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Archive for May 7th, 2015

President of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI Addresses Controversy Over FBI Labs and Hair Analysis

Ellen Glasser

By Ellen Glasser
President, Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI
Throughout its history, the FBI has accepted its responsibility to serve and protect the American people. At times, this responsibility draws intense scrutiny. As former agents, we understand and accept such scrutiny because we know the public trust is earned.
 
Last week, the FBI acknowledged preliminary results of an ongoing and transparent effort to address historical issues related to scientific testimony by FBI Laboratory examiners. The FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ), along with the Innocence Project (IP) and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), issued an historic, joint statement on the ongoing review of pre-2000 cases involving Microscopic Hair Comparison Analysis. The statement reported that, in approximately 500 cases reviewed thus far, scientific testimony in a high percentage of trial transcripts contained erroneous statements.

The FBI has made every effort to be on the leading edge of scientific advancements and to set a worldwide example of excellence to other crime laboratories. Notwithstanding the need to make improvements based on the stated findings, any reasonable scrutiny should consider advances in science, historical context, and the criteria used to categorize error.

Before 2000, prosecutors routinely relied on microscopic hair comparison to link criminal defendants to crimes. In 1996, the FBI Laboratory developed and implemented mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis, in conjunction with probative hair analysis, because it was clearly the most effective protocol for the forensic examination of hair, and it provided a more meaningful association than either technique used alone. Thereafter, mtDNA testing became standard to analyze hair in criminal cases. It is important to note that the advent of mtDNA testing did not – and does not – negate the validity of Microscopic Hair Comparison Analysis. The latter technique is still used by the FBI Laboratory, and the science of microscopic hair comparisons has never been in question.

Using broad criteria that all parties could agree on, the review largely focused on whether examiner testimony regarding microscopic hair comparison analysis met accepted scientific standards. In trial settings, examiners are qualified as expert witnesses based on their experience. Because the science was not in question, many of the statements were identified in testimony where the experience of examiners may have been used to extrapolate statistical probabilities.

The FBI’s reputation as the premier law enforcement agency in the world is earned every day. The dedicated men and women of the FBI Laboratory have had an undeniable positive impact on public safety. In performing and testifying to countless forensic examinations, they have helped the cause of victims and helped to render justice. Improvements that will result from this review will strengthen our criminal justice system and reinforce public trust in the FBI.

 

Boston Marathon Bomber May Be Sentenced to Most Isolated Prison in U.S.

United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX)

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces two likely, grim possibility – the death sentence or life in one of the most destructive prisons in America, “a place so isolating that it has been called a clean version of hell,” NBC News reports. 

The United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility in Colorado, also known as ADX or supermax, is reserved for the most dangerous criminals, such as terrorists.

Tsarnaev’s defense team on Wednesday argued against placing Tsarnaev at ADX, which is a 490-cell prison in the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, saying he would become so isolated that he’d be separated from the world forever.

In ADX, prisoners are confined to their cell for 23 hours a day in solitary confinement in 12-by-7-foot cells with a little window and thick walls. Meals are handed through a slot in the door.

“It breaks down the human spirit, it breaks down the human psyche. It breaks your mind,” former supermax inmate Garrett Linderman told CBS’ 60 Minutes in 2009.

 

ACLU Raises Concerns About FBI Secretly Using Aircraft to Keep Eye on Baltimore Riots

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI has acknowledged that it sent aircraft into the sky to watch over rioting in Baltimore.

The news comes after numerous sightings of aircraft over the city.

The FBI told the Baltimore Sun that the aircraft was intended to monitor criminal activity.

“The aircraft were specifically used to assist in providing high-altitude observation of potential criminal activity to enable rapid response by police officers on the ground,” Amy Thoreson, an FBI spokeswoman, said. “The FBI aircraft were not there to monitor lawfully protected first amendment activity.”

The ACLU was not happy and filed a request for records for more information.

“These are not your parents’ surveillance aircraft,” said Jay Stanley, an ACLU analyst. “Today planes can carry new surveillance technologies, like cell phone trackers and high resolution cameras that can follow the movements of many people at once.

“These are not the kinds of things that law enforcement should be using in secret.”

Baltimore Mayor Asks for Full-Scale Civil Rights Investigation of Police Department

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

In an unusual move for a city, Baltimore’s mayor is asking for a full-scale civil rights investigation into alleged abuse within the police department following a riot over the police-involved death of Freddie Gray and other black suspects.

“We all know that Baltimore continues to have a fractured relationship between the police and the community,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said, reports the Baltimore Sun. “I’m willing to do what it takes to reform my department.”

Spokeswoman Dena Iverson said Attorney General Loretta Lynch “is actively considering that option in light of what she heard from law enforcement, city officials and community, faith and youth leaders in Baltimore.”

The Justice Department has conducted investigations of police departments in 20 cities, including Cleveland and New Orleans.

The investigations typically take 18 to 24 months.

State Justice Department Employee Accused of Helping Run ‘Fictitious’ Police Department

Brandon Kiel

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A state Justice Department employee was among three people arrested for allegedly operating an underground police force in California.

Brandon Kiel, 31, of South Los Angeles, was charged with seven counts of impersonating a police officer and is on administrative leave, SignalSCV.com reports. 

“We cannot comment on the ongoing personnel matter or criminal investigation,” California DOJ spokeswoman Kristin Ford said.

During a raid last week, federal investigators found badges, police ID cards, weapons and uniforms.

The suspects declared the Masonic Fraternal Police Department to be a sate agency.

Kiel has worked with the California DOJ since July 2013 as the deputy director of community affairs.

What’s unclear is whether the trio ever performed law enforcement activities, such as pulling over cars and conducting raids.

Secret Service Tough Guys? Agents Show Soft Side in Kenya Ahead of Clinton Visit

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Secret Service agents have come under heavy criticism over the past few years for reports of wild sex parties, drunken driving and other seedy behavior.

But that media attention often misses the positive side of the Secret Service.

While preparing for former president Bill Clinton’s visit to Nairobi, Kenya, several agents spotted children playing soccer with an empty milk jug and sprung to action, The Washington Post reports.

The agents bought new soccer balls, and since they didn’t want credit for it, they “gave the gifts to Clinton’s permanent detail and asked for the balls to be delivered to the school’s headmaster,” The Post wrote.

Clinton also was reportedly moved.

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