Tagcrime

ProPublica Investigates Alleged Forensics Certification Mill ACFEI

For the last two years, ProPublica and PBS “Frontline,” in concert with other news organizations, have looked in-depth at death investigation in America, finding a pervasive lack of national standards that begins in the autopsy room and ends in court.

Expert witnesses routinely sway trial verdicts with testimony about fingerprints, ballistics, hair and fiber analysis and more, but there are no national standards to measure their competency or ensure that what they say is valid. A landmark 2009 report by the National Academy of Sciences called this lack of standards one of the most pressing problems facing the criminal justice system.

Over the last two decades, ACFEI has emerged as one of the largest forensic credentialing organizations in the country.

Among its members are top names in science and law, from Henry Lee, the renowned criminalist, to John Douglas, the former FBI profiler and bestselling author. Dr. Cyril Wecht, a prominent forensic pathologist and frequent TV commentator on high-profile crimes, chairs the group’s executive advisory board.

But ACFEI also has given its stamp of approval to far less celebrated characters. It welcomed Seymour Schlager, whose credentials were mailed to the prison where he was incarcerated for attempted murder. Zoe D. Katz – the name of a house cat enrolled by her owner in 2002 to show how easy it was to become certified by ACFEI — was issued credentials, too. More recently, Dr. Steven Hayne, a Mississippi pathologist whose testimony helped to convict two innocent men of murder, has used his ACFEI credential to bolster his status as an expert witness.

ProPublica: No Forensic Background? No Problem

Remember as you read this that people are being put to death, or put in prison for decades, because of the testimony of forensic experts.

See also:

This post rounds up a lot of past coverage of Hayne and the situation in Mississippi.

Combine bad forensics with the psychology of false confessions and what do you get? A recipe for sending innocent people to prison.

The Failure of the FBI’s Right-Wing Terrorist Infiltration Program

Long piece from Foreign Policy about the FBI’s attempted infiltration of the “Patriot Movement” during the 90s:

Despite the fact that PATCON was set up as an intelligence-gathering operation, no evidence has emerged to date that information from the operation came into play during the bombing investigation, despite the links between some of McVeigh’s contacts and the organizations targeted.

The dilemmas of PATCON point toward current debates over the use of infiltration, particularly in cases such as the NYPD’s monitoring of Muslim communities in New York, investigations predicated on the need to collect intelligence rather than build prosecutions on specific criminal activities. The value of the intelligence collected by PATCON is unclear in the final analysis. The only PATCON targets ever prosecuted were already under investigation by the Army, and none of the specific terrorist plots alleged in the FBI’s records ever came to fruition. Meanwhile, the perpetrator of the worst act of right-wing violence in U.S. history was in contact with several targets of the FBI’s investigation but apparently flew under the radar.

Foreign Policy: Patriot Games

(via Innovation Patterns)

See also:

The Paranoid Center

Democracy Now guests on right wing populism and Tiller

The Psychology of False Confessions

The New Yorks Times ran a story on the psychology of false confessions. Here’s an excerpt, but the whole thing is worth reading:

If you have never been tortured, or locked up and verbally threatened, you may find it hard to believe that anyone would confess to something he had not done. Intuition holds that the innocent do not make false confessions. What on earth could be the motive? To stop the abuse? To curry favor with the interrogator? To follow some fragile thread of imaginary hope that cooperation will bring freedom?

Yes, all of the above. Psychological studies of confessions that have proved false show an overrepresentation of children, the mentally ill and mentally retarded, and suspects who are drunk or high. They are susceptible to suggestion, eager to please authority figures, disconnected from reality or unable to defer gratification. Children often think, as Felix did, that they will be jailed if they keep up their denials and will get to go home if they go along with interrogators. Mature adults of normal intelligence have also confessed falsely after being manipulated. […]

In experiments and in interrogation rooms, adults who are told convincing fictions have become susceptible to memories of things that never happened. Rejecting their own recollections through what psychologists call “memory distrust syndrome,” they are tricked by phony evidence into accepting their own fabrications of guilt — an “internalized false confession.”

That is what happened to a shaken Martin Tankleff, and although he quickly recanted, as if coming out of a spell, he was convicted and drew 50 years to life. He spent 17 years in prison before winning an appeal based on new evidence that pointed to three ex-convicts. But they have never been tried. Whoever killed the Tankleffs remains at large.

New York Times: Why Do Innocent People Confess?

(via Social Physicist)

CloudFlare Speaks Out About Their Experience Hosting LulzSec

My colleague Kit Dotson writes:

In every statement about allowing LulzSec to use their free service, CloudFlare has been pointed about mentioning that while they had received queries from law enforcement—they had never been asked by any authority to terminate service. Of course, the company had very little information to provide about their free client because all that’s needed to sign up is an e-mail address, a username, and a password.

Prince describes the experience as causing several existential crises for his colleagues, after all, who wants to be described as the person who provided anonymity to a group of hackers? Still, in the end, they decided that it was not their job to act as censors when housing information on hacking subjects itself is not illegal.

SiliconAngle: CloudFlare Speaks Out About Their Experience Hosting LulzSec

Prince also said ““You can’t pay for pen testing like this.” No kidding!

Undercover Cops Seduce High School Students and Entrap Them into Selling Weed

Last year in three high schools in Florida, several undercover police officers posed as students. The undercover cops went to classes, became Facebook friends and flirted with the other students. One 18-year-old honor student named Justin fell in love with an attractive 25-year-old undercover cop after spending weeks sharing stories about their lives, texting and flirting with each other.

