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FBI To Review Use of Forensic Evidence In Thousands of Cases

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the cleaning-up-the-lab dept.

Crime 133

NotSanguine writes in with a story about a review of the forensic evidence in thousands of criminal cases to see if any defendants were wrongly convicted. "The Justice Department and the FBI have launched a review of thousands of criminal cases to determine whether any defendants were wrongly convicted or deserve a new trial because of flawed forensic evidence, officials said Tuesday. The undertaking is the largest post-conviction review ever done by the FBI. It will include cases conducted by all FBI Laboratory hair and fiber examiners since at least 1985 and may reach earlier if records are available, people familiar with the process said. Such FBI examinations have taken place in federal and local cases across the country, often in violent crimes, such as rape, murder and robbery."

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133 comments

Whether? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40655689)

The question is which.

Re:Whether? (5, Informative)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 2 years ago | (#40656089)

This is a PR move by the FBI. It makes them APPEAR to be an actor for justice - it matters of little consequence, except those personally involved.

Another oxymoron for America? How about "Justice Department"?

4 Years - and not ONE criminal indictment perused against the "investment" and reserve Banksters. Surely, the FBI could better spend their time and resources to ensure that the entire country is safe from another criminal fraud, costing tens of Billions, no?

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/05/06/why-can-t-obama-bring-wall-street-to-justice.html [thedailybeast.com]

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/may/20/wall-street-role-financial-crisis [guardian.co.uk]

http://www.propublica.org/article/why-no-financial-crisis-prosecutions-official-says-its-just-too-hard [propublica.org]

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/nov/10/should-some-bankers-be-prosecuted/?pagination=false [nybooks.com]

http://www.globalresearch.ca/PrintArticle.php?articleId=30979 [globalresearch.ca]

BTW: The Fed knew about LIBOR fixing specific to Barclays and beyond... in 2008.
http://news.firedoglake.com/2012/07/14/barclays-employee-to-ny-fed-2008-we-know-that-were-not-posting-um-an-honest-libor/ [firedoglake.com]

So what's our precious FBI doing about examining THAT evidence?

Re:Whether? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40656883)

The deeds performed by the "investment and reserve Banksters" did not result in a net wealth or power reduction to their contemporaries.

However, ongoing taxpayer money spent on keeping murderers and rapists in jail DOES reduce their wealth, significantly.

The FBI is just doing its job (which is to protect the wealth of the wealthy). Any pretensions to justice are just media spin.

Re:Whether? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40658013)

>Implying the prison-industrial complex isn't immensely profitable for the nation's elite.

>Implying the lower and middle classes aren't the ones paying for it.

Re:Whether? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40659053)

This isn't 4chan. Fuck off.

Re:Whether? (1)

Johann Lau (1040920) | about 2 years ago | (#40659357)

Care to debate the points raised?

Not their jurisdiction? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | about 2 years ago | (#40656981)

Isn't this kind of fraud the realm of the SEC [sec.gov] ?

Re:Not their jurisdiction? (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 2 years ago | (#40657041)

Federal crimes are just that. SEC has a duty to investigate - of course. But I think we have indication of conspiracy, racketeering, price fixing and numerous Interstate Commerce issues...

Re:Not their jurisdiction? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | about 2 years ago | (#40657773)

My understanding is that the FBI will work with the SEC by turning over relevant information and collaborating when possible, but generally will not duplicate work in order to prevent waste and other managerial problems.

Re:Not their jurisdiction? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40659075)

No. The SEC does not have criminal investigatory powers. They are a regulatory agency only. If they believe there is evidence of a crime, they call the FBI and let them handle it.

When the SEC investigates it goes something like this:

Call the target. "Hi! We're going to start an investigation on you. We'd like to set up and appointment and see some papers, please. Is a month from Tuesday good for you? Pretty please. Pretty please with sugar on it."

They can *request* documents but have no subpeona power. The target can do a Nancy Reagan and "just say no". The SEC can make life difficult, but that is it.

Re:Whether? (1)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | about 2 years ago | (#40657223)

This is a PR move by the FBI. It makes them APPEAR to be an actor for justice - it matters of little consequence, except those personally involved.

Quite the opposite actually, as the FBI look like a bunch of idiots because they have to go back and check all of this again.

4 Years - and not ONE criminal indictment perused against the "investment" and reserve Banksters. Surely, the FBI could better spend their time and resources to ensure that the entire country is safe from another criminal fraud, costing tens of Billions, no?

They don't have to be mutually exclusive actions.

Re:Whether? (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 2 years ago | (#40657325)

But they seem to be... :-)

It's been 4 years.

Re:Whether? (1)

KingMotley (944240) | about 2 years ago | (#40659523)

I completely agree with you, because we all know that there is only 1 guy at the FBI, and he can only do 1 thing at a time, therefore if they do this, then they can't also possibly be doing anything else.

Recommended Reading (4, Interesting)

smpoole7 (1467717) | about 2 years ago | (#40655691)

"The Innocent Man" by John Grisham. It details a case in which a man was wrongfully sentenced to death on bad evidence.

I'm a good law-and-order conservative when it comes to things like this, but fair is fair. If someone is wrongfully convicted, it needs to be reviewed. In particular, the use of hair samples and other forensic evidence decades ago, before the advent of DNA testing, resulted in quite a few such wrongful convictions.

Re:Recommended Reading (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40655707)

"The Innocent Man" by John Grisham. It details a case in which a man was wrongfully sentenced to death on bad evidence.

I'm a good law-and-order conservative when it comes to things like this, but fair is fair. If someone is wrongfully convicted, it needs to be reviewed. In particular, the use of hair samples and other forensic evidence decades ago, before the advent of DNA testing, resulted in quite a few such wrongful convictions.

I'm in agreement with you. However, perhaps there needs to be a line drawn here, since this type of investigation (or re-investigation) comes with a significant price tag (likely to the taxpayer). Personally, unless there is someone sitting behind bars who is in disagreement with their sentence, leave the cases alone. I question benefit vs. cost in those cases.

