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Criminal Defense Archives

Many cops believe they can use this tool to test people for lying

Scientifically, it's a pipe dream. It would be convenient if we could train law enforcement officers on how to tell if people are lying, but so far there is no way to do so. That doesn't stop people from trying, though.

Don't put your faith in fingerprint matching 'experts'

It may be true that no two sets of fingerprints are alike, although there is no actual study showing that. Even if it is true, however, the process of matching fingerprints found at crime scenes to prints from other sources is messy. Most often, crime scene prints are partial or smudged, and there are plenty of prints that are thought common enough to match these.

Race gap in prisons is narrowing, but it's still too wide

The nonpartisan Council on Criminal Justice recently released a report on the race gap in American prisons. The race gap is the degree to which minorities are incarcerated at a rate beyond their proportion in society. For example, even though there is no evidence that African-Americans are more prone to drug crimes than whites, in 2000 they were 15 times as likely to be convicted of state-level drug crimes.

Illinois taking emergency steps to end child isolation punishments

Governor J.B. Pritzker has directed the Illinois State Board of Education to take emergency action and stop schools from isolating children behind locked doors as punishment. The Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois published an investigation of the punishment, which may amount to torture.

Court: Border agents need reasonable suspicion to search devices

At the border and in international airports, ICE and the Customs and Border Protection service have been routinely rifling through people's computers and smart phones. Away from the border, law enforcement needs a warrant before it can search your phone or another electronic device. So why have border agents assumed they didn't need one?

Reports: Blood pattern analysis could use scientific improvement

In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) issued a blockbuster report challenging the scientific underpinnings of many fields of forensic evidence. The report found that such evidence is rarely supported by rigorous study. Moreover, the analyses are often performed unscientifically, and analysts often overstate the scientific rigor of their evidence during testimony.

Called by someone demanding money and claiming to be a US marshal?

There is a scam going around that targets the public, criminal defendants and especially sex offenders. We've received some calls about it at our office, so we thought we would cover it here.

Study: Cellphone location data is not necessarily accurate

In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences issued a blockbuster report on the state of the science in forensic investigation. That report concluded that, "with the exception of nuclear DNA analysis ... no forensic method has been rigorously shown to have the capacity to consistently, and with a high degree of certainty, demonstrate a connection between evidence and a specific individual or source."

Jailhouse informants lie. Should they be allowed to testify?

A jailhouse informant is rarely someone who just wants to help. Jails and prisons have a strong anti-snitching culture, so passing along information to prosecutors is a choice that could get you in serious trouble. People don't inform on other prisoners to be solid citizens; they do it to get a break on their sentences.

Wisconsin's county jails are full of innocent people

According to the bipartisan nonprofit the Prison Policy Initiative, a third of all Wisconsin county jail inmates between 2009 and 2013 were locked up solely because they couldn't afford a low cash bail. In other words, they're behind bars before having been convicted of anything.

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