Hair-say
April 21, 2015 3:44 AM   Subscribe

"The Justice Department and FBI have 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", reports Spencer S. Hsu for The Washington Post.
posted by MartinWisse (76 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
 
So does the constant stream of revelations of wrongdoing by the American Powers that Be herald the beginning of an age where they might be held accountable, or the end of the age where they even felt the need to hide this sort of stuff?
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:54 AM on April 21, 2015 [52 favorites]




Is "flawed testimony" code for "lies?"
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:34 AM on April 21, 2015 [22 favorites]


Yeah, I mentioned back on the thread where the cop lied about the man grabbing his taser that *every* defense attorney should lead with impeaching the police testimony with "It's well known that police don't tell the truth, so the jury should keep that established pattern of dishonesty in mind when considering their testimony."
posted by mikelieman at 4:44 AM on April 21, 2015 [44 favorites]


Yeah, I mentioned back on the thread where the cop lied about the man grabbing his taser that *every* defense attorney should lead with impeaching the police testimony with "It's well known that police don't tell the truth, so the jury should keep that established pattern of dishonesty in mind when considering their testimony."

I don't think that's useful in a trial. I think it is better for a defense attorney to pick apart the specific wrongdoings of the specific police in their specific case, and leave everyone's general feelings about police officers out of it. At least in the criminal cases I have observed, defense attorneys have taken the approach that the way to win is to thoroughly check the work of the police department. If any evidence collection/interrogation is questionably legal, they will drill down on that immediately.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 4:52 AM on April 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


" In the District, the only jurisdiction where defenders and prosecutors have re-investigated all FBI hair convictions, three of seven defendants whose trials included flawed FBI testimony have been exonerated through DNA testing since 2009, and courts have exonerated two more men. All five served 20 to 30 years in prison for rape or murder."

That's five lives, wrongly imprisoned , in DC alone.

This is horrifying.
posted by das_2099 at 5:01 AM on April 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


I always crack up at the "forensic scientist" characters on tv cop shows. (Likewise medical examiners.) I bet it's the very rare scientist actually driven by scientific curiosity who is actually working in a local or fbi crime lab. Those are cops.
posted by spitbull at 5:05 AM on April 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


And the public shrugs at another horrifying scandal. I have issues with how fact-gathering has been done in this discipline in general in North America. The Crime Classification Manual is problematic for me: it suffers from a severe confirmation bias, never considering false positives and when police get it wrong.

The field suffers from the same mindset that sunk journalism: if you say it authoritatively enough, you'll get your way, no matter if you're wrong or right, and that's not the point of the exercise.

It's about finding the truth, and when your methods of finding it are this flawed, there is a crisis, yet somehow, I don't think people as a whole are going to be marching in the streets because of it because there is no app for that.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 5:08 AM on April 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


"Nation of laws" FTW!!
posted by nevercalm at 5:24 AM on April 21, 2015


we can't trust doctor oz, we can't trust insurance companies, we can't trust journalists, we can't trust cops, and now we can't trust experts.

"Trust No One"
posted by mikelieman at 5:54 AM on April 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


That's five lives, wrongly imprisoned , in DC alone.

And as many as five actual rapists and murderers still walking the streets.
posted by Gelatin at 5:58 AM on April 21, 2015 [25 favorites]


Forsenic experts == audiophiles?

("As you can clearly see, this brown hair enhances the bass...")

More seriously, this reminds me of the reporting on arson forsenics from a couple of years ago. It turns out that burns indicating extremely high temperatures, which were previously considered rock-solid evidence of the use of fire accelerants - and therefore rock-solid evidence of arson - can also be caused by a foam couch.
posted by clawsoon at 6:04 AM on April 21, 2015 [14 favorites]


So that's manslaughter isn't it? They executed people.
posted by srboisvert at 6:06 AM on April 21, 2015 [10 favorites]


Gelatin, exactly. While I'd say the most important part is the wrongful convictions, I think it's not at all good to forget that when a prosecutor starts going after the wrong person, it means the right person has gotten away and can keep on committing crimes.

When people bring in fake sciency looking stuff to back up prosecutor intuitions the problem gets worse. Americans, while far too often suspicious and doubtful of actual science, really love the *appearance* of science. If you can bring in complicated equipment and flashing lights with complex computer read outs most Americans eat that up. That's why, despite being proven repeatedly to be utterly unable to actually detect lies, most Americans are still fans of polygraphs and will typically call them "lie detectors". Who cares if they don't actually work, they look awesome and super sciency so it must be worthwhile, right?
posted by sotonohito at 6:06 AM on April 21, 2015 [14 favorites]


Gelatin, exactly. While I'd say the most important part is the wrongful convictions, I think it's not at all good to forget that when a prosecutor starts going after the wrong person, it means the right person has gotten away and can keep on committing crimes.

