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This Just In-

 

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit. —Aristotle

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DNA EXONERATION COUNT: 337 wrongfully accused individuals have been set free as a consequence of DNA testing.

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RECENT EXONERATIONS:

John Grega: August 21, 2013 after a wrongful conviction and nearly 18 years in prison. Congratulations to Mr. Grega and his tireless attorney, Ian Carleton! The remarkable story behind this case—including the contributing role of Spence Forensic Resources has been posted in the Most Fascinating Criminal Cases section of this website. Additionally, this compelling story has been published on Dr. Spence's blog, entitled:

DNA Technology and Our Criminal Justice System

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Recent items of interest have been collected from the internet and provided below. In the event that you wish to alert SFR to articles for “This Just In….” please do not hesitate to submit a link to: mike@spenceforensics.com

Various articles focusing on classic criminal cases can veiwed here on this website at: Most Fascinating Criminal Cases

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Documentary on Eddie Lowery

to air on MSNBC

“The Disturbing Case of Eddie Lowery” airs on MSNBC, Friday, December 16 at 8 pm Mountain time. Lowery was wrongfully convicted of rape in 1981 and spent ten years in prison. The documentary reveals the story of his long road to justice.

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NEW MEXICO LAWMAKERS APPROVE EXPANSION OF DNA'S ROLE IN THEIR CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM.

The New Mexico Legislature recently approved a measure that will expand DNA testing in their state. DNA testing of suspects will soon include NOT just individuals arrested for certain felonies, ...but those arrested for all felonies-including drug charges. The measure was emphatically backed by New Mexico's Governor, Susana Martinez. Spence Forensic Resources (SFR) supports this expansion of "Katie's Law", .... a measure that was initiated in memory of Kathryn Sepich, a New Mexico State University student who was murdered in 2003. The new legislation will help to link dangerous offenders to unsolved crimes. The measure will also shed more light on the many cases involving individuals who have been wrongfully accused. Katie's Law..

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WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION

Integrity is achieved through truth. Every individual taking the witness stand is compelled to take the oath. How might an expert witness compromise his/her integrity? For an informative recent article exploring this issue, please take a look at North Carolina Crime Labs..

An expert witness is certain to damage his/her integrity as a consequence of offering misleading information while under oath (even if the deception is EVER so subtle). For example, it would be misleading for me to testify that I once worked for the Indiana Department of Public Safety. This is not accurate. I was employed for four years as a Forensic Biologist with the Indiana State Police. I WAS paid by the state of Indiana and our little lab in Evansville was a LAW ENFORCEMENT FACILITY.

When prosecutors or  police investigators called me or e-mailed me at the crime lab, I freely communicated with them about my examination of the case evidence. If any person associated with the defense attempted to contact me (none ever did) I was under the same strict orders to provide NO information. Instead, I was compelled to direct the caller to my supervisor in Indianapolis.

When I testified, .....who do you suppose I testified for....? The prosecution? Wrong, .... the defense? Wrong, ....the victim? Wrong, .... give up? I testified strictly according to the TRUTH. This IS integrity.

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Will there be a repeat of the Cameron Todd Willingham catastrophe? THIS TIME, A death row inmate battles Pennsylvania ‘fire whisperers’.

What is a ‘fire whisperer’ anyway? Credit for coining this phrase can be granted to Harrisburg, PA attorney, and multidiscipline forensics expert, Justin J. McShane. Please review a superbly crafted, but quite unflattering bullet list definition of Fire Whisperers--Justin McShane.

In 2004, Cameron Todd Willingham of Corsicana, Texas, was put to death by lethal injection. In 1992, Willingham was convicted of what prosecutors were calling a "triple homicide." Fire whisperers in Texas had convinced authorities that Willingham had set fire to his own home, which led to the death of his three small children.

The circumstances of Daniel Dougherty (Waynesburg, Pennsylvania), were quite similar to those of Willingham. Both fathers were avid consumers of alcohol. Both were prone to engaging in quarrels with their wives. Neither was highly regarded by law enforcement investigators. Nobody seems to question that both Dougherty and Willingham felt deep love for their children.

Each father suffered the horror of watching a fire swallow their home with their children trapped inside. In 2000, Dougherty was found guilty of intentionally starting fires in his home. The blaze killed his two sons, four-year-old Danny, and three-year-old Johnny. Interestingly, it took police 14 years to arrest Dougherty. This event took place when his estranged wife suddenly claimed that he had confessed the crime to her. Dougherty is now the latest death row innmate victimized by junk science..

In July, 2010, Texas state board admitted in a preliminary report that flawed arson science was used in Willingham's investigation. It has become painfully apparent that the state of Texas has executed an innocent man.