Re:Recommended Reading (5, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | about 2 years ago | (#40655757)

Learning how likely we were to wrongfully convict is a benefit in and of itself. If it looks like a rare occurrence after testing a random sample, then we can feel confidant about the rest. If it's frequent, then we must look at all cases again-it's better for the guilty to go free than the innocent to wrongly lose their freedom.

Re:Recommended Reading (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40656391)

it's better for the guilty to go free than the innocent to wrongly lose their freedom.

Especially since when an innocent has lost their freedom, the guilty has also gone free and nobody's even looking for them anymore.

Re:Recommended Reading (3, Interesting)

kasperd (592156) | about 2 years ago | (#40657117)

it's better for the guilty to go free than the innocent to wrongly lose their freedom.

It's a reasonable principle, but it may be a bit too simplistic. So you'd rather let one guilty go free than have one innocent person convicted. What if it was not just one guilty you had to let go free, but say two, would you still say it was better? How many guilty would have to go free, before it was better to let one innocent person get convicted?

If the number you answer is high enough, then the logical consequence is to let everybody go free regardless of evidence.

Is it always better to let one guilty go free, than take away one innocent persons freedom? If you let a likely serial killer go free, he might murder another innocent person. So the choice might be between an innocent person losing his freedom or another innocent person losing her life. That makes the choice look less clear.

I don't say I have the answers to what is right and what is wrong, but I do have some of the questions.

Re:Recommended Reading (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40657363)

Let's split the difference and release 50% of all prisoners. We'd still have the highest incarceration rate in the world.

Re:Recommended Reading (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40659007)

Nice try of nitpicking ;)--put it in the right light of statistics, and it becomes irrelevant.

So you'd rather let one guilty go free than have one innocent person convicted.

Sure.

What if it was not just one guilty you had to let go free, but say two, would you still say it was better?

Sure.

How many guilty would have to go free, before it was better to let one innocent person get convicted?

Never-ever should an innocent person get falsely convicted.

If the number you answer is high enough, then the logical consequence is to let everybody go free regardless of evidence.

If you release convicts randomly, you will have to deal with your logical consequence. If you'd only release in doubtful cases (better yet, don't convict in doubtful cases), the percentage of released/not convicted criminals would be negligible.

Is it always better to let one guilty go free, than take away one innocent persons freedom?

Generally speaking: Sure. Which is more unjust: Not to convict a criminal because you're unsure whether s/he is indeed the criminal, or convicting an innocent because you're not sure whether s/he'd done it?

If you let a likely serial killer go free, he might murder another innocent person.

Why should you release a serial killer? It is extremely unlikely that the murderer that you release because of too little evidence for this single murder is the serial killer we all are frightened about. If you release one, possible damage is less than one.

So the choice might be between an innocent person losing his freedom or another innocent person losing her life. That makes the choice look less clear.

In your example, you make it look like as if every single one released is a killer who will kill an innocent instantly. These are not the true numbers.

I don't say I have the answers to what is right and what is wrong, but I do have some of the questions.

I don't have the true numbers. But if there were proper statistics, they'd be far away from your 1:1 logic.

If, say, in 100 cases where people are released there are 10 criminals (I think that's an overly high rate) and of these 10% there are 10% serial killers (also a very high number), we're still left with just one released serial killer. If s/he kills 10 people before getting caught, we've 90 innocent people released with 10 people "damaged" along the ride.

No, I don't think we should calculate people's lives and freedom like I did above, but true numbers would be much smaller, like 1 victim for 10000 released or so. To protect this victim, you have to put many innocent people into prison ...

Life is not and will never be 100% safe!

Re:Recommended Reading (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 2 years ago | (#40655777)

Personally, unless there is someone sitting behind bars who is in disagreement with their sentence, leave the cases alone. I question benefit vs. cost in those cases.

I contend that there are probably few individuals that agree with their sentences. Sure there may be a handful of inmates that admit guilt but most are either truly innocent or would never admit to guilt.

Re:Recommended Reading (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40656785)

90% of convictions never go to trial and All of those that accept plea bargains are required to admit guilt AND agree to the penalty.
Your contention is not based on reality.

Re:Recommended Reading (2)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 2 years ago | (#40656885)

Hello? This is about forensics in cases that went to trial. I would contend that those that individuals who went to trial do not agree with a guilty verdict.

Re:Recommended Reading (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40657771)

One thing you have to understand about the federal court system is they stack the books so much against you, and the federal prosecutors can literally conjure up the most ridiculous bullshit and sell it to a grand jury to get an indictment or tell a judge such ridiculous bullshit to put you behind bars in solitary (like the hacker Kevin Mitnick case where they claimed he could call NORAD and whistle into the phone and start World War III).
I've known people who have had to deal with federal indictments, and the public defenders they provide always scare you that its better in accepting a deal than taking it to trial, regardless of the circumstances. If its a difference between a decade behind bars or your life, yes, many people have and will simply take the punishment because the system is so corrupt.

Nope. (5, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | about 2 years ago | (#40657015)

Just because someone "admitted" guilt as part of a plea bargain doesn't mean they are actually guilty. Plea bargaining itself is a form of coercion, it's like putting a gun to someone's head and telling they you'll shoot them if they don't confess and give up their conspirators. Plenty of people have gone on to recant their pleas. The Norfolk Four [wikipedia.org] is an example you may be aware of. Most sensible people realize that plea-bargaining for easy convictions is a deeply flawed way of getting "justice". It puts innocent people behind bars and gives guilty people lighter sentences.

Re:Recommended Reading (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40655781)

Great plan, overturning all those wrongful convictions would make the criminal law system look terrible. You might even have to wipe peoples criminal records making them employable again....

Re:Recommended Reading (0)

sribe (304414) | about 2 years ago | (#40655959)

Great plan, overturning all those wrongful convictions would make the criminal law system look terrible. You might even have to wipe peoples criminal records making them employable again....