Except they have stopped caring about convicting killers. The 'clearance rate' for murders, which includes 'we know who did but are not able to prove it' in Chicago is around 20% and it wasn't even an election issue . The conviction rate is far lower. No fucks are given and the homicide squad is shedding detectives.
posted by srboisvert at 6:17 AM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Next up, fingerprints.
posted by mhoye at 6:20 AM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


clawsoon: that's my friend's father quoted in that 2011 article, and he's still fighting the good fight to improve forensic sciences.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:20 AM on April 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


So that's manslaughter isn't it? They executed people.

But but but deterrence!
posted by zombieflanders at 6:30 AM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


And even DNA evidence isn't foolproof. E.g., San Fransisco, Houston, North Carolina, etc. Maybe it's someone being lazy, and maybe it's someone who's eager to give the police the results they want:
The paper discovered an astonishingly frank 2007 training manual for analysts, still in use as of last week, instructing researchers that “A good reputation and calm demeanor also enhances an analyst's conviction rate.” Defense attorneys, the manual warned, often “put words into the analyst's mouth to try and raise inaccuracies.” The guide also instructs analysts to beware of “defense whores”—analysts hired by defense attorneys to challenge their testimony.
posted by clawsoon at 6:35 AM on April 21, 2015 [10 favorites]


*every* defense attorney should lead with impeaching the police testimony with "It's well known that police don't tell the truth, so the jury should keep that established pattern of dishonesty in mind when considering their testimony."

But the problem is, as I understand it (not myself a lawyer, married to a former public defender), you basically can't. Juries won't like it and judges won't even let you. Everyone on the "wrong" side of the law (the poor and people of color especially, and also defense attorneys) KNOWS that this is true, but you AREN'T ALLOWED TO TALK ABOUT IT. Police and other law enforcement figures lie all the time -- sure, not all of them, but a lot of them -- about big stuff and small stuff, casually or on the stand or whatever, and this is a thing that a lot of people see happen including officers of the court on both sides and YOU CAN'T SAY ANYTHING and WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT. What the FUCK?
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:42 AM on April 21, 2015 [40 favorites]


I am Mrs. Pterodactyl's husband and that definitely was my experience. Hell, we had an active member of the police force who had been caught faking a DUI (his ex-wife's new boyfriend, I think) and only some of the judges would let us cross on that. It's madness.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:59 AM on April 21, 2015 [31 favorites]


Given the way that the computer forensics people testify to things that are not much more than speculation as if they were a virtual certainty, I am not terribly surprised. Still, they often manage to convict people who deserve it. I just wish that was due to the system working rather than pure dumb luck.
posted by wierdo at 7:00 AM on April 21, 2015


Only two of the six [fingerprint] experts reached the same conclusions on second examination as they had on the first.
OK, whoa, this is crazy. Can we just hit the pause button on the entire criminal justice system while we figure this out? It's kind of important that we get this stuff right.
posted by daveliepmann at 7:00 AM on April 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


How much of this is due to the false certainty of the overzealous? And how much of this is outright "testilying"?
posted by jonp72 at 7:01 AM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is this the result of Washington Post's investigative journalism? How, oh how, do we ensure the ongoing health of the fourth estate?
posted by dylanjames at 7:18 AM on April 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


So that's manslaughter isn't it? They executed people.

Aiding and abetting, certainly.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:18 AM on April 21, 2015


I am Mrs. Pterodactyl's husband and that definitely was my experience. Hell, we had an active member of the police force who had been caught faking a DUI (his ex-wife's new boyfriend, I think) and only some of the judges would let us cross on that. It's madness.

This is also why folks need to take jury duty seriously -- unlike defense attorneys, who are officers of the court, jury members are free to talk about how cops lie, and IMO, morally obligated to do so in evaluating criminal cases.
posted by likeatoaster at 7:28 AM on April 21, 2015 [21 favorites]


Given the way that the computer forensics people testify to things that are not much more than speculation as if they were a virtual certainty, I am not terribly surprised. Still, they often manage to convict people who deserve it.

If the conviction was based on speculation, how is it possible to determine that it is deserved?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:54 AM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is also why folks need to take jury duty seriously -- unlike defense attorneys, who are officers of the court, jury members are free to talk about how cops lie, and IMO, morally obligated to do so in evaluating criminal cases.

