Hair Analysis Usefulness was consistently overstated by F. B. I. analysts and those they trained for state and local agencies.

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2015/04/fbis-flawed-forensics-expert-testimony-hair-analysis-bite-marks-fingerprints-arson.html?fbclid=IwAR2R1ato9fmthQ-Ga-C03Rp4gW21L6njSVJ0-qp7C9Iywth6JgAyiwRoivc

The above link is the re-post of a Washington Post article regarding an audit of the Department of Justice and the F. B. I. that shows that hair analysis results were constantly overstated in favor of the prosecution.
“What went wrong? The Post continues“Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far.”
This audit now calls into question bite mark analysis and other forensic evidence.  The article  cites examples in which a dog hair was falsely represented at trial as a hair from the defendant to achieve a conviction and another in which a bite mark expert used the plaster mold taken of the accused’s  teeth to plant a bite on a corpse.
In the Leila Fowler case, the F. B. I. sought to condemn the 12 year old defendant based on the their analysis of the 911 call.  This was done without an prior outside review of the method and despite the fact that none of the phone calls reviewed to develop the method involved anyone younger than 19.
Stay tuned for more revelations in this area.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Access to information is power and sometimes that power is abused.

11/12/19

Today the Sacramento Bee ran an interesting article on documented instances in which members of various California police departments, sheriffs’ departments and the California Highway Patrol have engaged in accessing various data bases for personal reasons.  The databases include Department of Motor Vehicle records and state and federal criminal records.  This data is supposed to be limited to access on a need to know or right to know basis.

Most of the penalties were relatively light and rarely more than a misdemeanor.  In some cases the officers in question were dismissed from one law enforcement agency and hired by another.

The information was used among other things to check on estranged spouses and exes and to run background checks on perspective tenants.

If local law enforcement falls prey to this temptation, one can only imagine how often those folks working with FBI, CIA and Homeland Security must abuse the level of information they have access to.

Here is the link to the Bee’s story https://www.sacbee.com/news/investigations/article237091029.html.  If you are every involved in litigation involving a peace officer or someone with a connection to a peace officer and they come up with information that seems suspicious, I suggest making them prove that it was obtained by legal means.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Mulligan Sex w/Minors Case Update

The multiple count case of sex with minors against George Mulligan of Valley Springs, CA in Calaveras County Superior Court is now scheduled for a jury trial on February 19, 2020.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A murder in San Jose shows how Fitbit can do more than track your steps.

Really nice article about a murder from a year ago in San Jose, CA.
 
The article by Lauren Smiley appears in Wired Magazine and tells the story of how data downloaded from a Fitbit worn by the victim, 67 year old Karen Navarra, led to the arrest of her 90 year old step father, Tony Aiello. Mr. Aiello died in county jail before the case came to trial.
 
The victim’s Fitbit, security camera footage from a neighbor’s house and blood on clothes found in Tony’s hamper led to his arrest. Tony’s wife believes he didn’t kill her daughter and the crime scene and Tony’s mental capacity seem to support her faith in him. Unidentified male DNA was found on a cigarette butt found at the scene as well. Now that Tony is dead, the case has been dismissed and the County has no incentive to search for the identity of the source of that DNA.
 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Update on the Mulligan Child Molestation Case in Calaveras County, California

The first post regarding the roughly 25 count indictment for various allegations of sex with minors against George Mulligan of Valley Springs, CA was reported here in early October of 2018.

In what has become a monthly ritual, the trial setting conference for August was pushed back to 9/6/19.  Given the number of charges and the likelihood of a large number of victims, this is not surprising.  There is a great deal of material to go through in order for the defense to get a handle on this case.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Is the window closing?

Just over a year ago, the world of investigations generally and criminal investigations more dramatically, was radically altered by the use of DNA testing combined with genealogical research to locate likely perpetrators of notorious crimes. The dam broke open with the arrest of Joseph DeAngelo, the alleged Golden State Killer.

Prior to this breakthrough, DNA samples from certain crimes were entered into the CODIS database. (Combined DNA Index System, maintained by FBI) One of the flaws of CODIS was that it’s data was limited to a relatively small portion of the population.