Similar to Willingham, Dougherty has maintained his innocence from the start. Also similar to Willingham, he is trying to prove that he is yet another victim of flawed arson science, ...coming from the mouths of fire whisperers.

"We have an innocent man on death row who has been languishing there, and there is absolutely no evidence that a crime occurred," said his attorney, David Fryman. As part of an appeal for post-conviction relief, two arson investigators have re-examined the evidence. They found "no conclusive indicators of arson".

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Spence Forensic Resources strongly recommends that you get your hands on a copy of Conviction, a recently released Tony Goldwyn film. This is the story of Ken Waters. In 1983, Ken was convicted of a homicide in Ayer, Massachusetts. His sister, Betty Anne Waters, was an unemployed single mother at the time of the wrongful conviction. The woman put herself through law school-earning an opportunity to fight for Ken's life. After 18 years in prison, Ken was exonerated on June 19, 2001, yet another consequence of DNA testing. The film stars Sam Rockwell as Waters and Hilary Swank as his sister.

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48 Hours-Mystery

"The girl who knew too Much"

Originally aired March 13, 2010, updated January 1, 2011.

Joshua Kezer's Story-48 Hours

Benton, Missouri: November 8, 1992, 19-year-old Mischelle Lawless was found bludgeoned and shot to death in her car.

Four months after Mischelle’s murder, law enforcement investigators believed that they had uncovered a break in the case. Various criminals at the county jail reported that a 17-year-old inmate from Illinois had confessed to killing Mischelle. The inmate, Joshua Kezer, was charged with the first-degree murder. Mischelle's family and friends were stunned. None of them had ever heard of Kezer.

No physical evidence tied Kezer to the murder, but the prosecutor told the jury that luminol tests showed there was blood on Josh’s jacket and in a car he was driving.

At the end of the trial, the jury came back with its verdict in just 3 1/2 hours, finding Kezer guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Mischelle Lawless. Josh Kezer was sentenced to 60 years in prison.

Referring to one of the prosecution’s key witnesses (a drug dealer), Kezer lamented, "They chose to rely on the credibility of a man who first claimed that it was a light-skinned black man, then a car load of Mexicans…and they finally settled on a pale white kid from Illinois."

As for those jailhouse informants who claimed Kezer had confessed, …..after getting better deals in exchange for their testimony, three later admitted that they had lied.

To top it all off, those positive luminol test results from Kezer's leather jacket and car turned out to be falsified. There was no blood on those evidence items.

In December 2008, after spending more than 15 years in prison, Joshua Kezer finally got what he wanted: Judge Richard Callahan agreed to review his case. On February 17, 2009, Judge Richard Callahan issued his ruling. "I’ve spent my life in the justice system," Judge Callahan said. "And so I was embarrassed for our system."

Judge Callahan, now the U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Missouri, was so disturbed by what he saw that he did something very unusual: instead of ordering a new trial, he went ahead and declared Josh Kezer an innocent man. The very next day, Josh Kezer walked out of prison - a free man for the first time in 16 years.

In an interview with 48 Hours, Callahan remarked, "The system made a big mistake in the case of Josh Kezer."

Both the prosecutor - Kenneth Hulshof - and former Sheriff Bill Ferrell have declined "48 Hours'" requests for interviews, but in court documents, Ferrell denies any wrongdoing and Holshof has said publicly that he still believes Kezer’s guilty.

Joshua Kezer sued Scott County and former Sheriff Bill Ferrell for wrongful arrest. They settled the case for several million dollars.

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Eyewitness: How Accurate Is

Visual Memory?

Lesley Stahl Reports On Flaws In Eyewitness Testimony That Lead To Wrong Convictions

This was an episode of 60 Minutes that originally aired March 8, 2009. I enjoyed watching a replay of that episode--September 26, 2010. Investigate the story-Jennifer Thompson and Ronald Cotten.

You should also get your hands on the New York Times Bestseller, Picking Cotton.

"This book will break your heart and lift it up again….
a touching and beautiful example of the power of faith and forgiveness. Its message of hope should reverberate far beyond the halls of justice."

--Helen Prejean, CSJ, Author of Dead Man Walking

If you ever had doubts about the devestating impact of wrongful convictions, .....you need to hear this story and share it with others.

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RECENT EXONERATIONS:

John Grega: August 21, 2013 after a wrongful conviction and nearly 18 years in prison. Congratulations to Mr. Grega and his tireless attorney, Ian Carleton!

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Calvin Wayne Cunningham: Exonerated in Virginia on April 13, 2011 after a wrongful conviction and 7 years in prison.

DNA tests conducted as part of Virginia's one-of-a-kind post-conviction DNA testing program have exonerated Calvin Wayne Cunningham. He is the third man exonerated since former Gov. Mark Warner ordered testing five years ago of all biological evidence discovered in files from 1973 through 1988.. Cunningham was incarcerated within the Hardee Correctional Institute, largely, as a result of witness misidentification.