I've never been called for jury duty, but I've heard that jury selection tends to be biased in favor of people who maybe don't have a background in relevant material to the case and that knowing too much about the relevant background can sometimes be enough to get you dismissed. I'd actually like to serve very much if I do get called--this is a thing that, like voting, I think is a civic duty for me--but I have absolutely no idea how to present myself so I don't get thrown out of the selection pool first thing, and I have heard other scientists talk about that happening frequently. Everyone talks about how to get out of jury duty--how does one make it more likely that they're selected?
posted by sciatrix at 7:54 AM on April 21, 2015 [9 favorites]


It's kind of important that we get this stuff right.

It's mostly people who can't pay for a good attorney who get shafted by this so our Be-Powers aren't going to prioritize it.
posted by bukvich at 8:05 AM on April 21, 2015


I am Mrs. Pterodactyl's husband and that definitely was my experience. Hell, we had an active member of the police force who had been caught faking a DUI (his ex-wife's new boyfriend, I think) and only some of the judges would let us cross on that. It's madness.

Thank you for your insight. I suppose I *know* my "we need to just impeach them wholesale, "One Bad Apple..." thing isn't going to fly, but it was either that or "burn it all to the ground".
posted by mikelieman at 8:15 AM on April 21, 2015


Another piece of evidence that the Innocence Project are goddamn heroes.
posted by lalochezia at 8:19 AM on April 21, 2015 [16 favorites]


Summary of all of the above links + more from the Atlantic
posted by kris.reiss at 8:24 AM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am Mrs. Pterodactyl's husband and that definitely was my experience. Hell, we had an active member of the police force who had been caught faking a DUI (his ex-wife's new boyfriend, I think) and only some of the judges would let us cross on that. It's madness.

Thank you for your insight. I suppose I *know* my "we need to just impeach them wholesale, "One Bad Apple..." thing isn't going to fly, but it was either that or "burn it all to the ground".


the issue isn't the cops, or the fbi or forensic science, but the court system. which, depending on how you view things, is either broken, or working over time.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:39 AM on April 21, 2015


YOU CAN'T SAY ANYTHING and WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT. What the FUCK?

This is also why folks need to take jury duty seriously -- unlike defense attorneys, who are officers of the court, jury members are free to talk about how cops lie, and IMO, morally obligated to do so in evaluating criminal cases.

I'm just going to leave this here.
posted by eclectist at 8:43 AM on April 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


I saw this headline on CNN while I was in a waiting room yesterday morning. And yet the only mention on the FBI on the nightly news was that ISIS bust in Minnesota or Wisconsin or wherever.
I wonder if the timing of the bust was on purpose...
posted by LizBoBiz at 8:44 AM on April 21, 2015


the issue isn't the cops, or the fbi or forensic science, but the court system. which, depending on how you view things, is either broken, or working over time.

D) All of the above
posted by yesster at 8:46 AM on April 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Is "flawed testimony" code for "lies?"

Well, sometimes there's outright lying involved, but in some ways the more troubling side of the issue is just good old "bad science." The power of confirmation bias (and other typical cognitive errors) runs deep. Lots of the people "trained" in forensic science assumed (not unreasonably) that the techniques they were being trained in by accredited professionals were well established by scientific study and applied those techniques scrupulously to the samples that were brought to them. Which still meant sending lots of innocent people to jail.
posted by yoink at 10:05 AM on April 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


There's also the massive conflict of interest in having the forensic labs run by the justice system in general. This causes them to be biased towards the prosecution just by the nature of who is calling the shots ultimately.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:46 AM on April 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


This isn't limited to the FBI in the USA. In Canada, the Hospital for Sick Children runs a lab called Motherisk that has done hair testing for both custody issues (between parents as well as when the Children's Aid Societies are involved) and criminal issues. The Hospital has recently suspended these tests in light of similar issues.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:05 AM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


So I guess the upside is, crappy DNA forensics means no Gattica?

(and thanks for that fascinating link, eclecist)

I once had to write a book for middle-school kids on careers in forensics, and even then, there were a lot of scientists (who I used as sources) who were writing about how NOT like CSI forensics is, and how few cases are slam-dunks. The information I could find on bullet striations did also seem a bit vague, but I chalked that up to doing my research without the budget I needed to access/read the real in-depth stuff out there. My editors said it was ok because it was a general-interest book. But it bothered me.