Thus raising the measured unemployment rate--yet another conservative plot to smear Obama for the failings of the Bush administration.

(Sigh. I guess I'd better point out that this is a joke...)

Re:Recommended Reading (1)

Klaxton (609696) | about 2 years ago | (#40655787)

Do you really think there is anyone behind bars that's in agreement with their sentence? Putting innocent people in jail is a crime against humanity. Its a criminal act committed by our society and we all are made guilty by it. There was a recent case locally where a man's family was murdered, he was wrongly convicted of the crime and spent 25 years in jail. That's horrible. We should do everything possble to make sure things like this don't happen.

Re:Recommended Reading (1)

The Snowman (116231) | about 2 years ago | (#40656467)

Do you really think there is anyone behind bars that's in agreement with their sentence?

Yes. There are people who plead guilty because they know they are guilty and deserve to go to jail. They enter their plea knowing what the possible sentences are, and implicitly agree to said sentence.

Granted most people would plead not guilty and take a spin of the Wheel of Justice, but there are a few exceptions.

Re:Recommended Reading (1)

Grave (8234) | about 2 years ago | (#40656551)

Actually if I recall correctly, the number of people who are taking plea bargains has increased significantly, meaning that trial by jury is not nearly as common for criminal cases as it should be. No doubt many of those who take the plea bargain are innocent, but believe the odds are stacked against them when it comes to a trial and would rather take a shorter sentence over risking a much longer one if they are convicted.

I suspect that DNA evidence is a big reason for that behavior, since it's popularly believed to be irrefutable proof of guilt. If it turns out that it's not so perfect, more folks might start exercising their constitutional right to a fair trial.

Re:Recommended Reading (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#40656037)

However, perhaps there needs to be a line drawn here, since this type of investigation (or re-investigation) comes with a significant price tag (likely to the taxpayer).

As opposed to the price tag associated with keeping someone in prison?

I question benefit vs. cost in those cases.

Anything that reduces our prison population is worth the cost -- we have the largest prison population on Earth, and it is continuing to grow. We will soon have the largest prison population in human history (currently, only Nazi Germany and the USSR had larger populations). That has massive direct and indirect costs to our society, both in terms of money and in terms of the destructive effect that overly broad legal codes and overly powerful police forces have had on our rights and freedoms. Communities have been decimated by having 1/4 of their male population imprisoned. Once out of prison, people often have difficulty finding employment, which can and does lead to recidivism -- prison can turn an innocent, wrongly convicted person into a criminal.

Re:Recommended Reading (0)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 2 years ago | (#40656505)

And why is it that we have such a large prison population? Is it because we have too much freedom? Are our leaders not oppressive enough. Are we too light handed on offenders and repeat offenders? Say, if you steal, your hands get chopped off as a message to others. Or, if you rape and maim, the perp should be shot to death on-site where he/she stands.

Not that I advocate, but clearly we have cultural issues that needed to be addressed. The high prison population is a result (not a cause) of this.

Re:Recommended Reading (4, Insightful)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | about 2 years ago | (#40656641)

And why is it that we have such a large prison population?

The admittedly glib answer would be growing poverty, the idiotic war on drugs (that alone contributed to an enormous spike), piss-poor education/kids 'slipping through the cracks', inadequate focus on rehabilitation in lieu of punitive measures in the prison system itself, the privatization of the prison system which leads to prisoners being a commodity (Kids For Cash [wikipedia.org] )...but there are a lot of reasons, obviously.

Still, I fully believe it has little to do with having 'too much freedom' and everything to do with our failure to address the social ills that lead to criminal behavior.

Re:Recommended Reading (0)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 2 years ago | (#40657789)

How about: People committing too many goddamn crimes? I know it's a longshot, but give it a day in court. People have free will, they know what the laws are, and they break them anyway. Anyone who can't make the connection between cause and effect should be removed from our society anyway. Just imagine how good life would be if teabaggers were removed for not being able to make the cause-effect connection between their ideology and the end result: theocratic fascism.

Re:Recommended Reading (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40658079)

Do you know what the laws are? All of them, in detail? Are you sure you aren't breaking any, on a regular basis?

If you answer all these questions with 'yes', then you probably are a scholar in law.

Another point you can consider is that the cause-and-effect-'chain' doesn't end at the person standing in front of a store, deciding whether they should rob it or not. For example, the person might be very hungry (desperate for something to eat).

Re:Recommended Reading (1)

Rhywden (1940872) | about 2 years ago | (#40656875)

You're committing the same fallacy hardliners usually do when it comes to crime. Their usual one-stop answer:

Harsher punishments.

However, for deterrence (and that's what we're talking about here) to work, you need to factor in three things:
- Adequacy of punishment (yes, adequacy. Punishment should be neither too harsh nor too soft.)
- Reliability of punishment
- Temporal adjacency of crime (meaning, that catching the perpetrator after several months has zero effect on deterrence)

All those three have to work in conjunction, simply raising one will not have much of an effect.

Though that's all beside the real problem: Punishment is not effective. The deed is already done.
Which means that we should rather work on crime prevention measures. It's actually the same as with raising children: Punishing a child for doing something wrong is not really effective - because thus it's only taught what it should not do (maybe. See above). Rewarding the child for doing the right thing is the better way.

Which means, when it comes to adults, find them some work.

Re:Recommended Reading (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40657203)

The American criminal justice has been focusing on generally negatively preventive theory on the role of the punishment. That is the preventive effect is based on deterrence. In other countries, the theory has been more varied. The punishment has been seen as a communicative function, as a conveyer of the legitimately, that is democratically, constructed principles of behaviour, and as a expressions of public good, to mention only few views on the theory of punishment. Too bad that in the formulation of the principles of the EU criminal law the selected theory of punishment is having these Anglo-American influences which contradict the national theories of individual nations. It might cause problems in the future.

