December 2011


Options: Use Monospaced Font
Show Text Part by Default
Show All Mail Headers

Message: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Topic: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Author: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]

Print Reply
Jim West <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 25 Dec 2011 10:08:00 -0500
text/plain (121 lines)
How can we trust this article which tells us nothing about the "junk science" it 
mentions?  We are expected to accept this journalist's prima facie claims.  What hypocrisy.  Apparently the point of this article is to hype new technology 
("DNA") and promote the role of judge as "gatekeeper". 

Yet DNA studies are easily corrupted.  So we are back to square one, the 
dilemma of all judge-sessions going back thousands of years -- the honesty 
and competence of the judge, jury and defense, who in this case are all 

Oh, I get it.  This is The NY Times!  The tech sales tabloid, also lacking.  
Generally, its board members share representation with chemical, pharma and 
other high tech firms who profit from churning the public.

Jim West

On Sat, 24 Dec 2011 13:40:54 -0600, Phil Gasper <[log in to unmask]> 

>December 24, 2011
>Murder Cases Put Questionable Evidence to Test By BRANDI GRISSOM
>Undigested bits of mushrooms and tomatoes from Christine Morton�s last 
>� a celebratory birthday dinner she had with her husband � were still in
>her stomach when the medical examiner performed his autopsy in 1986.
>Those remnants, the prosecutor told the jury during Michael Morton�s trial,
>�scientifically proved� that Mr. Morton had beaten his wife to death.
>Twenty-five years later, DNA science revealed that someone else had
>actually killed Mrs. Morton and that her husband�s murder conviction and
>more than two decades in prison were a tragic mistake. His exoneration
>based on DNA 
>the 45th in Texas.
>Before he dismissed the wrongful murder charges against Mr. Morton last
>week, Judge Sid Harle recounted the faults the case exposed in the Texas
>justice system. Among them: the use of so-called junk science in the
>�The courts and the sitting judges need to be ever mindful about their role
>as gatekeeper in regard to the admission of science,� Mr. Harle said. �Your
>case illustrates the best and the worst of what can happen.�
>Despite scientific advancements like DNA testing, the use of unreliable
>scientific techniques in the criminal justice system persists. While some
>judges say they work to ensure only reliable scientific evidence is
>presented to juries, criminal justice advocates say that more must be done
>to root out an array of pseudoscientific practices that can have
>life-or-death consequences.
>�What passes for science in courtrooms is not always, in fact, science,�
>said Kathryn Kase, interim executive director of the Texas Defender
>Service, which represents death row inmates.
>In recent weeks, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has agreed to review
>cases that indicate it may also see a need to address the types of evidence
>that meet scientific standards.
>In November, the state�s highest criminal court agreed to review the case
>of Megan Winfrey, who is serving a life sentence for murder. She was
>convicted largely on the testimony of a sheriff�s deputy who said his
>bloodhounds �alerted� to her scent on the murder victim�s clothing. The
>court has previously ruled that dog-scent evidence, used to convict Ms.
>Winfrey�s father for the same murder, was insufficient without
>corroborating evidence. The court acquitted her father on appeal.
>This month, the court also agreed to review the cases of two men awaiting
>execution. Both men, convicted of murder, were sentenced to death after a
>psychologist who was an expert witness in several death penalty cases told
>jurors that they were mentally competent to face execution.
>Lawyers for the men � Steven Butler and John Matamoros � argue they are
>mentally handicapped and therefore ineligible for the death penalty. In
>April, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists reprimanded the
>psychologist, Dr. George Denkowski, and he agreed to never again conduct
>evaluations in criminal cases.
>Though Ms. Kase said the court�s willingness to review the cases is a
>hopeful sign, she and other criminal justice advocates said other
>relatively simple changes could help prevent the use of such evidence.
>Judges, who ultimately decide what is allowed in court, should approve
>adequate money for indigent defendants to hire experts to refute scientific
>experts whom prosecutors present at trial, she said. It can cost thousands
>of dollars to hire experts, and Patrick McCann, a Houston defense lawyer,
>said judges worry that voters would not take kindly to such expenses.
>�They act as if funding each defendant�s efforts to have a fair trial comes
>out of their own children�s pockets somehow,� Mr. McCann said.
>In recent years, Jeff Blackburn, chief counsel at the Innocence Project of
>Texas, has pushed to ban evidence that does not conform to national
>scientific standards. He will try again in 2013 when lawmakers reconvene.
>�These are problems that can be fairly easily solved,� he said.
>Senator Rodney Ellis, Democrat of Houston, said another key solution
>already exists: the Texas Forensic Science Commission. For more than two
>years, the commission was bogged down in a national political controversy
>over its investigation of arson science used to convict and execute Cameron
>Todd Willingham for a 1991 fire that killed his three daughters. That issue
>was resolved this year with a plan to review past arson cases to see
>whether similar faulty evidence led to questionable convictions. Now, Mr.
>Ellis said, he hopes the commission will address other questions of
>courtroom science.
>�To have a justice system we can have faith convicts the guilty and
>protects the innocent, we need scientific evidence that�s based on real
>science,� Mr. Ellis said, �not some guy saying he has magic dogs that can
>solve crimes.�
>[log in to unmask]