more examples of the American injustice system

Radley Balko and Roger Kopple have an excellent article on the use of science in the courtroom, and how the current system biases supposedly scientific results toward conviction.  They make five suggestions for correcting the situation.

In 2007, Balko published an article about expert testimony gone very wrong:

During the last two decades, there have been more than a dozen high-profile cases in which dubious forensic witnesses conned state and federal courts, sometimes for many years and in hundreds of cases. The most famous example is probably the West Virginia crime lab worker Fred Zain, who from 1979 to 1989 tainted so many trials with false testimony about blood, semen, and hair evidence that the state’s Supreme Court ordered a review of every case in which he’d ever testified. It turned out he had introduced deliberately falsified evidence in at least 134 cases.

However, he really profiles one Steven Hayne, who from this article seems utterly unqualified to do forensic medicine and yet has provided expert testimony that has sent many to prison and possibly some to death row.

According to NAME [National Association of Medical Examiners], a single medical examiner should perform no more than 250 autopsies per year. At 325, the group considers a doctor to have a “Phase II deficiency”; at that point, it will not accredit a practice, regardless of any other criteria.

Hayne has repeatedly testified under oath that he performs more than 1,500 autopsies per year—a staggering number that dwarfs even the output of the prolific Dr. Erdmann. That’s more than four per day, every day of the year, for the 20 years Hayne’s been in Mississippi. In a 2002 deposition, Hayne put the estimate at 1,800.

The article doesn’t get any better from there.

Here’s an Orange County travesty:

Veteran forensic specialist Danielle G. Wieland made the charge last month during a civil deposition related to the December 2005 wrongful conviction and imprisonment of James Ochoa, according to documents obtained by the Weekly.

The allegation is just the latest in a series of sensationally callous screw-ups by law enforcement—police, prosecutors and judges—that aligned to raid Ochoa’s house, arrest him and steal his freedom. He spent 16 months in the Orange County Jail and a California prison. Later, DNA evidence fingered the real bandit, a career criminal in Los Angeles.

The Ochoa travesty didn’t happen merely because the Orange County district attorney’s office repeatedly ignored exculpatory facts. According to Wieland’s testimony, they actively sought to convict Ochoa as mounting evidence pointed to his innocence.

More from Orange County on fake evidence presented by prosecutors.

This is just a few minutes searching.  It’s not getting better.

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Cf. American Injustice System, Collection of related links

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2 comments so far

  1. Pam Kulig on

    they railroad kids too.

    http://www.myspace.com/savebrettjones

  2. lumpenscholar on

    Pam,

    Sorry I didn’t approve your comment earlier. I have been traveling the last few days.


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