Real-life CSI: When one identical twin is accused of killing the other (In the mirror, a reminder of brothers’ tragedy)
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.
The review comes after The Washington Post reported in April that Justice Department officials had known for years that flawed forensic work might have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people but had not performed a thorough review of the cases. In addition, prosecutors did not notify defendants or their attorneys even in many cases they knew were troubled.
On Tuesday, the Justice Department announced that it will conduct the more expansive review.
“The Department and the FBI are in the process of identifying historical cases for review where a microscopic hair examination conducted by the FBI was among the evidence in a case that resulted in a conviction,” spokeswoman Nanda Chitre said in a statement. “We have dedicated considerable time and resources to addressing these issues, with the goal of reaching final determinations in the coming months.”
FBI spokeswoman Ann Todd deferred comment to the Justice Department.
In its April report, The Post identified two District men convicted largely on the testimony of FBI hair analysts who wrongly placed them at crime scenes. Santae A. Tribble, now 51, was convicted of killing a taxi driver in 1978, and Kirk L. Odom, now 49, was convicted of a sexual assault in 1981. Since the Post report, Tribble’s conviction was vacated, and on Tuesday, prosecutors moved to overturn Odom’s conviction and declare him innocent. The Justice Department had not previously reviewed their cases.
Chitre said the new review would include help from the Innocence Project, a New York-based advocacy group for people seeking exoneration through DNA testing. It also would include the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Steven D. Benjamin, a Richmond lawyer who is incoming president of the association, called the review “an important collaboration” and a departure from one-sided government reviews that left defendants in the dark.
“Mistakes were made. What is important now is our working together to correct those mistakes,” Benjamin said, adding that his organization will “fully assist in finding and notifying all those who may have been affected.”
The review comes as the National Academy of Sciences is urging the White House and Congress to remove crime labs from police and prosecutors’ control, or at least to strengthen the science and standards underpinning the nation’s forensic science system.
The last time the FBI abandoned a forensic practice was in 2005, when it ended efforts to trace bullets to a specific manufacturer’s batch through analyzing their chemical composition after its methodology was scientifically debunked. The bureau released files in an estimated 2,500 bullet-lead cases only after “60 Minutes” and The Post reported the problem in 2007.
Michael R. Bromwich, a former Justice Department official who investigated the FBI Laboratory in the mid-1990s as inspector general and, more recently, the city of Houston’s crime lab, said the review is important as the nation’s crime labs come under scrutiny.
“These recent developments remind us of the profound questions about the validity of many forensic techniques that have been used over the course of many decades and underscore the need for continuing attention at every level to ensuring the scientific validity and accuracy of the forensic science that is used every day in our criminal justice system,” Bromwich said.
The Post reported in April that hair and fiber analysis was subjective and lacked grounding in solid research and that the FBI lab lacked protocols to ensure that agent testimony was scientifically accurate. But bureau managers kept their reviews limited to one agent, even as they learned that many examiners’ “matches” were often wrong and that numerous examiners overstated the significance of matches, using bogus statistics or exaggerated claims.
Details of how the new FBI review will be conducted remain unclear. The exact number of cases that will be reviewed is unknown. The FBI is starting with more than 10,000 cases referred to all hair and fiber examiners. From those, the focus will be on a smaller number of hair examinations that resulted in positive findings and a conviction.
It also is unclear whether the review will focus only on exaggerated testimony by FBI examiners or also on scientifically unfounded statements made by others trained by the FBI, or made by prosecutors. Also unclear is at what point government officials will notify defense attorneys or the Innocence Project.
In past reviews, the department kept results secret and gave findings only to prosecutors, who then determined whether to turn them over to the defense.
Monica Guilarte began at Shapiro & Mack in August of 2007. In order to achieve her dream of becoming an attorney, Monica joined the Shapiro and Mack firm as a receptionist. During her role as receptionist, Monica was always eager to learn more and to expand her knowledge on law. Monica’s passion and determination to succeed were paramount in her move from receptionist to paralegal, paralegal to office manager, office manager to senior paralegal, and finally 5 years later, an attorney.
Monica began law school at the University of Baltimore in the Fall of 2008. While working full time, she would attend classes part time in the evenings. Focused on becoming an attorney, Monica took classes during the summer of each semester in an effort to graduate a semester early. Monica accomplished such goal, graduating from law school in December of 2011. Monica began studying for the bar exam approximately 2 weeks after graduation, while continuing to work full time at Shapiro & Mack. On February 28th and 29th, Monica took the Maryland bar examination. On May 4, 2012, the results of the bar were distributed…Monica Guilarte would now be known as Monica Guilarte ESQUIRE! She will officially become an attorney after getting sworn into the Court of Appeals on June 20, 2012.