In the meantime, the growth of DNA testing for the purpose of genealogical searches was rapidly growing and producing a wealth of DNA data that was probably exclusiveof  CODIS contributors.  If a criminal avoided apprehension, his or her DNA might never go into the CODIS database with an identity attached to it.

What combining DNA testing with Genealogical research hopes to do  is take the DNA information found at a crime scene and compare it to the commercial data beyond realm of CODIS.  If close matches can be found, genealogy is used to find likely exact matches through relatives of the sample source.  Then law enforcement looks for and locates those likely matches and procures DNA samples for contemporary testing.  In the case of the Golden State Killer, law enforcement went into old evidence that had unidentified DNA in a quantity suitable for test, ran it through SNP tests, sent the data to the open source GEDMatch and eventually went into DeAngelo’s garbage to find what proved to be matching samples.

You need either a preliminary source for DNA testing, for example blood found on the victim at the scene or the wash/extract produced for the original testing.  The process of testing for DNA includes extracting  a purified sample in a water solution.  This is sometimes referred to as the “wash.”  Even if a previously untested source for testing doesn’t exist, the remaining wash may be usable for testing by newer methods.

Further hampering the possibility of an overlap between the CODIS data and commercial data is the fact that they use different testing methods.  What follows may be a gross oversimplification of the science, so I apologize to the likes of Blaine T. Bettinger for that error. Law Enforcement uses a STP method and the commercial world uses the SNP method.  To my knowledge, the test data for one cannot be converted to the other.  As a result, if the DNA sample that was in evidence was consumed in full and there is no remaining wash, you may be unable to take advantage of the the new options.

While this new approach has closed approximately 55 cases since 2018, including the recent case in which the first person convicted of committing a crime was freed using this technique the window for maximum use of this technique may be closing.  (The ISHI Report, What Does the Future Hold for Investigative Genealogy?, See the link below.)

The Golden State Killer case had a DNA sample or samples tested and created a false identity for the results. The results were then submitted to GEDMatch.  GEDMatch is an organization that is a sort of open platform for DNA results.  You can submit a swab for testing or you can submit your data from companies like 23andMe or Ancestry and  GEDMatch would lump everyone into one huge data base for doing genealogical research.  Suddenly everyone who joined GEDMatch had unknowingly given law enforcement their private data for evidence.

“On November 17, 2018, a 71 year-old woman was attacked while she was practicing the organ in a church meetinghouse. CeCe Moore, an investigative genealogist, was asked to assist with the case. Knowing that using the GEDMatch database to solve an assault case would violate their terms of service, she initially declined. With express permission from Curtis Rogers, founder of GEDMatch, investigators were allowed to use the database to identify the attacker.” (The ISHI Report, What Does the Future Hold for Investigative Genealogy?, See the link below.)

That same article goes on to explain why the window of opportunity on this type of investigation may have at least narrowed.  According to the ISHI article, the backlash to the the above referenced cases and others caused GEDMatch to require users to opt-in to having their DNA test results available for such investigations.  The result is that where GEDMatch once had 2,000,00 searchable profiles, it now has only 20,000.  That means the pool of searchable profiles has dried up significantly.

It will now be much more challenging to find matches that can help to solve cases.

The ISHI article I  cited was authored by Carol Bingham, Tara Luther and Promega and can be found at https://promega.foleon.com/theishireport/july-2019/what-does-the-future-hold-for-investigative-genealogy/.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Northern California Innocence Projects corrects a very flawed verdict from 1985 cold case through the use of DNA.