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Derrick Williams: Exonerated in Florida on April 4, 2011 after a wrongful conviction and 18 years in prison.

Mr. Williams was the thirteenth person exonerated by DNA in the state of Florida. He spent all of those years incarcerated within the Hardee Correctional Institute, largely, as a result of witness misidentification.

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Conelius Dupree Jr.: Exonerated in Dallas, Texas on January 4, 2011. This was the 21st DNA-based Dallas County exoneration. Mr. Dupree was in prison for 30 years--you heard right, ....THIRTY YEARS! The man could have cut his prison term short on two occasions. But Cornelius refused to have a forced 'sex offender' label permanently stamped on his reputation. Mr. Dupree's refusal proved to be well-founded as post-conviction DNA testing has, once again, proven a man to be innocent.

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John Kenneth Watkins: Exonerated in Arizona on December 14, 2010 after a wrongful conviction and 6 years in prison.

Yet another among the seemingly endless stream of coerced, false confessions.

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Maurice Patterson: Exonerated in Chicago on October 8, 2010 after a wrongful murder conviction and 6 years in prison.

Like many defendants do, Maurice Patterson insisted he was innocent of murder at his sentencing in 2004. But he made an unusual vow that day that he would someday return to the same courtroom after proving his innocence.

"...if I come back ... next month or a year, or five years, I will be back and are you going to apologize to me?" Patterson asked, according to a transcript of the sentencing hearing made available by his attorneys. "...Because I didn't kill that man. I never saw that man, never in my life."

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Bobby Ray Dixon, Phillip Bivens, and Larry Ruffin: Exonerated in Mississippi on September 15, 2010 after a wrongful conviction and 30 years in prison. Note: Ruffin died in prison after 22 years of incarceration.

Another case of coerced false confessions.

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Anthony Johnson: Exonerated in Louisiana on September 15, 2010 after a wrongful conviction and 22 years in prison.

In 1986, Anthony Johnson was wrongfully convicted of the 1984 stabbing and sexual assault of his girlfriend. His conviction came as a result of faulty a faulty police interrogation that was later discredited. DNA testing on fingernail scrapings taken from the victim's body showed that a serial killer known to police at the time of Mr. Johnson's trial was the real perpetrator. The serial killer subsequently killed two other women and bragged about committing the murder.

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May 5, 2010

Raymond Towler: Wrongfully incarcerated 1981-2010, Cleveland, Ohio. Raymond was accused and convicted of kidnapping two children. Wielding a gun, the actual perpetrator assaulted a 12-year-old boy, and raped a 11-year-old girl. Three weeks after the crime, both victims chose Raymond’s mug shot from a photo array, although it took each child 10-15 minutes to ‘finalize’ their selection. Two other witnesses who saw the perpetrator that day also chose Raymond’s photo from an array. In contrast, several witnesses corroborated the fact that Raymond was at home when the crimes took place. The only physical evidence presented at the trial came from a forensic analyst who had microscopically examined a hair combed from the victim. He testified that the hair appeared to be a pubic hair and was a “negro” hair. The female victim was white.  The analyst said, however, that the hair did not possess a sufficient number of unique individual characteristics to be linked to Mr. Towler. Despite Raymond’s alibi and the lack of physical evidence tying him to the crime, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. After years of legal maneuvering, male-based Y-STR DNA test results from the girl’s underwear excluded Raymond Towler as the perpetrator, FINALLY clearing him of the crime. Raymond was 24 years old when he was convicted, and 52 on the day of his release.

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August 27, 2010

During August 2010, the Raleigh, North Carolina publication, News & Observer, released a four-part investigative series centering on the state crime lab network. Please read the astounding, detailed results of this examination of the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI). Public defenders and private attorneys in North Carolina (and other states) need to carefully scrutinize the standard practices utilized by their ‘law enforcement controlled’ forensic science facilities.

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July 23, 2010

Online DNA tests are no more accurate than horoscopes

Online DNA genealogy testing is a colossal worldwide scam that continues to be perpetrated on unwary consumers. More info is available on the DNA Ancestry Con-Game. These unethical profiteering companies HAVE NOW BEEN EXPOSED in a more recent, ill-conceived scam--personalized medical testing.

An investigation conducted by the Government Accountability Office REVEALED THAT THE DNA TEST RESULTS ARE OFTEN CONTRADICTORY. On July 22, 2010, the lead investigator testified before members of Congress. The testimony established that personalized DNA tests claiming to predict certain inheritable diseases are misleading and offer little or no useful information. The undercover investigation found that four genetic testing companies delivered contradictory predictions based on the same person's DNA. Investigators also found that test results often contradicted patients' actual medical histories.

Some people simply have NO sense of shame.

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