Which means, when it comes to adults, find them some work.

This might be one of the most important way of integrating the population to perceive the public good. Enabling the minorities, the "outcasts" and the "left behind" to express themselves in the community and to participate in the creation of the public good might be important also. Class societies tends to be filled with criminals.

Re:Recommended Reading (4, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#40659225)

However, for deterrence (and that's what we're talking about here)

Deterrence? Prisons should not be about deterrence, they are supposed to keep dangerous people separated from the rest of society, so that the rest of society remains safe, and people are released from prison when we believe that society will be safe with those people walking free. Putting people in prison for any other reason is wasteful; it wastes a person's life and it wastes the resources needed to house them in prison.

Non-violent crimes -- at least those that make sense to remain in effect (which excludes the entirety of the war on drugs, for starters) -- should be punished with community service, so that people can work for the benefit of the society they wronged. Bankers who defrauded people out of their money should be out picking up trash and helping to lay roads, as a form of restitution. Keep the punishment short, and make sure it does not prevent a person from working their day job; this should not turn into a system of slavery, just like it should not waste a non-violent person's life by locking them in a cell.

Punishment is not effective

Not as a deterrent; some people are capable of murder, and we need to keep them separated from everyone else. Stop thinking of things in terms of deterrence, and start thinking of how to maximize the benefit to society. It is detrimental to society to spend money and man-power keeping people in cages if those people pose no threat to anyone else. It is beneficial to society if people have a chance to contribute their labor as a way of righting their wrongs.

Which means that we should rather work on crime prevention measures

Not putting people in prison is a crime prevention method. There are communities that have been decimated by "lock 'em up" approaches to "justice," places where 1/4 of men are incarcerated. That breeds crime -- crimes on the part of children who were raised in unstable, impoverished homes, crimes on the part of former inmates who return home and discover that they cannot find a job (who wants to hire a convicted felon?), crimes on the part of families who are trying to help their incarcerated relatives.

People make connections with criminal gangs while in prison; what do you think happens when they get out and face diminished employment prospects? They turn to those same gang connections for help, and they start committing crimes for money -- driving contraband-laden trucks, driving getaway cars, etc. The disproportionately high rate of recidivism among former prison inmates is well known.

Which means, when it comes to adults, find them some work.

Spot on, and like I said, former prison inmates face problems finding employment -- so we need to stop sending people to jail, and stop classifying non-violent, non-serious crimes as felonies. We also need to stop arresting people over drugs, which is the leading cause of incarceration in this country, and we need to reorganize our legal code to restore faith in the justice system. We need to stop having knee-jerk reactions to infamous crimes -- laws that do not expire, which are meant to prevent rare crimes from happening and which wind up being applied in novel, unanticipated ways.

Re:Recommended Reading (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40659195)

And why is it that we have such a large prison population?

Well, many people break the law, then get arrested, sentenced and sent to jail.

While there are far too many innocent people in jail, most of the prison population did commit a crime.

It would be much better (and cheaper) if people didn't break the law. This has two components:

1. Sane laws, such as raiding Gibson guitars for using wood of the wrong thickness, contrary to the laws of India [reason.com] .

2. A better behaving population.

Re:Recommended Reading (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40657863)

Anything that reduces our prison population is worth the cost -- we have the largest prison population on Earth

But you're advocating pruning a branch when we need to get to the root of the problem, the federal criminal justice system itself.

Re:Recommended Reading (2)

zippthorne (748122) | about 2 years ago | (#40656153)

I'd say that depends on the state of the art of the particular evidence. If the state of the art has advanced to the point that the earlier techniques are considered laughable by those of today, then it would certainly be reasonable to survey all the cases in which that evidence was used and review the evidence itself if relevant to the case (or even if the case was overwhelming by other evidence, it may be a good training exercise or baseline for evaluating the process.)

I don't think it's unreasonable to periodically survey types of evidence every so often to confirm the results. Perhaps there should even be a completely separate auditing agency with a budget for making sure that the innocent aren't wrongly convicted, and they can spend that budget in whatever looks like the most efficient way to do that. I'm certainly more comfortable with spending money on keeping people out of jail than on, say, keeping people in prison indefinitely and secretly without trial....

Re:Recommended Reading (1)

tragedy (27079) | about 2 years ago | (#40657039)

Oh no. It might, gasp, cost money to find out that the justice system has been murdering innocent people. If they've already been killed, wouldn't want to find out that you've killed the wrong person. Nope, just close your eyes and pretend that it's all fine and nothing bad ever happens. And hey, if you happen to be a murderer who got away because they stopped looking for you after they caught the wrong person, bonus!

Re:Recommended Reading (4, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#40655763)

I'm a good law-and-order conservative

I bet you would change your tune if you were arrested for something like this:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/oct/05/criminalizing-everyone/ [washingtontimes.com]

"Law and order" attitudes are fine when the only people we imprison are murderers, rapists, etc. -- dangerous people who need to be separated from society to keep everyone else safe. These days, there are so many vague laws on the books that everyone is guilty of at least some felony, and by some estimates people are committing felonies every day just by living their lives.

Until we see major, sweeping reforms to our criminal laws, "law and order" approaches to crime are dangerous.

Re:Recommended Reading (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#40656195)

That article fails to show how we are all criminals. Does anybody else have better articles? I'm curious to see if I really have broken the law or not.

Re:Recommended Reading (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | about 2 years ago | (#40657065)

"Law and order" attitudes are fine when the only people we imprison are murderers, rapists, etc. -- dangerous people who need to be separated from society to keep everyone else safe.

Fun fact: there are probably at least 6 million [amptoons.com] un-convicted rapists living in the US. The entire prison population is approximately 3 million.

Re:Recommended Reading (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40657809)

And many of them likely at the very top of our own government [youtube.com] .