Science corrects another bad conviction in El Dorado County.
Conviction Reversed in 1985 Cold Case Homicide Based on Newly Discovered DNA
SANTA CLARA, Calif., April 22, 2019— A man wrongfully convicted in a 1985 cold case murder has had his
conviction reversed based on newly discovered DNA evidence. The April 15 decision by the California Superior Court of
El Dorado County opened the door for a new trial in a case that spotlights high risk interrogation methods and the value of scientifically sound evidence.
After hearing evidence in mid-2018, on April 15, 2019, the Honorable Judge Kenneth Melikian reversed the 2005 murder conviction of Ricky Davis who had been convicted of the murder of Jane Hylton. The victim, who had been staying in Davis’ home with her daughter, had been found dead in the home 17 years earlier, in 1985.
Davis was convicted based largely on what his lawyers believe was false testimony from Davis’ former girlfriend, which was ultimately directly contradicted by DNA science.
The Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) at Santa Clara University School of Law was appointed to the case in
2012 and brought the legal request that led to the reversal of his conviction. The law by which the court reversed Davis’ wrongful conviction was one that NCIP had fought for until its enactment in January 2017.
The reversal stems from DNA results—derived using testing methods not available at the time of Davis’ conviction—which revealed the DNA of an unknown male, and not Ricky Davis, on evidence intimately connected to Ms. Hylton’s murder.
Background
In 1985, Hylton was found murdered in Davis’ home where she was staying with her young daughter. She had injuries and a bite mark on her back indicating a serious struggle before she died.
Davis’ girlfriend, Constance Dahl, also resided in the home. Davis, Dahl, and Hylton’s daughter discovered Hylton’s body and all denied any involvement in or knowledge of what happened.
Hylton’s murder investigation went cold for 14 years until 1999, when law enforcement reopened the case and immediately focused on Davis as their suspect.
Their key witness became Davis’ then ex-girlfriend Connie Dahl.
Between 1999 and 2001, Dahl was subjected to multiple prolonged and suggestive interrogations. After first denying any involvement in the crime, Dahl ultimately claimed she was present when Davis killed Hylton, and that she had bitten Hylton while struggling to stop Davis.
At the time of trial, a forensic laboratory conducted DNA testing on the crime evidence, but concluded that they could not test for saliva on the nightgown Hylton was wearing during the attack and through which she had been bitten.
Davis maintained his innocence but was convicted of Hylton’s murder based largely on the testimony of Connie Dahl.
Davis was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison in 2005.
Over the course of several years, with the cooperation of the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office, the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Laboratory of Forensic Sciences DNA-tested evidence connected to Hylton’s murder using
techniques developed in the years after the conviction. This testing, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s
Postconviction Testing of DNA Evidence Grant Program, showed that neither Davis, nor Dahl, were the source of DNA evidence found in the area where Hylton had been bitten, or from under the fingernails of her injured hands. The testing revealed instead that an unknown male was the source of all such DNA.
NCIP challenged the conviction and successfully argued that had the original jury heard the DNA results, it would have likely reached a different outcome. It was a key moment because until January of 2017, the California standard required that new evidence “point unerringly to innocence”— then the highest hurdle in the country and a nearly unattainable standard. In 2016, NCIP co-sponsored Senate Bill 1134 championed by former California State Senator Mark Leno, to put California’s standard in line with that of 43 other states. The Bill, which passed in January 2017, allowed defendants like Davis to instead prove that the new evidence would likely have been persuasive to a jury.
“This new law has led to the just result today. The DNA evidence shows that both Ricky and Connie were innocent, but we might not have gotten here without the evolution of California law” said NCIP attorney Melissa O’Connell. “An unknown male DNA profile does not bring justice to Ms. Hylton’s family in solving her tragic murder, but there is no justice in convicting the wrong man for this horrific crime.”
The district attorney’s office now must decide whether to re-try Davis for Hylton’s murder.
NCIP prioritizes legislative efforts that address the consequences and causes of wrongful conviction. Our priorities for this legislative session include providing automatic compensation to exonerees and expanding defense access to post-conviction discovery. Past efforts have allowed NCIP to successfully litigate open cases and pursue previously closed cases, leading to important criminal justice reform and the exoneration of innocent individuals.
About the Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP)
NCIP is a non-profit clinical program of Santa Clara University School of Law whose mission is to promote a fair, effective, and compassionate criminal justice system and protect the rights of the innocent. Since its inception in 2001, NCIP has processed over ten thousand requests for inmate assistance, investigated hundreds of cases, pursued litigation or collaborative resolution in dozens, and obtained the freedom of 24 wrongfully convicted individuals. Learn more at http://www.ncip.org.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized