When Wilbert Jones was 19, he was arrested. He was convicted of aggravated rape based entirely on a highly questionable identification by the victim, according to the judge who recently released him. The woman, a nurse, had picked him out of a lineup months after the crime and was careful to tell police that her assailant had been taller and had a "much rougher" voice.
After learning that its own hair and fiber analysis methods were faulty, the FBI has tried to identify all criminal convictions that relied on such evidence. The agency has initiated a nationwide review of all cases involving such evidence before 2000, when the FBI switched to the use of mitochondrial DNA analysis instead of the older techniques.
For decades, Richard Phillips has insisted upon his innocence in a 1971 murder in Detroit. Now 71, Phillips may finally be released from prison after his co-defendant admitted Phillips played no role in the crime. A judge recently dismissed his conviction, although he also granted prosecutors a new trial. Prosecutors in Wayne County, Michigan, have vowed to appeal the reversal.
Any person who duly reflects upon DNA-related stories that have prominently surfaced in media reports in recent years understands well the double-edged sword wielded by investigators who assert possession of unassailable truth conferred through science.
Many of our readers in Milwaukee and across Wisconsin have likely seen crime-tinged movies and television dramas -- in fact, scores of them -- where an individual steps up to save the day for state or federal prosecutors by confidently pointing out the guilty party from the witness stand.
One of the things courts value most is finality. Once a dispute has been resolved, courts are loath to start digging into the process of resolving the dispute -- and this has traditionally led to some pernicious consequences, even without ill intent.
Suppose you were wrongfully convicted of a crime, and as part of your conviction you were required to pay court costs and restitution to your alleged victim. Once your wrongful conviction was overturned, you should get that money back, shouldn't you?
There is no debating that forensic science plays an important role in the criminal justice system. One assumes there also would be little debate over the position that, when forensic science is used to convict people of crimes in the United States, that science should be precise and believable.
You may not know the Reid Method of police interrogation by name, but there is a good chance you are familiar with it through the depiction of police questioning in movies and on television.