Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

FBI misdeeds

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I’ve written a number of posts about FBI incompetence. It’s breathtaking. Today’s report in the Washington Post by Spencer Hsu tells of a man who spent 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commit—and the FBI knew about it long ago:

Federal prosecutors agreed Tuesday that a Washington man imprisoned for 20 years for rape is innocent and they acknowledged scientific errors in his case after DNA evidence proved that another man committed the crime.

Kirk L. Odom will become the second District man in two months and the third in three years to have his conviction for rape or murder overturned because of erroneous hair matches claimed in court by FBI forensic experts.

Odom’s case was featured in a series of articles in April in which The Washington Post reported that Justice Department officials have known for years that flawed forensic work might have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people.

Read the previous story: “One day will my name be cleared?”

Odom, 49, served his sentence and was released from prison in 2003. He was convicted of raping, sodomizing and robbing a 27-year-old woman before dawn in her Capitol Hill apartment in 1981. However, court-ordered DNA testing revealed in January that the hair fragment in his case could not have come from Odom.

Further DNA testing of stains on a pillowcase and robe indicated that only another man, not Odom, could have committed the crime.

“More than 30 years after Mr. Odom’s conviction, DNA testing reveals that he suffered a terrible injustice,” U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. wrote in a two-page filing in D.C. Superior Court.

“The United States expresses its profound regret for the harm suffered by Mr. Odom, and requests that this Court immediately vacate Mr. Odom’s convictions and dismiss the indictments against him with prejudice,” Machen wrote.

Odom, who was identified in court as the attacker by the victim, was thrilled at the news.

“Oh my goodness, the storm is over, yes yes!” Odom said from the office of his attorney, Sandra K. Levick, chief of special litigation for the District Public Defender Service.

“There’s no more dark clouds, and the sun is beginning to shine very bright,” said Odom, who lives in Southeast Washington with his wife, Harriet, a medical counselor.

Asked if he would say anything to police or prosecutors, or to the victim, Odom responded, “There’s nothing much to say except, ‘God bless you.’ ”

The Post generally does not name victims of sexual assaults without their permission.

The man whose DNA matched the stains is a convicted sex offender. He will not be charged, because the statute of limitations has expired on the crime, Machen said.

In a written statement, Machen endorsed eliminating the statute of limitations on sex crimes.

“Though we can never give him back the years that he lost, we can give Mr. Odom back his unfairly tarnished reputation,” Machen wrote. “Three decades ago, law enforcement got it wrong: Mr. Odom did not commit this crime. . . . It is never too late to secure justice — even if that means correcting a grave injustice from decades earlier.”

Odom would become the 293rd person cleared by post-conviction DNA testing in the United States, after the judge rules on what is now a joint motion between the prosecution and defense. . .

Continue reading. It makes you wonder how many people have been wrongly executed. We know of one, at least, in Texas, though Rick Perry has desperately tried to cover that up.

And note this story from April, again by Spencer Hsu:

Justice Department officials have known for years that flawed forensic work might have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people, but prosecutors failed to notify defendants or their attorneys even in many cases they knew were troubled.

Officials started reviewing the cases in the 1990s after reports that sloppy work by examiners at the FBI lab was producing unreliable forensic evidence in court trials. Instead of releasing those findings, they made them available only to the prosecutors in the affected cases, according to documents and interviews with dozens of officials.

In addition, the Justice Department reviewed only a limited number of cases and focused on the work of one scientist at the FBI lab, despite warnings that problems were far more widespread and could affect potentially thousands of cases in federal, state and local courts.

As a result, hundreds of defendants nationwide remain in prison or on parole for crimes that might merit exoneration, a retrial or a retesting of evidence using DNA because FBI hair and fiber experts may have misidentified them as suspects.

In one Texas case, Benjamin Herbert Boyle was executed in 1997, more than a year after the Justice Department began its review. Boyle would not have been eligible for the death penalty without the FBI’s flawed work, according to a prosecutor’s memo.

The case of a Maryland man serving a life sentence for a 1981 double killing is another in which federal and local law enforcement officials knew of forensic problems but never told the defendant. Attorneys for the man, John Norman Huffington, say they learned of potentially exculpatory Justice Department findings from The Washington Post. They are seeking a new trial.

Justice Department officials said that they met their legal and constitutional obligations when they learned of specific errors, that they alerted prosecutors and were not required to inform defendants directly.

The review was performed by a task force created during an inspector general’s investigation of misconduct at the FBI crime lab in the 1990s. The inquiry took nine years, ending in 2004, records show, but the findings were never made public.

In the discipline of hair and fiber analysis, only the work of FBI Special Agent Michael P. Malone was questioned. Even though Justice Department and FBI officials knew that the discipline had weaknesses and that the lab lacked protocols — and learned that examiners’ “matches” were often wrong — they kept their reviews limited to Malone.

But two cases in D.C. Superior Court show the inadequacy of the government’s response.

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.

Key evidence at each of their trials came from separate FBI experts — not Malone — who swore that their scientific analysis proved with near certainty that Tribble’s and Odom’s hair was at the respective crime scenes.

But DNA testing this year on the hair and on other old evidence virtually eliminates Tribble as a suspect and completely clears Odom. Both men have completed their sentences and are on lifelong parole. They are now seeking exoneration in the courts in the hopes of getting on with their lives.

Neither case was part of the Justice Department task force’s review.

A third D.C. case shows how the lack of Justice Department notification has forced people to stay in prison longer than they should have.

Donald E. Gates, 60, served 28 years for . . .

Continue reading. How do you describe a government that knowingly keeps innocent people in prison for decades? I would not call it democratic, open, or responsive. I would call it totalitarian and authoritarian.

This is the Federal Department of Justice: the very heart of our legal system. I don’t see much hope for the US, to be honest.


Written by Leisureguy

10 July 2012 at 7:32 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

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