Re:Recommended Reading (3, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#40658479)

That is not a universally agreed upon number, since it is based on some feminists' expansive definition of the word "rape." The majority of the victims were "verbally coerced," not physically restrained or drugged -- which may be mean, it may be immoral, but to call it "rape" is stretching the definition of a very serious crime. Verbally manipulating someone into having sex, even by abusing a position of power, falls short of the proper and appropriate definition of rape as a crime. Being creepy does not make a man a rapist.

Feminists have an unfortunate habit of using the word rape to shock people into action. At the time that the Koss study was first published, feminists had been so successful at shocking people into action that we were in the middle of a moral panic, imprisoning thousands of innocent men for child abuse that never happened (and going as far as to accuse some of subjecting children to satanic rituals and other witchcraft). We should be doing everything we can to avoid making that mistake again, not talking about the need to triple our already tyrannically large prison population.

I'll be the first to say that there are problems with the way many police forces and colleges deal with rape. I have heard stories of women who were never told about a "rape kit," who were advised by people in positions of power to not press charges, who were turned away when they went to the police, who were told to just get on with their lives, etc. That is a problem, and that is a problem that should be addressed. However, we must also be careful in our solutions to that problem: we must ensure that innocent men are not imprisoned as part of the hunt for rapists, we must ensure that there is no confusion about what a man is being accused of when he is accused of rape, and we must ensure that the word rape does not become associated with normal sexual activity.

I know two women who were raped (one by physical force, one by drugs), and the last thing I want is for people to doubt that they are victims of a serious crime.

Re:Recommended Reading (5, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | about 2 years ago | (#40657129)

It seems to me that the "law and order" attitude must be some form of poison to the soul. It always starts out well intentioned by getting unarguably harmful and bad people off of the streets. If it ended there it would be acceptable enough though perhaps not enlightened enough to actually solve the problem of crime. However, it doesn't seem to ever stop there.

Over time the person afflicted with "law and order" seems to become so focused on harming the guilty that they lose sight of protecting the innocent. They become increasingly willing to harm the innocent themselves so long as it's in pursuit of the guilty. That's where we get the fishing expeditions, cheating on warrants, crazy raids that end in dead children, etc. Because of the soul poison, the 'law and order' afflicted no longer see a need for even an apology when they get things so horribly wrong. There is nothing but a hole where the part of them should be that would tell them they've gone too far and are becoming what they despised.

Another sign of this poison is the prosecutor who is perfectly willing to hide exculpatory evidence and a judicial system that is willing to pretend that a public defender who doesn't meet the 'client' until the arraignment is actually underway and who has hundreds of current clients somehow provides meaningful legal council.

Where it gets really frightening though is the prosecutor who will actively fight the release of a person who has been proven innocent post conviction. They reveal their true nature in that. They truly have no care for guilt or innocence at all, no care for law and order, they are simply psychopaths who enjoy tossing people in prison (or executing them). They become indistinguishable from the serial torturers and serial killers of the world except that they have so expertly manipulated the system that they are paid to get their psychopathic jollies at the expense of the innocent.

Naturally, not everyone goes to that extreme, but if you sit back and examine the system as an outsider, it becomes apparent that few are truly untouched by it.

Re:Recommended Reading (1)

El Puerco Loco (31491) | about 2 years ago | (#40659629)

If they didn't have the paperwork to prove the orchids were legal then the orchids were not legal. Sorry but this is a bad example. And given that it comes from the Washington Times, you know there is more to the story. Just another attempt by the looney right to show how all regulation is bad and hurts innocent people (i mean, how were they supposed to know that trafficking in endangered species is wrong). Stupid foreign orchids have more rights that good red blooded american citizens, why, the gestapo is waiting just around the corner. every corner.

Mod Up (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40655821)

This is precisely why the death penalty should be abolished: because death is permanent, and government cannot be trusted. This argument supercedes every other argument, pro or con, regarding the death penalty.

Re:Mod Up (0)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 2 years ago | (#40655887)

What? Death row inmates get full appeals, and usually have to wait 15-20 years for their sentence to be carried out. This gives plenty of time for new evidence to be discovered, new technologies to develop, etc. This isn't Soviet Russia where a kangaroo court declares you guilty and they pop you in the head as soon as you walk out of the courtroom. We have due process, we have an appeals process that has been proven to work. Your argument is nothing more than tin foil hat and makes no sense.

Re:Mod Up (5, Informative)

whoever57 (658626) | about 2 years ago | (#40655971)

What? Death row inmates get full appeals, and usually have to wait 15-20 years for their sentence to be carried out. This gives plenty of time for new evidence to be discovered, new technologies to develop, etc. This isn't Soviet Russia where a kangaroo court declares you guilty and they pop you in the head as soon as you walk out of the courtroom. We have due process, we have an appeals process that has been proven to work. Your argument is nothing more than tin foil hat and makes no sense.

I have three words for you: Cameron Todd Willingham. Convicted and executed on the basis of junk science. Actually, that's not true. The "expert" testimony was an insult to junk science even. There was no science involved, just pure speculation and mythology dressed up as "scientific".

Re:Mod Up (2)

gweihir (88907) | about 2 years ago | (#40656897)

Simple solution: If somebody is convicted wrongly and executed, execute those responsible. I would call that fair. This will include the jury, key witnesses and the prosecutor. Maybe then they will make sure they are right....

Actually this is the only condition under which I would reluctantly agree to the death penalty.

Re:Mod Up (1)

BitterOak (537666) | about 2 years ago | (#40657291)

Simple solution: If somebody is convicted wrongly and executed, execute those responsible. I would call that fair. This will include the jury, key witnesses and the prosecutor. Maybe then they will make sure they are right....

Actually this is the only condition under which I would reluctantly agree to the death penalty.

The problem with that solution is no jury would ever convict anyone in a capital murder case. Why would a jury assume the risk of being wrong and being executed when there is no benefit whatsoever to them in those cases where they are right? If a juror is to assume a huge risk, there has to be a huge reward to balance it, otherwise they'll simply play it safe and acquit every time.

