left, Tyler crawled out to the front porch, where he was found after daylight by a passerby.

While awaiting surgery at the hospital, Tyler told the police that he had been afraid to look at his attacker closely. He thought, however, that the attacker was a darkly complected male, possibly Puerto Rican, about six feet tall with medium build, dark or black hair to mid-ear, 25 to 30 years of age, and a deep voice. Tyler later recalled that the attacker wore gloves but not glasses, and had a flashlight in his mouth. Kunze is in his mid-forties, wears glasses, and has reddish-blond hair.

Back at the house, the police observed that the intruder had opened drawers and cabinets without disturbing the contents. They also found that the intruder had taken a TV, a VCR, stereo speakers, a “boom box,” McCann’s wallet containing identification and credit cards, McCann’s truck, and various other items.

George Millar, a fingerprint technician with the Washington State Crime Laboratory, processed the home for evidence. He discovered a partial latent earprint on the hallway-side surface of McCann’s bedroom door. He “dusted” the print by applying black fingerprint powder with a fiberglass brush. He “lifted” the print by applying palm-print tape first to the door and then to a palm-print card. The resulting print showed the antitragus and portions of the tragus, helix, helix rim, and antihelix. The external features of a complete ear are shown in the following diagram.

(diagram omitted)

On or about March 28, 1995, Michael Grubb, a criminologist with the Washington State Crime Laboratory, compared the latent print from McCann’s bedroom door with photos of the left side of Kunze’s face. He concluded that the latent print “could have been made by Dave Kunze.” He also thought that “[i]t may be possible to obtain additional information by comparing the [latent print] to exemplar impressions.”

On September 21, 1995, Millar and Grubb met with Kunze to obtain earprint exemplars. Neither had taken an earprint exemplar before, although each had practiced on laboratory staff in preparation for meeting with Kunze. For each of the seven exemplars they took, they had Kunze put hand lotion on his ear and press the ear against a glass surface with a different degree of pressure (“light,” “medium,” or “hard”). They then dusted the glass with fingerprint powder and used palm-print tape to transfer the resulting impression onto a transparent plastic overlay.

The reason Millar and Grubb took multiple exemplars is that they were consciously trying to produce one that would match (i.e., “duplicate” the latent print from McCann’s door. They knew that earprints of the same ear vary according to the angle and rotation of the head, and also according to the degree of pressure with which the head is pressed against the receiving surface. They did not know the angle and rotation of the head that made the latent print, or the degree of pressure with which that head had been pressed against McCann’s door. Hoping to compensate for these difficulties, they told Kunze to use a different degree of pressure each time (“light,” “medium” or “hard”), and they looked at the latent print as they worked.

After Millar and Grubb took the exemplars, they were asked to compare them to the latent print. Millar declined because his laboratory supervisor thought that earprint identification was “out of the expertise of the [crime lab’s] latent unit.” Grubb went ahead, concluding that “David Kunze is a likely source for the earprint and cheekprint which were lifted from the outside of the bedroom door at the homicide scene.”

After reviewing the testimony of 3 forensic scientists, who testified for the prosecution, and 12 forensic scientists, who testified for the defense, the court held that earprint-identification evidence should not have been admitted at trial because it is not generally accepted in the forensic science community.

I had known Mike Grubb professionally for many years because he was often involved in cases that I handled. I was shocked when I read the Kunze case and found out that he had testified that earprint-identification evidence is generally accepted in the community of forensic scientists because that is absolutely false. At the time, he was the acting supervisor of the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab in Seattle and one of the state’s most experienced and respected forensic scientists. I believe he must have known that earprint-identification evidence is not generally accepted by forensic scientists when he testified that it was.

Why did he testify that it was?

I suspect he did because he viewed himself to be a member of the prosecution team, rather than an independent forensic scientist doing his job and letting the chips fall wherever they may.

Most, and probably all publicly owned and operated forensic crime laboratories, including the FBI Crime Lab obviously, are agencies within a law enforcement agency. Over the years, I have known many forensic scientists and many of them have complained privately to me that, as a quasi law enforcement agency, they occasionally have felt pressured to assist the prosecution by rendering improper opinions that will convict a defendant. The feel like it is too easy to get caught up by the fever to build a case that convicts a prime suspect and they wish they could be an independent agency.

On the other hand, there are many forensic scientists who see themselves as a modern day Sherlock Holmes, a crime solver who helps law enforcement nail the perpetrator. In other words, the ultimate team player. This is the mentality, for example, that you see when you watch a show like CSI.

Apparently, Mike Grubb falls into this latter category.

BTW, he moved on after the Kunze case to become the head of the San Diego Crime Lab.

The Innocence Project in New York City, which has freed 284 wrongfully convicted innocent people by post-conviction DNA testing, has identified forensic fraud as one of the 7 causes of wrongful convictions. This is what they say about forensic fraud.

The risk of misconduct starts at the crime scene, where evidence can be planted, destroyed or mishandled. Evidence is later sent to a forensic lab or independent contractor, where it can be contaminated, poorly tested, consumed unnecessarily or mislabeled. Then, in the reporting of test results, technicians and their superiors sometimes have misrepresented their findings. DNA exonerations have even revealed instances of “drylabbing” evidence – reporting results when no test was actually performed.

All over the map

The Innocence Project has seen forensic misconduct by scientists, experts and prosecutors lead to wrongful conviction in many states. The following are among the more notorious:

• A former director of the West Virginia state crime lab, Fred Zain, testified for the prosecution in 12 states over his career, including dozens of cases in West Virginia and Texas. DNA exonerations and new evidence in other cases have shown that Zain fabricated results, lied on the stand about results and willfully omitted evidence from his reports.

• Pamela Fish, a Chicago lab technician, testified for the prosecution about false matches and suspicious results in the trials of at least eight defendants who were convicted, then proven innocent years later by DNA testing.

• A two-year investigation of the Houston crime lab, completed in 2007, showed that evidence in that lab was mishandled and results were misreported.

Tomorrow in Part 2, I will review some forensic butchery in Crane-Station’s case.


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