Later On

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

Archive for July 29th, 2014

The FBI and DoJ simply don’t give a shit about innocent people in prison

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No skin off their noses, they figure—and doing anything about it is a lot of bother, so they stall. Spencer Hsu writes in the Washington Post:

Nearly every criminal case reviewed by the FBI and the Justice Department as part of a massive investigation started in 2012 of problems at the FBI lab has included flawed forensic testimony from the agency, government officials said.

The findings troubled the bureau, and it stopped the review of convictions in August. Case reviews resumed this month at the order of the Justice Department, the officials said.

U.S. officials began the inquiry after The Washington Post reported two years ago that flawed forensic evidence involving microscopic hair matches might have led to the convictions of hundreds of potentially innocent people. Most of those defendants never were told of the problems in their cases.

The inquiry includes 2,600 convictions and 45 death-row cases from the 1980s and 1990s in which the FBI’s hair and fiber unit reported a match to a crime scene sample before DNA testing of hair became common. The FBI had reviewed about 160 cases before it stopped, officials said.

The investigation resumed after the Justice Department’s inspector general excoriated the department and the FBI for unacceptable delays and inadequate investigation in a separate inquiry from the mid-1990s. The inspector general found in that probe that three defendants were executed and a fourth died on death row in the five years it took officials to reexamine 60 death-row convictions that were potentially tainted by agent misconduct, mostly involving the same FBI hair and fiber analysis unit now under scrutiny.

“I don’t know whether history is repeating itself, but clearly the [latest] report doesn’t give anyone a sense of confidence that the work of the examiners whose conduct was first publicly questioned in 1997 was reviewed as diligently and promptly as it needed to be,” said Michael R. Bromwich, who was inspector general from 1994 to 1999 and is now a partner at the Goodwin Procter law firm.

Bromwich would not discuss any aspect of the current review because he is a pro bono adviser to the Innocence Project, which along with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is assisting the government effort under an agreement not to talk about the review. Still, he added, “Now we are left 18 years [later] with a very unhappy, unsatisfying and disquieting situation, which is far harder to remedy than if the problems had been addressed promptly.”

Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole this month ordered that reviews resume under the original terms, officials said.

According to the FBI, the delay resulted, in part, “from a vigorous debate that occurred within the FBI and DOJ about the appropriate scientific standards we should apply when reviewing FBI lab examiner testimony — many years after the fact.” [Tjat makes no sense whatsoeve. – LG] . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

According to a Justice Department spokesperson, officials in August completed reviews and notified a first wave of defendants in 23 cases, including 14 death-penalty cases, that FBI examiners “exceeded the limits of science” when they linked hair to crime-scene evidence.

However, concerned that errors were found in the “vast majority” of cases, the FBI re-started the review, grinding the process to a halt, said a government official who was briefed on the process. The Justice Department objected in January, but a standoff went unresolved until this month.

After more than two years, the review will have addressed about 10 percent of the 2,600 questioned convictions, and perhaps two-thirds of questioned death-row cases.

The department is notifying defendants about errors in two more death-penalty cases, and in 134 non-capital cases over the next month, and will complete evaluations of 98 other cases by early October, including 14 more death-penalty cases.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2014 at 7:15 pm

“The Federal Marijuana Ban Is Rooted in Myth and Xenophobia”

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Another excellent column in the NY Times series on marijuana.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2014 at 7:00 pm

Posted in Drug laws

Late posting of early shave—and it was terrific

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SOTD 29 July 2014

I haven’t used the Ecotools brush for a while, so this morning it was its usual terrific self, working up a wonderful lather on my face—I still can’t figure out how it works up that stiffish, thick consistency so easily—and feeling oh-so-soft. I know it’s not to everyone’s taste, but I do like it a lot.

The Grandstaff I figured out is the Holy Smokes! fragrance: “A pungent blend of Tobacco, Almond, Vanilla, and Clove.” Extremely nice, in fact.

The Above The Tie R1 razor definitely belongs to the “mild-aggressive” category and left me with a flawless BBS face.

A good splash of Klar Seifen Klassik aftershave, and I’m ready for the day. It’s too bad that the printing on the bottle dissolves in the aftershave, but I do know what it is.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2014 at 10:55 am

Posted in Shaving

NRA’s murder mystery

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Interesting that the NRA’s lead counsel was convicted of murder, later released because the police (in effect) did not advise him of his rights. David Gilson has the report in Mother Jones:

Shortly before dark on the evening of April 17, 1963, Robert J. Dowlut went looking for a gun inside the city cemetery in South Bend, Indiana. Making his way through the headstones, he stopped in front of the abandoned Studebaker family mausoleum. He knelt by the front right corner of the blocky gray monument and lifted a stone from the damp ground. Then, as one of the two police detectives accompanying him later testified, the 17-year-old “used his hands and did some digging.” He unearthed a revolver and ammunition. As Dowlut would later tell a judge, the detectives then took the gun, “jammed it in my hand,” and photographed him. “They were real happy.”

Two days earlier, a woman named Anna Marie Yocum had been murdered in her South Bend home. An autopsy determined she had been shot three times, once through the chest and twice in the back, likely at close range as she’d either fled or fallen down the stairs from her apartment. Two .45-caliber bullets had pierced her heart.

Less than an hour after her body was found, two police officers had gone to Dowlut’s home and asked him to help locate Yocum’s 16-year-old daughter, whom he’d dated. After a short, fruitless search, the officers took him to police headquarters. Though Dowlut was booked as a material witness, investigators soon came to suspect that the tall, polite Army private, home on a two-week leave, had killed Yocum. After a day of intense questioning, Dowlut allegedly broke down and confessed in detail to the murder as well as to a botched robbery attempt earlier the same night in which the owner of a pawnshop was seriously wounded.

At first, Dowlut insisted that he’d thrown his gun into the St. Joseph River, but the detectives kept pushing. One officer, Dowlut later testified, “just grabbed me by the shirt, told me that I was a son of a bitch, and that I’d better show them where the gun was really at.” Not long afterward, Dowlut told his interrogators that he’d lied: “I said the gun was in the city cemetery.” According to one detective, Dowlut reeled off the weapon’s serial number from memory.

The gun Dowlut unearthed less than a half mile from the murder scene was a Webley Mark VI, a British-made six-shot military revolver commonly sold in the United States after World War II. The Indiana State Police Laboratory determined that it had fired a bullet recovered from Yocum’s body, one retrieved from her apartment, and another found at the pawnshop.

The following morning, Dowlut was charged with first-degree murder. A year and a half later, a jury found him guilty of second-degree murder. Before the judge handed down a life sentence, he asked the defendant if there was any reason why he shouldn’t be put away. Dowlut replied, “I am not guilty.” A day later, the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City registered Dowlut, now 19, as prisoner number 33848.

Less than six years later, Robert Dowlut would be a free man—his murder conviction thrown out by the Indiana Supreme Court because of a flawed police investigation. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2014 at 9:24 am

Posted in Guns, Law

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