Re:Mod Up (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 2 years ago | (#40658661)

Well, yes. This just proves the point that the death penalty is a bad idea. After all, if somebody gets executed while innocent, those responsible are not innocent at all and deserve death a lot more than the one that got executed.

Re:Mod Up (3, Informative)

sribe (304414) | about 2 years ago | (#40655979)

This gives plenty of time for new evidence to be discovered...

And prosecutors, with the power and budget of the state behind them, fight tooth and nail to prevent that new evidence from ever being considered in court. On the other side, you have an (often uneducated) inmate with a prison library.

Yeah, that's fair.

Seriously though, the prosecutors who make this mistakes, and their successors, have a vested interest in never letting mistakes be revealed to the public, and sometimes go to absolutely ridiculous lengths to prevent DNA from being considered.

Re:Mod Up (2)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 2 years ago | (#40656025)

And that is why audits like this that the FBI doing are important and necessary. It should bring to light any discrepancies or irregularities, as the people that generally do these kinds of audits are separate from the people that processed the evidence and prosecuted the suspects.

Re:Mod Up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40656363)

And the rest of the country has a vested interest in freeing up some space in our ridiculously overcrowded prisons. Every prisoner is costing loads of taxpayer dollars, which is a drag on the economy. Also, of course, there is the problem of where you put actual criminals when the jails are all already full of wrongfully-accused innocent men.

However.....if jail reduction is the primary motivation (which I suspect it is, as the FBI are essentially just enforcers and therefore don't have any incentives to act as paragons of justice), it would be a whole lot easier to just release people who are in jail for victimless crimes (like marijuana-related criminals, who constitute the highest percentage of inmates). But of course we can't do that...Phillip Morris and the religious fundamentalists of America want to keep those people away from the rest of us.

Re:Mod Up (1)

vakuona (788200) | about 2 years ago | (#40658735)

And prosecutors, with the power and budget of the state behind them, fight tooth and nail to prevent that new evidence from ever being considered in court. On the other side, you have an (often uneducated) inmate with a prison library.

In my opinion, prosecutors should never be allowed to stop evidence being presented in court, unless the evidence has been pre-evaluated to be ridiculously unreliable. Even then, I would prefer that happens in court.

In fact, I would go as far as saying, prosecutors should be mandated to bring all evidence in court, including evidence that might exonerate the accused. Prosecutors should only have the objective of finding the guilty party, and not convicting at all costs.

Re:Mod Up (1)

obarthelemy (160321) | about 2 years ago | (#40656097)

I'm unconvinced. Who's supposed to look for new evidence ? the guy from his prison cell, or the army of lawyers working for him for free ? Or the police/prosecution trying to undermine their own work ?

Also, you often don't have due process, with the justice system banging on you then offering a deal.No due process here.
Or you can get a free lawyer, he'll certainly do well against a full team from the DA, especially because there are never any connections between DA office and judges

Remember the cases of those kids that were sent to juvie by a judge who was taking kickbacks from the juvie's operator ? Of all those death sentences in TX that turned out to be wrong, and TX still has the gall to deny re-examining DNA evidence sometimes ?

Re:Mod Up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40656183)

Ideally, it should be the police/prosecutors who are looking for anything to exonerate them. The reason being they are supposed to be on the side of Justice, and if they made a mistake, they should try to correct it.

Unfortunately, A lot of DAs and such want to look tougher on crime. Police seem to have an us vs the criminals (partly an aspect of training), are jaded about everyone, but there are still a lot of good people. Unfortunately, a lot of police, politicians, and such see their job as to get the criminals, and presume guilt, so why waste resources on things like checking if known criminals really aren't?

(How appropriate: the captcha is "framed". Another sad thing in this.)

Re:Mod Up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40656455)

They're not employed to find the truth. They are employed to secure a conviction.

Re:Mod Up (1)

sjames (1099) | about 2 years ago | (#40656827)

They're SUPPOSED to be employed to find the truth. They have DECIDED that they're employed to secure convictions.

Re:Mod Up (2)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#40656141)

This isn't Soviet Russia where a kangaroo court declares you guilty and they pop you in the head as soon as you walk out of the courtroom

No, this is America, where the majority of inmates never had a trial and just pleaded out on the advice of their lawyers. No, we are not the USSR yet -- the USSR was one of only two countries in the history of the Earth to have a larger prison population than the United States.

We have due process

Coupled with a legal system that makes so many activities crimes that most people cannot live their lives without breaking the law. The US government has actually lost track of how many laws are on the books -- we don't even know the number of laws, let alone what the laws actually say. Our criminal code only expands, it never contracts -- and unsurprisingly, our prison population keeps expanding.

Re:Mod Up (4, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | about 2 years ago | (#40656763)

And yet, the state has managed to murder several people who were proven innocent posthumously. And it WAS murder since executions are only for the guilty.

The truly horrifying part is the way in other cases where the wrongly accused happens to still be alive prosecutors often fight tooth and nail to proceed with the execution on procedural grounds in spite of irrefutable evidence of innocence. They show their true colors in that, clearly they have no interest in justice, they're just psychopathic serial killers who have found a legal way to do it.

When we have people like that willing to lie cheat and steal if necessary to make sure the 'wheels of justice' grind the defendant/victim without regard for actual guilt, I would say we better stick strictly to reversible penalties. Note that custodial sentences are only somewhat reversible.

Re:Mod Up (1)

jodido (1052890) | about 2 years ago | (#40657239)

You should familiarize yourself with recent court decisions that state that "new evidence" per se is not automatically cause for a re-trial. Also with who actually gets executed.

Re:Mod Up (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40656147)

Taking away 10 years of someone's life is just as permanent.

Not disagreeing with your larger point, just stating that all wrongful convictions are damaging to our society and its members regardless of the punishment involved.