If I had to write it now, I'm not sure where I'd even start. "It's all BS, kids!"
posted by emjaybee at 11:26 AM on April 21, 2015


Re: Jury duty.

The easiest way to get yourself kicked out of the box is to suggest that you don't inherently believe the police officer over the defendant. BAM!

You do have to be the first person to say this. Also helps if your spouse was a public defender and you mention that as well. But even with that connection, I did get seated once. Not when I dropped the above line though.
posted by Windopaene at 11:29 AM on April 21, 2015


I mean thanks, Windopaene--how do I achieve the opposite of that, now?
posted by sciatrix at 11:34 AM on April 21, 2015


Lie.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:37 AM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, first maybe don't volunteer information that you think cops lie (any more than any other witness, although clearly they have an incentive to lie, just as defendants do). Even if you do, however, you can say you are confident that you can evaluate the case fairly, and without bias. That's how prosecutors can "rehabilitate" even jurors who say things like they think the defendant is guilty.

That is, assuming you don't get struck anyway for being something like a person of color, young, or in a profession with a liberal reputation.
posted by likeatoaster at 11:48 AM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


That is, assuming you don't get struck anyway for being something like a person of color, young, or in a profession with a liberal reputation.

I'm really wondering how much of an effect just reforming jury selection would have. That this is standard enough as to be generally common knowledge seems fundamentally broken.
posted by CrystalDave at 11:56 AM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Based on the last jury I was removed from during voir dire, the way to get on a jury is to be a white man retired from a blue collar job who doesn't use the internet much or subscribe to any magazines more challenging than People or Us.
posted by hades at 12:39 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions.

Even if you think that the death penalty is an okay idea in the abstract I don't understand how anyone could expect anyone to be honest, competent, well-informed and unbiased enough to decide who lives and who dies.
posted by brundlefly at 12:53 PM on April 21, 2015


Yeah, jury selection is 'random'.

Makes me think, though: can you imagine if jury selection was really random, and of one's peers? You get the defendant's census data and, based on matches to that (with a bit of wiggle room), you just let a RNG pull your jurors. I wonder if you could do some equivalent of proportional representation for the jury selection process... I like think about things like this - crowdsourced civics projects, randomized algorithmic redistricting, etc, etc. but then again, I like building worlds for D&D, too. And playing CivII just to put every.single.square of the map under cultivation and connected by rail.

It calms me.
posted by eclectist at 12:57 PM on April 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was called for jury duty, and from the group I belonged to every person with a graduate degree was struck, even nurses or teachers, and everyone who even had a lawyer friend. (I was an alternate, and wasn't questioned). It was clear that a baseline of uninformed was the ideal.
posted by Malla at 1:12 PM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Why are people even kicked out of juries in the first place? If the selection of citizens is truly random, then what does it matter what you do or how you feel about things because there should be others to balance that out.
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:13 PM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Because jury results have to be unanimous. A pro-defense juror doesn't "balance out" a pro-prosecution juror, it just results in a mistrial.
posted by Justinian at 1:48 PM on April 21, 2015


The jury I was on (as an alternate, for a murder trial) was made up of grad students, blue- and white-collar workers, born-here citizens and at least two naturalized citizens. One of the cops testifying "accidentally" mentioned a thing about the defendant that the judge had clearly told him to not mention. My fellow jurors all said afterwards that everyone agreed (in deliberations) that he was an asshole, and the thing he said didn't make a difference to them in deciding the verdict.

I was called again for service last year, but got kicked loose I'm pretty sure because I'm too gay (it was another murder trial, gay-sex related, with many questions on the voir dire form about how many gay activists do I know, organizations I am involved in, my feelings about sex in public places, etc.).
posted by rtha at 2:26 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Having just dealt with jury selection (for which I was not selected), some people were almost certainly dismissed for insufficient command of English (despite the requirement for basic English only, I don't think either side wanted to deal with the three or so that weren't fluent), one for being a complete lunatic, and one for having had an injury that affected memory. The two guys with JDs were kept on, as was the guy with an MBA, though, so at least in that case, graduate degrees seemed to be fine with both sides. Professional police or correctional services contact meant you were right out.
posted by tautological at 2:30 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Because jury results have to be unanimous.

