Posts tagged evidence

Missed one: false confessions.
Most of us are familiar with certain legal, psychologically coercive interrogation techniques that elicit false confessions - like bold face lies from detectives (“we found your DNA on the knife”), as well as ones that fall under police misconduct like lengthy interrogations without food or water, pursuing custodial interviews with juveniles without an interested guardian present or physical abuse, but we shouldn’t let uneducated juries slip under the radar when speaking of wrongful convictions and confessions. Some of the findings juries come up with despite reason, evidence or just common sense, are outrageous. 

Shockingly, there are times when a confession even trumps irrefutable scientific physical evidence. Kassin notes that there are 19 cases on record ­— and perhaps many more — where there is a confession followed by DNA that contradicts that confession. One South Carolina case, where he was an expert witness, was featured on “Dateline” last July. Billy Wayne Cope was accused of murdering his 12­ year ­old daughter, Amanda. He had been isolated for three days and interrogated. Transcripts of the interrogation show that he denied killing his daughter 650 times. He was told he failed a lie detector test that he in fact had asked for. Ultimately, he confessed to committing the murder. The lab results, which came back several weeks later, showed that the girl was also sexually assaulted and the semen and saliva did not match Cope. Sometime after that, the DNA was run through CODIS, a computer software program that operates local, state and national databases of DNA profiles from convicted offenders, unsolved crime scene evidence and missing persons. A match was made to a known sex offender, James Sanders, who was in the area. Yet Cope was prosecuted and convicted anyway, as a co­conspirator with Sanders, even though Sanders had no idea who Cope was. That was six years ago. Cope remains imprisoned. [via]

I sat down with Saul Kassin when he first came to John Jay to talk about his work, he’s a long time major player in this area. Here he is talking about the ramifications of false confessions at the Vera Institute. Definitely worth a watch.
img: California Innocence Project via MJ

Missed one: false confessions.

Most of us are familiar with certain legal, psychologically coercive interrogation techniques that elicit false confessions - like bold face lies from detectives (“we found your DNA on the knife”), as well as ones that fall under police misconduct like lengthy interrogations without food or water, pursuing custodial interviews with juveniles without an interested guardian present or physical abuse, but we shouldn’t let uneducated juries slip under the radar when speaking of wrongful convictions and confessions. Some of the findings juries come up with despite reason, evidence or just common sense, are outrageous. 

Shockingly, there are times when a confession even trumps irrefutable scientific physical evidence. Kassin notes that there are 19 cases on record ­— and perhaps many more — where there is a confession followed by DNA that contradicts that confession. One South Carolina case, where he was an expert witness, was featured on “Dateline” last July. Billy Wayne Cope was accused of murdering his 12­ year ­old daughter, Amanda. He had been isolated for three days and interrogated. Transcripts of the interrogation show that he denied killing his daughter 650 times. He was told he failed a lie detector test that he in fact had asked for. Ultimately, he confessed to committing the murder. The lab results, which came back several weeks later, showed that the girl was also sexually assaulted and the semen and saliva did not match Cope. Sometime after that, the DNA was run through CODIS, a computer software program that operates local, state and national databases of DNA profiles from convicted offenders, unsolved crime scene evidence and missing persons. A match was made to a known sex offender, James Sanders, who was in the area. Yet Cope was prosecuted and convicted anyway, as a co­conspirator with Sanders, even though Sanders had no idea who Cope was. That was six years ago. Cope remains imprisoned. [via]

I sat down with Saul Kassin when he first came to John Jay to talk about his work, he’s a long time major player in this area. Here he is talking about the ramifications of false confessions at the Vera Institute. Definitely worth a watch.

img: California Innocence Project via MJ

 Criminally Flawed Mind Reading Technologies?

FAST (Future Attribute Screening Technology) is only the latest in a series of methods and technologies employed to probe suspects for scientific evidence of guilt, deceit, or criminal designs, stretching back to the earliest days of the polygraph lie detector in 1921. 


(…) thermal cameras, microphones and a laser radar that can measure heart rate and perspiration, FAST is designed to surreptitiously scan airport travelers for nervous behaviors, rapid blinking, or any other signs that might indicate intentions to commit violent terrorist acts…”  Via by tvjrennie

With a track record in the lab of only 78-80% accuracy and unknown rates of false positives and false negatives, you would think this type of technology isn’t ready for use in the court - but some say that if the technology, however imperfect, is meaningfully better than the next best alternative technique currently deployed in the legal process” then it should be introduced. 
Image: DHS/TSA Via

 Criminally Flawed Mind Reading Technologies?

FAST (Future Attribute Screening Technology) is only the latest in a series of methods and technologies employed to probe suspects for scientific evidence of guilt, deceit, or criminal designs, stretching back to the earliest days of the polygraph lie detector in 1921. 

(…) thermal cameras, microphones and a laser radar that can measure heart rate and perspiration, FAST is designed to surreptitiously scan airport travelers for nervous behaviors, rapid blinking, or any other signs that might indicate intentions to commit violent terrorist acts…”  Via by tvjrennie

With a track record in the lab of only 78-80% accuracy and unknown rates of false positives and false negatives, you would think this type of technology isn’t ready for use in the court - but some say that if the technology, however imperfect, is meaningfully better than the next best alternative technique currently deployed in the legal process” then it should be introduced. 

Image: DHS/TSA Via

Ben Goldacre: Battling Bad Science

"Every day there are news reports of new health advice, but how can you know if they’re right?" 

Clearly, if your a person and you haven’t watched this TED talk, you must. It’s like snorting an 8 ball of his blog, car jacking a ‘68 Mustang GT 390 Fastback and crashing it into a wall of distorted evidence and  contradictory claims … and a few minutes later, when the dust settles, it all makes sense. 

I think what happens is that prosecutors and police think they’ve got the right guy, and consequently they think it’s OK to cut corners or control the game a little bit to make sure he’s convicted. The thinking goes, "God forbid a guilty guy go free because of smart lawyering by the defense" or what have you. They’re so convinced that they are right that they feel exempt from behaving right. They don’t realize that it’s wrong to be unethical. And not just because it could convict an innocent person. It’s simply wrong to be unethical.
If federal prosecutors had gotten their way, all of Washington might today be familiar with a device known as the Erostek ET-302R.
yesterday’s news. 
"Laboratory studies using fMRI, which measures blood-oxygen levels in the brain, have suggested that when someone lies, the brain sends more blood to the ventrolateral area of the prefrontal cortex. In a very small number of studies, researchers have identified lying in study subjects  with accuracy ranging from 76 percent to over 90 percent. But some scientists and lawyers like New York University neuroscientist Elizabeth Phelps doubts those results can be applied outside the lab. The data in their studies don’t appear to be reliable enough to use in a court of law,” Phelps said. “There is just no reason to think that this is going to be a good measure of whether someone is telling the truth.”(via)

yesterday’s news. 

"Laboratory studies using fMRI, which measures blood-oxygen levels in the brain, have suggested that when someone lies, the brain sends more blood to the ventrolateral area of the prefrontal cortex. In a very small number of studies, researchers have identified lying in study subjects  with accuracy ranging from 76 percent to over 90 percent. But some scientists and lawyers like New York University neuroscientist Elizabeth Phelps doubts those results can be applied outside the lab. The data in their studies don’t appear to be reliable enough to use in a court of law,” Phelps said. “There is just no reason to think that this is going to be a good measure of whether someone is telling the truth.”(via)