Re:Recommended Reading (1)

mrmeval (662166) | about 2 years ago | (#40655839)

The FBI policing itself doesn't wash. If they're going after states it's in their interests to find something but not if they go after their own. But who would police the FBI?

Re:Recommended Reading (3, Insightful)

Jawnn (445279) | about 2 years ago | (#40655895)

I'm a good law-and-order conservative when it comes to things like this.../p>

Things like what? Justice?
How are truth and justice different for "conservatives"? You seem to imply that liberals are "bad" and not for "law and order". I live in a state that is rife with "good law-and-order conservatives" and our penal system is famous for housing wrongfully convicted me and women. You're right about one thing, fair is fair. Given that, how do we explain that it's always the poor who are wrongfully convicted? There's a lot more wrong with the system than not enough DNA testing.

Re:Recommended Reading (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40656485)

You do realize conservative has other meanings besides "Republican," right? That he's probably saying that he is, in fact, conservative when it comes to our legal policies, and thinks that in general we should conserve our legal procedures because he views them as functional?

I suppose you did realize that, but any excuse to get indignant. And the "one thing" he was right about was the only damn thing he said anyway. I don't know if you READ his comment, but he was agreeing with the DNA testing.

Stop looking for ways to villainize people, it's pathetic.

Re:Recommended Reading (1)

Jawnn (445279) | about 2 years ago | (#40657795)

I guess I should have included the part where he said "....but fair is fair...", as in "Normally, I'd not give a rat's ass about all those black and brown people in the big house, but..." You'll pardon me, but I am well aware of the coded meaning of "good law and order conservative".

Re:Recommended Reading (5, Informative)

digitalaudiorock (1130835) | about 2 years ago | (#40656015)

This Frontline [pbs.org] was a real eye-opener. The real issue is that, aside from DNA testing most all of the techniques used were developed by law enforcement and not the scientific community. Among other things they discuss the case of Brandon Mayfield [wikipedia.org] , wrongly accused of the Madrid train bombings by "100%" verified fingerprint analysis...scary stuff.

Re:Recommended Reading (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40656369)

"before the advent of DNA testing"

Even with the advent of DNA testing there are still forensic evidence issues. The FBI's own DNA evidence board has been trying for years to get the statistics quoted in cases changed to match the way DNA evidence is used nowadays. When the statistics were originally created DNA evidence was used in a very specific way, a crime was committed, DNA evidence was discovered at the scene, and DNA samples were taken from a limited number of suspects to be compared to evidence at the scene. In that situation the FBI's current statistic of a on in several trillion chance of a mismatch is correct. However in recent years crime labs have been doing cull searches, getting DNA from a scene and running it against state/federal databases. Under those circumstances the chances of a mismatch are MUCH higher, some tests done before the FBI put a stop to them suggested that there can be as much as a dozen "matching" profiles (9 loci) in a database as few as 100,000 subjects.

Re:Recommended Reading (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#40656399)

In particular, the use of hair samples and other forensic evidence decades ago, before the advent of DNA testing, resulted in quite a few such wrongful convictions.

DNA testing is not foolproof by any means. In fact cases have collapsed in the UK because it emerged that DNA evidence was flawed.

The initial claims about a "1 in 1 billion" match turned out to be bullshit. Depending on the sample quality it is more then one in a few million or less. In a country of 60+ million (UK) or 250+ million (US) that is a lot of false positives. The odds get even worse with a poor sample, and after "amplification" it becomes basically worthless.

Lawyers like to talk about how DNA "places you at the crime scene". Actually even if there is a genuine match all it does is place your DNA at the crime scene, not you. In that sense DNA is worse than many other forms of forensic evidence such as fingerprints. If your fingerprint is on a door knob the only way it could have got there is by either you touching the knob or someone copying it and trying to frame you. Your DNA on the other hand can easily be transported from place to place.

Re:Recommended Reading (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 2 years ago | (#40656861)

There are no "good" law-and-order conservatives. Law-and-order is a fundamentally flawed way to view the world.

So what happened? (2)

dbIII (701233) | about 2 years ago | (#40655755)

Did they suddenly work out that lie detectors were a fraud?
Seriously, the FBI have been an international laughing stock for decades for that one.

Re:So what happened? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40656971)

Polygraphs were used initially, and quite successfully for perp sweating and extracting confessions. Everyone involved knew it was a lie. The problem is that the rank and file of the FBI now believes their own propaganda.

Re:So what happened? (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 2 years ago | (#40659633)

Initially Hoover was probably getting kickbacks so I'm not suprised that success was reported. Invented by a comic book writer and adopted by someone still famous for his corruption - how many alarm bells does it have to ring?

If it doesn't fit, you must acquit! (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 2 years ago | (#40655833)

If it doesn't fit, you must acquit!

amazing (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40655879)

do you like buy things in China Store [coastbuy.com]

Dear CBS customer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40655889)

Upon review, the FBI overturned convictions in CSI Miami, series 2 and 3. Please return your DVD sets and we will replace them with edited stories free of charge.

Thank you,
CBS customer service.

wow good job... (2)

myowntrueself (607117) | about 2 years ago | (#40655891)

its a good job the USA doesn't have the death penalty for those crimes!!!

oh... wait

Re:wow good job... (0)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 2 years ago | (#40655953)

its a good job the USA doesn't have the death penalty for those crimes!!!

oh... wait

It's a shame we don't have a very lengthy appeals process.

oh... wait

Re:wow good job... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40658959)

Yet still, innocent people have been murdered. Yet still, prosecutors fight against people who have been proven to be innocent.

"Justice," eh?

LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40655901)

So if i run this thru my FBI to english translator...

"Yeah we've convicted thousands of people wrongly. Sorry about that. We'll look into how that happened but we'll never do anything.
This will make us look like the good guys who care about our citizens. You know... the same ones we spy and wiretap."