Should they be? I'm not asking to be combative, I'm just saying in context of this discussion when we are talking about forensic science not exactly being science at times...is our jury system from selection and through the trial scientifically better than other ways to determine guilty or not-guilty or are we just coasting on history here?
posted by Drinky Die at 2:31 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


IN THEORY, Judges in the US decide issues of law while Juries decide issues of fact. IN THEORY...
posted by mikelieman at 2:33 PM on April 21, 2015


That's true but I don't really see how it is relevant here?
posted by Justinian at 2:34 PM on April 21, 2015


If that's directed at my theoretical reframing, well, I think it's relevant to answering the implied question, "Should juries be rigged to return the desired result?"
posted by mikelieman at 2:37 PM on April 21, 2015


Jury issues are interesting, but ostensibly we are discussing the unreliability of forensic results.

Returning to the article linked in the write-up.. things like this always pique my curiosity:
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..
What was different about the testimony of those two examiners? Did they experience any pressure to give prosecution-friendlier testimony, as their colleagues were doing, and did it affect their professional performance reviews in any way?
posted by Nerd of the North at 3:35 PM on April 21, 2015


There is one weird trick to getting out of jury duty that all lawyers hate!

Have two of your dad's brothers be local lawyers, and have a cousin marry a suburban cop. I've been called in three times, and before I can finish the sentence, I'm out.
posted by Sphinx at 5:43 PM on April 21, 2015


Even if you think that the death penalty is an okay idea in the abstract I don't understand how anyone could expect anyone to be honest, competent, well-informed and unbiased enough to decide who lives and who dies.

This is why, though I am not against the death penalty in theory (not particularly for it in theory either), in practice in an imperfect world with mistakes and bias, I am against it.
posted by jeather at 7:30 PM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Draft the lawyers, Retrials for everyone.
posted by clavdivs at 7:50 PM on April 21, 2015


"How do you feel about the death penalty?"

"I think disbarment is enough of a penalty for prosecutorial misconduct, but I can understand how it might be a deterrent for prosecutors that systematically abuse their power".
posted by el io at 7:56 PM on April 21, 2015 [12 favorites]


"Perhaps not, to prove misconduct, an investigatory panel can pro actively ""clear"" a prosecutor because the board itself is corrupt"
posted by clavdivs at 8:23 PM on April 21, 2015


I've been on several juries. The first was in AZ when I was in my 30s, working at the University - the trial was for two men accused of some nonsensical "crime" for shooting beer cans out in the desert - the person bringing the charges owned the property the men were shooting on, but there was no indication of the property being owned by anyone and it was miles away from anything. When we came back in about 20 minutes with a Not Guilty, the Judge chewed out the prosecution something fierce, stating there was no reason such stupid stuff should ever come to trial in the first place, etc.

Next time I was on a murder trial, again in AZ, working at UofA, in my 30s. The case was against an "elderly" black woman (she was carefully dressed to appear much older than she was) who was accused of shooting her boyfriend and killing him. They had been at a bar where they were regulars earlier in the evening, had quarreled, she'd threatened to shoot him and they left together hours later. Next day his body was found - he'd been shot twice. The weapon was never found. There were days of testimony from people who initially claimed the story as I've told it, then later nearly every single one of them changed their story and claimed they'd made a mistake, didn't recall seeing either of them that evening, etc. We were locked up for nearly 7 days on that one, but in the end we didn't have enough actual evidence or reliable testimony to convict her, even though every one of us believed her to be guilty. All through the trial we'd been asked to leave the room while the lawyers and judge worked over some point or other and we were asked to ignore that remark or this point - it was a mess. When the trial was over, I was incensed because we'd had to let her go and I went to see the prosecutor; I asked him what he had that we had not been allowed to know that would have changed our minds. He played recordings of the witnesses who said they weren't going to testify against her come hell or high water - she'd have them killed if they did - of course those recordings were not admissible. Then he told me that she'd served most of her life in prison - ten years for prostituting her young daughters for one conviction, another for assault; that information was not available to the jury either - which is as it should be. Less than a year later, the DA's office called me at work to tell me she'd been killed in California, stabbed to death, after knifing another woman in a bar fight.

Next trial was in Colorado in my 40s. The case was a burglary of a local business. The man was guilty as could be and it was a good thing he was because we had a woman on the jury who voted immediately that he was guilty and stated that he "had to be guilty or the police wouldn't have arrested him."

Then I was on a civil suit case here in Washington 25 years ago which was really eye-opening. The case was a man who was claiming back injuries from being overworked with improper training at a nice restaurant. What floored me was the testimony of a physician, an M.D., a specialist in physical rehabilitation, who showed x-rays and described the injuries and put on quite a show - but every bit of that was bullshit. By that time I'd spent two years working as a transcriptionist (yes, I know, not a doctor) in the Radiology Department of a big hospital here. I was fascinated by Radiology and drove the docs nuts wanting them to show me this and show me that and explain this and where's the tumor? and why is that white line there and OMG look at that! This physician showed x-rays that may have had something that I couldn't see, but the points that she made, the places she pointed to and call injuries, were absolutely normal - absolutely. I tried to explain some of that to the other jurors but - I wasn't a doctor. Anyway, I did manage to get the award reduced to something like $40,000 from $500,000 asked.