One day she asked Justin if he smoked pot. Even though he didn’t smoke marijuana, the love-struck teen promised to help find some for her. Every couple of days she would text him asking if he had the marijuana. Finally, Justin was able to get it to her. She tried to give him $25 for the marijuana and he said he didn’t want the money — he got it for her as a present.

A short while later, the police did a big sweep and arrest 31 students — including Justin. Almost all were charged with selling a small amount of marijuana to the undercover cops. Now Justin has a felony hanging over his head.

Alternet: Sick: Young, Undercover Cops Flirted With Students to Trick Them Into Selling Pot

Not mentioned in the article is that not only does Justin have a felony hanging over his head, if he’s found guilty of a drug related crime he won’t be eligible for federally subsidized financial aid. So he’ll come out of prison at a remarkably young age with fewer job prospects, thanks to a felony record, and have a hard (perhaps impossible) time going to college or trade school to actually get any sort of degree or skills to help him get a job, increasing the chances that he’ll turn to a life of crime. The system if effectively turning otherwise bright kids into lifelong criminals.

(via Boing Boing)

10 Years On, Drug Decriminalization Reducing Drug Use in Portugal

Health experts in Portugal said Friday that Portugal’s decision 10 years ago to decriminalise drug use and treat addicts rather than punishing them is an experiment that has worked.

“There is no doubt that the phenomenon of addiction is in decline in Portugal,” said Joao Goulao, President of the Institute of Drugs and Drugs Addiction, a press conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the law.

The number of addicts considered “problematic” — those who repeatedly use “hard” drugs and intravenous users — had fallen by half since the early 1990s, when the figure was estimated at around 100,000 people, Goulao said.

AFP: Portugal drug law show results ten years on, experts say

(via Cat Vincent)

Barefoot Bandit Federal Case Finishes Up

Colton Harris-Moore was sentenced to 6.5 years in prison by a federal court following his Washington state sentencing:

The LA Times reports:

U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones’ sentence runs concurrently with an earlier 7 1/2-year sentence imposed by a state court in Washington for his crimes under state law. Those offenses included a series of burglaries and thefts that terrorized citizens in several states as the brazen fugitive kept two steps ahead of the law. […]

Prompted by the judge to share his advice to the thousands of admirers around the world who followed his exploits while on the lam, Harris-Moore downplayed the emails he has written from jail in which he described his aviation exploits as “amazing.”

“I would say that the things I did some, I think, thought was perhaps cool, we’re extremely dangerous and terrifying,” he said. “It wasn’t as if I just jumped in a plane barefoot and started flying around. I feared for my life in those situations.”

LA Times: Barefoot Bandit sentenced: ‘I should have died years ago’

I Tasted the Blood of My Enemies in my Mouth

On Monday, Danny Chaoflux and Nova had their home invaded by a man on the run from the cops. Nova escaped with his son but Danny and the other housemates were taken hostage and had to fight their way free. Now their home is in shambles thanks to the attacker’s gun fire and the police’s tear gas canisters.

You might know Danny as the co-founder of EsoZone, mastermind of Portland Occulture and a Technoccult guest blogger. You might know Nova for his comments here at Technoccult, or for his own blog Third Mind. If you can, please help the mutant community with a donation for cleaning and repairs to their house.

Here’s The Oregonian’s write-up:

A neck hold wasn’t working. Not knowing what else to do, Rafatpanah bit the man’s ear.

“Let go of the gun, let go of the gun!” he yelled through clamped teeth.

“Let go of my ear!” the gunman responded.

The two tore apart, and Rafatpanah spat out a bean-sized piece of ear.

“I tasted the blood of my enemy in my mouth,” he said. “And so at that point you realize the stakes have gone so much higher because blood is being drawn — my blood, his blood.”

Rafatpanah lunged toward the gun and wrestled it away.

He bolted out the front door into a sea of police, his arms reaching skyward with the gun, their guns pointed at him. Unsure of whether he was the suspect, officers tackled and handcuffed him.

After scuffling with the gunman for a few moments, the other two housemates also ran out. Mooney grabbed his own gun and ammo on the way so the man couldn’t use them.

Oregon Live: ‘It’s go time:’ Residents recount struggle with gunman during five-hour standoff Monday at Southeast Portland home

Barefoot Bandit Trial Winding Down

Reuters reports:

As part of that agreement, Harris-Moore forfeited his ability to profit from the rights to his life story. He also signed a movie deal with 20th Century Fox earmarking $1.3 million in proceeds as restitution to his victims.

He still faces up to 6-1/2 years in prison when he is sentenced in January in federal court.

But that sentence is to be served concurrently with the state prison term that Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill decides on Friday, after Harris-Moore pleads guilty to 33 charges total from Island, Snohomish and San Juan counties.

Reuters: “Barefoot Bandit” faces sentencing for 2-year crime spree

(Thanks Bill!)

Biopic Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black Working on Barefoot Bandit Film

Colton Harris-Moore

Biopic screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, writer of Milk and the forthcoming J. Edgar, is working on the Barefoot Bandit film about Colton Harris-Moore. Black told Collider:

I’m finishing up The Barefoot Bandit, which is the feature on Colton Harris-Moore. So I’ve been spending a lot of time in Seattle. That’s almost done. And what an amazing kid. There’s so much that people don’t know about him yet. It’s heartbreaking and inspiring. It’s been a very emotional journey for me.

Collider: Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black Talks J. EDGAR, THE BAREFOOT BANDIT, and Ron Howard’s UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN

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