This will lead to nothing (5, Insightful)

houghi (78078) | about 2 years ago | (#40655945)

Perhaps in some exceptions will this lead to a mistrial. The general idea will be that those people are locked up. because they are guilty. Stupid reasoning? Sure it is, but that is what many years of CSI and other shows and movies have learned us: There is no need for due process. The people looking for the bad people are judge, jury and executioner.

What is even more worrying is that it happened in thousands of cases and nobody picked up on it.
Not the defense. Perhaps because they were lied to.
Not the judge. Who should know that.

And how many cases were settled outside court? MAFIAA and logfiles anybody?

Where I used to work, police came regularly asking for evidence. Whenever they came without any official papers (i.e. a court order) we told them we would keep it aside till they had it. This because of two reasons.
1) We did not wanted to get sued. (Never happened with us)
2) We wanted to get the bad guys as well. Not having the proper proof could mean dropping the case. (Had that happen at least once that I know off. Somebody gave evidence and the bad guy could walk.)
3) They could not come because of personal vendetta against somebody or some protocol or organisation. (Have seen them trying that as well. And no, we did not give in. We even escorted them out of the building. Pity they were not in uniform, because that would have been hilarious.)

Re:This will lead to nothing (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#40656059)

how many cases were settled outside court?

So many criminal cases are pleaded out that if everyone exercised their right to a trial, the entire system would come grinding to a halt:

https://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/11/opinion/sunday/go-to-trial-crash-the-justice-system.html [nytimes.com]

Re:This will lead to nothing (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#40656451)

What is even more worrying is that it happened in thousands of cases and nobody picked up on it.
Not the defense. Perhaps because they were lied to.
Not the judge. Who should know that.

The problem is that if the defence is told that the prosecution will call an expert to testify that someone's fingerprints were found on an object or that their DNA was recovered from a crime scene they tend not to challenge it. Experts are supposed to be impartial and their testimony is often just accepted at face value. At the very least the defence should question them on the reliability of the evidence, but even then they are likely to say "99% match" no matter what.

Cases in the UK where forensic evidence has been defeated tended to follow that pattern at the first trial, and the later on other experts came forward to challenge the evidence and an appeal was made. The most high profile case was Barry George who was initially convicted of murder based on a single particle of gunpowder which it turned out a) might not be gunpowder and b) might have come from clothes the police stored in the same room as George's before examination. He spent 9 years in prison.

Re:This will lead to nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40656475)

That is THREE reasons.

Free Leonard Peltier (2)

nnet (20306) | about 2 years ago | (#40656083)

Hope they reexamine the Leonard Peltier conviction.

To hell with forensic evidence... (3, Insightful)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | about 2 years ago | (#40656225)

...how about they review eyewitness testimony? Eyewitness accounts are known to be highly unreliable in many situations, including stress, poor lighting, poor angle relative to event, and more. Additionally, identifying a person is difficult if the person is not already known to the witness, especially if the witness is not of the same race as the person being identified. Worse, the witness interview process by the police may result in suggestion to the witness' memory - either intentionally or unintentionally.

I would personally bet - though cannot prove - that more bad convictions are due to bad witness testimony than bad forensic evidence. By all means bad evidence should be cleaned up - a recent example is identifying bullets by trace metal composition, which was recently found to be questionable [forensicsguy.com]

In the end, however, it's only a start in the right direction, and somehow bad witness IDs need to be reviewed as well. It would be great if there was some sort of independent auditing agency (independent of the adversarial justice system) that reviewed questionable convictions based on changes in what we know about the validity of evidence.

Here's [stanford.edu] a good site that discusses eyewitness testimony effects. Scary, really.

Re:To hell with forensic evidence... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40657901)

Eyewitnesses don't contribute a helluva lot anyway in most trials. I transcribe court cases and there's a lot of, "I just saw the defendant a few hours before the murder. I always knew he was a murderer, I could tell by the way he looked he just murdered someone!" Then they get objected by the defense counsel and end up having to take back half their testimony. Most witnesses get destroyed by defense counsel unless they're completely composed and do not contradict themselves and most of the jury believes nothing kept them from being able to 100% witness (bad memory, bad eyesight, bad angle, etc).

The BEST thing a defense counsel could do would be to remind people how flawed their memories are. Perhaps a clown with poofy red hair could be seated in the courtroom on the first day and the jury could be asked what color the flower on his clown suit was whenever defense counsel was allowed to present their proof. I bet most of them couldn't do it. See the 20 witnesses the prosecution has for convicting this guy? None of them could tell you if the defendant had a goddamn beard or a goddamn dunce hat on when they 'saw' him!

So in essence... (1)

kilodelta (843627) | about 2 years ago | (#40657029)

DOJ and the FBI simply winged it. Doesn't inspire great confidence in any law enforcement agency to be honest.

Re:So in essence... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40657497)

Not entirely winged it. There is evidence to suggest that Mr. Tribble was somehow involved, although apparently not the shooter. Witnesses reported that he had a gun like the one that was used; police found ammunition for a gun of that caliber in his bedroom. Certainly not enough to convict him of the murders, but enough to make a reasonable person suspect he knows who did it.

What's to review? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40657221)

Holder's Justice Department should just use the same racist legal theory they employed to drop all charges against King Samir Shabazz in order to release all the black convicts they'll need to vote Barack Obama back into office in November.

New Tech (1)

shpoffo (114124) | about 2 years ago | (#40658271)

Great chance for the FBI to use a new budget to test equipment, and smell like roses in the public

Another form of abandoning retirees? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40659183)

Over the last two or three decades, we paid the penal system to house, guard, feed, and provide medical care to these inmates. But now those inmates are reaching an age where their health is deteriorating and the penal system doesn't care to pay for pacemakers, Lipitor, or chemotherapy for the aging prison population. Fantastic idea: question the pseudo science that convicted them in the first place. "Congratulations you were innocent all along. And now we are going to push you onto the street to fend for yourself. And it sure is a shame that you didn't put away any savings for retirement. Good luck out there." Problem solved.

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