Sunday, February 22, 2009

Learning from Lacrosse

Two cases showing how the lessons of the lacrosse case can apply more broadly:

1.) The Supreme Court has agreed to hear District Attorney's Office v. Osborne. The issue: should people convicted before modern DNA standards were developed have the right to DNA tests now, which could prove their innocence?

2.) The lacrosse case wasn't the only one in which modern-day electronic evidence could be used to prove innocence, as this case involving records from a New York City metrocard revealed.


Anonymous said...

the humor website Fail Blog has a news clip from the early days showing how prejudicial the TV news was


One Spook said...

In the first case, I'm pleased to see the USSC take the case, despite my view that Osborne is not a very good defendant for this appeal. He "passed up the chance for more extensive testing at the time of his trial."

To me, the issue seems to be whether or not the Court will agree that there is a constitutional right for an accused to prove "through a DNA test that he is innocent of the crime."

There are other issues raised and as usual it will be interesting to see on which issue the Court believes the case turns.

Some of the States' arguments remind me of Nifong's statement in wanting to argue a case "the old-fashioned way" and that is rather disturbing.

In the second case, the poorly written article strongly implies that it was the "MetroCard alibi" that caused the charges to be dropped; stating, "his Metrocard showed that he was innocent."

That is not the entire evidence and the reporter knew that. The same reporter had written earlier that, in addition to the card records, the accused also had (as in the lacrosse case) an eye-witness AND a photograph of him cashing a check at yet another location at the time the crime took place.

To imply that the card alone exonerated the accused is typical careless New York Times reporting.

MetroCard activity alone would not stand up as evidence without additional collaborating evidence. It would be simple to fake MetroCard information for use as an alibi.

One Spook

Chris Halkides said...

Thank you for this post. To me the take-home message of the lacrosse case is that our criminal justice system is badly in need of attention. I have been trying to draw attention to problems I see in my own quirky way. On reading about these two cases, my reaction is that we should adopt the following principle, which attempts cover more than DNA evidence: Whenever any new forensic evidence is available, be it through new science or new interpretations of science, it should be accepted as evidence. I would offer the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was convicted of killing his children by arson and executed, as an example. Some of the evidence against him, that crazed glass is evidence of a deliberately-set fire, is now discredited.

Anonymous said...

Inre: metrocard case, consider what could happen - the intentional manipulation of the electronic records to change the information or disassociate those charged from their actual records.

Then consider those types of electronic manipulation in the context of the Duke hoax.

The world becomes darker when you consider that the Duke administrators, the Durham police, the Duke police, Duke Univeristy Medical Center, and Duke professors have some access to varying student electronic records.

Two things they couldn't control were the cab driver and the ATM record. They attempted to impugn Elmostafa but could not change the ATM record.

Is there anyone who thinks they would not have manipulated the electronic evidence had they had the opportunity to do so?

Anonymous said...

To add to the list of prosecutorial misconduct (from earlier thread):

"Ciavarella, 58, along with Conahan, 56, corruptly and fraudulently "created the potential for an increased number of juvenile offenders to be sent to juvenile detention facilities," federal court documents alleged. Children would be placed in private detention centers, under contract with the court, to increase the head count. In exchange, the two judges would receive kickbacks."

CNN (corrupt judges in PA)

One corrupt federal judge (removed from office by Congress) is now a sitting congressman and the list of corrupt prosecutors and judges seem to be growing by the day.

Anonymous said...

What was the reaction of Duke and Durham in the first place if not corruption? Does anyone really think that the Duke administration and the politically correct feminist faculty of Duke mean to stand for the right? Were they in any way centered in their concern for justice? I do not think so.

Debrah said...

I agree with previous comments that the justice system is badly broken, but when has it not been?

I also share an uneasiness that the same electronic records that can be used to prove innocence can just as easily be manipulated by tendentious evil forces such as those that existed---and still exist!---en masse at Duke.

No matter how advanced our technologies become, the human element will always be there to control the outcome.

Anonymous said...

New technology simply helps hide the flaws and gives "the system" more wiggle room.

But, just as new balls and clubs can flatten out that nasty slice, they still can't hide the fact that one has a crappy golf swing.


Anonymous said...


I am pleased that there are signs of progress, but I fear that the whole idea of due process is little understood. Indeed, certain elements of the legal profession and the New York Times seem utterly oblivious.

Given the penchant for the Times to ignore critical comment, I doubt that this will appear on its blog, where I submitted it, but it may amuse your readers, who generally have a passion for the legal traditions that are our inheritance.

Of course, it may be published: the Times is too self-satisfied to have much of a nose for sarcasm at its expense.

Dear Mr. Davidoff:

I presume from these two sentences, first, ” Mr. Madoff remains ensconced in his Manhattan apartment,” and, second, “cries for the imprisonment of Mr. Madoff have fallen on deaf ears so far,” that you have no truck with those obsolete notions of presumption of innocence, right to trial, and constitutional protection from excessive bail. Bravo.

It takes an unusually brave lawyer to admit candidly that such remnants of the utopian myths of the 18th century have absolutely no place in a legal system appropriate to the 21st century. I congratulate you on your boldness in articulating what the public feels: let’s string Madoff and his relatives up without further troublesome pother about due process. Sippenhaftung is where it’s at. Really, the government has been screwing around for three months, and not one, not a single one, of this family of capitalist vultures has yet been executed when, before Christmas (or New Year’s Eve at the latest), this lineage of attainted blood, men, women, and children, should all have been toasted crisper than Lucky Strikes. Disgusting dilatoriness by a delinquent, debauched, and debilitated government.

Thank you for bringing a rational and modern viewpoint to the analysis of white-collar crime: it will certainly be a powerful deterrent for punishment to precede, indeed to replace, indictment and trial. I wonder, however, why you restrict this simple and obvious improvement in the adminstration of justice to white-collar crime: to accuse first and to punish second with no intermediate delays will save so much time and money if applied across the board.


Debrah said...

What is that same N&O column offered up by Karla Holloway doing in the Dallas News?

Debrah said...

An update on the Gang of 88 Professor of Luv, Michael Hardt.

He's got an early George Michael do going on in his new photo.

Anonymous said...

Is Scalia a Communist?

Michael McNeil said...

Nature, Vol. 457, Issue no. 7233 (26 February 2009), p. 1071 (quote):

Forensic science badly lacking in the United States

The US forensic-science system is fragmented, underfunded and poorly supported by research, according to a report issued by the US National Research Council on 18 February.

The judiciary system relies on forensic science to link evidence to a suspect, but only nuclear-DNA analysis has been shown to make such connections reliably, the report says. The government should create a federal agency to support research on forensic methods and establish ways to quantify uncertainty, says the council. Forensic-science practitioners should undergo mandatory certification, and laboratories should be separated from law-enforcement and prosecutors' offices.

The US Senate judiciary committee will review the report and decide on the necessary hearings and legislation, a statement from chairman Patrick Leahy (Democrat, Vermont) says. Senator and ranking Republican of the committee Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania) says it is “incumbent on Congress to pursue the report's findings.”


Debrah said...

I know this is only indirectly on topic; however, read the second section of this page.

It's supposed to be a teachable moment.

The date on this presentation is 2007.......a year after Tyson made so many slanderous and egregious remarks about the men at Duke.

Seems Timmy hasn't really shed his old habits he had as a kid which are rehashed on that page for such a nauseating effect.

Every time I come upon another item about Tyson, one eclipses the other in sheer stupidity and showmanship.

How on earth do people buy into this silliness?