Conclusions: You don't want random, uneducated jurors - they believe stuff like if the police say he's guilty he definitely is because police don't lie. In my own particular experience - alone - the color of the defendant and the color of the jurors hasn't mattered much. An almost completely white jury let a black woman go who was guilty but the law couldn't lock it down, and I've served with black and latino jurors and we worked on the case, not the skin color. Same from a white collar/blue collar standpoint - what matters is you need people who can grasp the information coming at them from different directions and follow the instructions of the judge. It isn't really even necessary that they be able to read - the instructions and reviewing the testimony can be read to them - just that they be able to THINK.

Have you ever had a can of soda in which the aluminum is so blasted soft it's hard to hold onto without bending it? From too many recycles, I think. I think that's what our law is like now - it's been recycled and rewritten and notated and amended and precedences set based on the most ridiculous cases to the point where we don't have any sensible law anymore. Add to that situation police, who are supposed to represent the law and follow it, corrupt, on the take, with no respect for truth or justice, planting weapons and drugs, backing up each other in lies and crimes, and now those police are armed with military weapons and a military mindset - and where are we going now if not to hell in a handbasket?

My advice to everyone is to keep your head down - but never ever expect justice in a trial, and don't condemn a jury if their verdict isn't what you think it should be - it's not the jurors, it's the law.
posted by aryma at 8:27 PM on April 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Defense attorney Scott Greenfield, on why the solution to the forensic junk science problem is easy, but impossible:

"What the law should do is proclaim that all science in the courtroom be halted, that no expert be allowed to testify, until it can be scrutinized as Lander suggests. Except we all know that most of it won’t pass muster. Then what will we do? Our system of convictions depends on our maintaining the belief that we have the right criminal, and that belief depends on our acceptance of junk science which has become the accepted method of proof."
posted by decathecting at 8:53 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Notably, this news comes on the heels of the FBI abandoning bullet matching and arson pseudoscience.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:57 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


And now there are questions about the accuracy of some breathalyzers.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:11 AM on April 23, 2015


Well, these forensic "scientists" have effectively committed fraud, yes? Clearly they should be liable both in a civil suit and in criminal court for fraud and contempt of court?
posted by Freen at 2:41 PM on April 23, 2015


but I have absolutely no idea how to present myself so I don't get thrown out of the selection pool first thing

I've only been called to jury duty once (being non-resident military for most of the previous 20 years). During voir dire, both attorneys asked a lot of hypothetical scenarios followed up by "would you say that means X?" type questions. They were kind of group questions where you could raise your hand and answer if you wanted, and maybe they would pick a few people specifically to answer after that. They ended almost every question with "anyone else want to say anything about that?" Very open-ended.

I was in a crowd of such enthusiastically dead-sure but logically-challenged folks that I couldn't keep my mouth shut. Nearly every question I'd hear such ridiculous answers with multiple me-toos I'd have to raise my hand just to inject a little sanity. In almost every scenario, the actual correct answer was "it very well could indicate that, but it doesn't necessarily prove it."

They kicked out all the over-eager amateur lawyers and anyone who had their mind made up guilty or innocent before even hearing anything about the case (and there were some obvious ones of those.) Me? Bam! Jury foreman.

So, sample size of one, etc., but there's an idea.
posted by ctmf at 8:47 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


We need a fast track for reversing all the convictions a government agency, prosecutor, cop, CI, etc. was involved in when they're discredited, such as by discovering lies under oath.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:04 PM on April 23, 2015


Doesn't this also indicate complete institutional disdain for the judicial system by the FBI?
posted by Jode at 6:28 AM on April 24, 2015


We need a fast track for reversing all the convictions a government agency, prosecutor, cop, CI, etc. was involved in when they're discredited, such as by discovering lies under oath.

I urge everyone who gets the opportunity to vote for judges to vote against all incumbents. ALL police lie under oath. Prosecutors are fantastically dishonest. Judges develop working relationships with these professional dissemblers and enable them in countless ways. It should not be a position with anything resembling job security.
posted by clarknova at 1:15 AM on April 26, 2015 [2 favorites]








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