Archive | Blind Justice

Lowering the standards

Jeff Sessions Is “Surprised” Americans Aren’t Embracing...

Jeff Sessions wants to make it easier to slant evidence for convictions by axing the group that’s working to improve accuracy:

Julia Leighton, a commission member and retired public defender, conveyed the disappointed mood of the room when she spoke a few minutes later. “We have to understand the importance of this juncture that we’re at, where we’re really grappling with, frankly, are we telling the truth as a matter of science to judges and jurors?” she said. “And that can’t be put on hold. It is inconsistent with the Department of Justice’s mission to put that on hold.”

For years, scientists and defense attorneys have fought an uphill battle to bring scientific rigor into a field that, despite its name, is largely devoid of science. Analyses regularly presented in courtrooms—using such evidence as bite marks, hair, and bullets—that for decades have been employed by prosecutors to convict and even execute defendants are actually incapable of definitively linking an individual to a crime. Other methods, including fingerprint analysis, are less rigorous and more subjective than experts—and popular culture—let on.

“Clinical laboratories must meet higher standards to be allowed to diagnose strep throat than forensic labs must meet to put a defendant on death row.”
But on the witness stand, experts routinely overstate the certainty of their forensic methods. In 2015, the FBI completed a review of 268 trial transcripts in which the bureau’s experts used microscopic hair analysis to incriminate a defendant. The results showed that bureau experts submitted scientifically invalid testimony at least 95 percent of the time. Among those cases with faulty evidence, 33 defendants received the death penalty and 9 had been executed. No court has banned bite-mark evidence despite a consensus among scientists that the discipline is entirely subjective. One study found that forensic dentists couldn’t even agree if markings were caused by human teeth. Until this month, the National Commission on Forensic Science was the most important group moving forensics into the modern scientific era.

A few minutes after the commission learned of its fate, the Justice Department publicly announced its next steps. A new Justice Department Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, established by executive order in February to “support law enforcement” and “restore public safety,” would now oversee forensic science. Sessions, the press release said, would appoint a senior forensic adviser and the department would conduct a “needs assessment of forensic science laboratories that examines workload, backlog, personnel and equipment needs of public crime laboratories.” Rather than an independent body that uses science to evaluate forensics, the new administration seemed to be basing its forensic policies largely on increasing conviction rates for law enforcement.

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And justice for all

Bundy Ranch gate, near Bunkerville NV

A Nevada jury just deadlocked on all counts for six Bundy defendants brought in the wake of the Bunkerville standoff in 2014. The sniper pictured above, Eric Parker, was one of the defendants jurors deadlocked on. Apparently a photo of him aiming a rifle from a sniper position was not enough evidence to convict him on… Continue Reading →

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Another one bites the dust

US charges two Russian spies and two hackers in Yahoo data breach

Hmm. Lots of people quitting lately:

The woman leading the Justice Department’s investigation of foreign meddling into the 2016 election and possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia has told staff members she will leave the department in May.

Mary B. McCord has served at the highest levels in the national security unit, either as its leader or chief deputy, for the past three years. A longtime federal prosecutor based in Washington, McCord easily won the confidence of both career lawyers and her supervisors inside the Justice Department.

McCord did not offer a public reason for her departure. In a message to her staff earlier this week, she wrote that she did not make the decision easily, but she concluded “the time is now right for me to pursue new career opportunities.”

Her exit leaves a huge vacancy at one of the Justice Department’s most important divisions, at a time when the Trump administration is struggling to fill the ranks. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is the only leader so far in the building to have secured Senate confirmation. His picks for deputy and associate attorney general await votes by the full Senate. The administration has not yet announced political appointees for other top posts.

I am so, so tired of winning!

Supreme Court to consider gun case

Gorsuch takes oath of office

The U.S. Supreme Court, including the newly confirmed conservative Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, will soon conference to hear arguments in a gun-rights case from California that has the potential to expand the Second Amendment. Related: Supreme Court denies hearing case challenging assault weapons ban In Peruta v. California, the justices would decide whether the Second Amendment… Continue Reading →

The Trump administration lost again in court, this time on voter ID

Wednesday, April 29, 2015 – Supporters and opponents of a Texas law requiring specific forms of Photo I.D. for voters faced questioning in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The state of Texas says the law was aimed at preventing fraud, while opponent

A federal court in Texas has again ruled the state’s 2011 voter identification law intentionally discriminated against minorities. It’s the latest loss in the case for Texas — which has spent years unsuccessfully defending the law. But it also has implications for the Trump administration. In February, the new administration abruptly abandoned the crux of the… Continue Reading →

Give ’em hell, Senator

ABE_8549

Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut had some choice words during Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing on Monday, and he left his Senate colleagues stunned. Reading from remarks he had prepared, Blumenthal detailed specifically how Trump had explicitly said he was looking for a Justice who would agree with him on issues, then “outsourced” the pick to right-wing… Continue Reading →

Oopsie!

FOP Endorses Gorsuch

Is Judge Gorsuch a plagarist?

WASHINGTON — A short section in Judge Neil Gorsuch’s 2006 book appears to copy — at times word-for-word — from a 1984 law review article by a lawyer in Indiana. Other sections of his book that were reviewed by BuzzFeed News contain additional apparent attribution errors.

President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, whose nomination is being considered by the full Senate this week, has been an appellate judge for more than a decade. In all that time, he has been praised for his writing and has never been accused of plagiarism in his more than 200 opinions on the bench.

The section at issue in his book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, is a brief one: It is a summary of the facts and ruling in the 1982 case of Baby Doe, a baby born in Indiana with Down syndrome. It takes up only two paragraphs and seven endnotes in a book that covers more than 300 pages, including endnotes. The book came out of his 2004 Doctor of Philosophy dissertation from the University of Oxford.

The section, however, repeats language and sourcing from another work — Abigail Lawlis Kuzma’s 1984 Indiana Law Journal article, “The Legislative Response to Infant Doe.”

He went to Harvard. He knows not to do this.

The 5 most devastating lines from Chuck Schumer’s call to filibuster Neil Gorsuch

Líder demócrata pone en duda intenciones de Trump de apoyar una reforma migratoria integral

While the American Health Care Act sputtered in Congress, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced plans Thursday to invoke a filibuster of SCOTUS nominee Neil Gorsuch after the judge’s third day of confirmation hearings. More impressively, he urged his fellow senators to follow suit. Here are the five most devastating lines from Schumer’s speech on… Continue Reading →

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