While working as an Associate, Monica hopes to expand the firm’s collections department and further expose this new department of Shapiro & Mack. She also plans to aid in personal injury cases in an effort to help clients receive the necessary monetary compensations they deserve. Above all, Monica finds it most important to always be there for her clients, and to do as much as possible to get their lives back on track after any criminal or traffic matter they may be involved in.
By: David Zwanetz
Rightly so, drunk driving has always been, and continues to be, a major concern for Maryland’s many counties, police agencies, and elected officials. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that Maryland had well over one hundred and fifty alcohol-related traffic fatalities in 2010, which is nearly thirty-six percent (36%) of all traffic deaths. Along with this staggering statistic is information that there is an increase in alcohol-related traffic deaths almost every year. With these triggers on the forefront of the legislature’s mind, Maryland lawmakers passed the 2011 Drink Driving Reduction Act, which took effect on October 1, 2011. The question is; will the DDRA really help to reduce drinking and driving? Or is there some other more sinister motif at play? You decide.
One of the most major changes implemented by the DDRA is an expansion of the state’s infamous ignition interlock program. The Baltimore Sun reports that the interlock program has increased from approximately 5,500 participants in 2009 and 7,900 in 2010 to nearly 9,100 estimated participants in 2011. Past indicators combined with this new legislation illustrate that this program will most certainly continue to grow on its own as will the number of DUI arrests in Maryland. With $125-$150 to install an interlock device and approximately $75 per month to maintain a single unit, the business of DUI is getting a massive stimulus package with these changes. Albert Einstein is noted for saying that “the definition of insanity is repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting a different result.” With 5,500 participants on the ignition interlock system in 2009, the DUI rates continued to soar. With 7,900 participants in 2010, DUI rates continued to soar. With 9,100 participants in 2011, the DUI rates continued to soar. The lawmakers’ response is to put more people on the interlock. What would Einstein say about this? Is this insane? It’s only insane if the goal is to stop DUI, but not if the goal is to generate revenue, because that, ladies and gentlemen, is surely being achieved. Simply multiply 9,100 by the $125 installation fee and you have $1,137,500 – not bad!!! It sure would be fun, if I had time, to track these profits and see where they lead.
The old law primarily imposed ignition interlock controls when someone charged with a DUI/DWI submitted to a breath test with a result of a .15 or above or refused a breath test outright. The new DDRA will require drivers to enroll in the interlock program if:
- They are under 21 years of age and violate alcohol restrictions
- They are convicted of DUI for the second time within five years
- They registered a blood alcohol content of .15 or more or refuse a BAC test
Additionally, changes were made to how the program is monitored and how officials deal with a driver who violates. For example, the MVA’s claim to fame is that they are the first in the nation to fully automate its ignition interlock system. In other words, the fate of Maryland’s interlock participants will be placed into the virtual hands of a non-breathing, non-rationalizing, computer apparatus. Every thirty days a driver must visit one of the agency’s five approved vendors and pay to have his or her data downloaded, and any “violation” will be automatically flagged. Want to fight the violation? You probably have to locate John Connor and initiate some sort of resistance against the machines. Those found to be in violation of the program face fines, extended interlock periods, termination from the program resulting in automatic license suspension, and even potential jail time.
As usual, the attorneys at the Law Firm of Shapiro & Mack are well-informed and think exhaustively about even minute changes in DUI laws. If you have been charged with a DUI, even if your offense doesn’t require an ignition interlock, and John Connor is not available, then you should speak with someone at Shapiro & Mack immediately. It is possible to preemptively fight the imposition of the ignition interlock device as well as many other constitutional elements of a DUI case. The absolute best way to initiate a resistance against the machine is to absolutely refrain from drinking any alcohol whatsoever within a 10-foot radius of any vehicle. A cab ride from the local pub to your home will without question be less costly than a DUI charge both tangibly and metaphorically. We can surely tell from experience that every single person that drove drunk wishes they did not do so. This is the only surefire way. Save your hard earned money and do not drink and drive.
In this video, Dave Z explains how the police can trick people into giving up their rights. Dave will tell how to avoid this from happening by using constitutional rights to fight police authority.
Field Sobriety Tests
Historically, guilt was established by observed driving symptoms, such as weaving; administering field sobriety tests, such as a walking a straight line heel-to-toe or standing on one leg for 30 seconds; and the arresting officer’s subjective opinion of impairment. The officer must correctly perform the Field Sobriety Tests that are approved by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). The US Department of Transportation explains the Field Sobriety Test as, “a battery of three tests administered and evaluated in a standardized manner to obtain validated indicators of impairment and establish probable cause for arrest.” Starting with the introduction in Norway in 1936 of the world’s first per se law which made it an offense to drive with more than a specified amount of alcohol in the body, objective chemical tests have gradually supplanted the earlier purely judgmental ones. Limits for chemical tests are specific for blood alcohol concentration or concentration of alcohol in breath.