Report: Forensic Science in Criminal Courts (Sept 2016)
Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit highlights findings from a report by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. The Council concluded there are two important gaps (1) the need for clarity about the scientific standards for the validity and reliability of forensic methods and (2) the need to evaluate specific forensic methods to determine whether they have been scientifically established to be valid and reliable. The Council offers recommendations on actions that could be taken by a variety of interested entities, including the Department of Justice and the FBI. Click here
for report. This Opinion piece – “A Wake up Call on the junk science infesting our courtrooms” – sounds an alarm similar to Judge Kozinski’s. It is written by Harry T. Edwards is a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Jennifer L. Mnookin is dean of the UCLA School of Law. They serve as co-chairs of the Senior Advisors to the PCAST Working Group.
Request for nationwide BOP data granted in BOP homicide case
In U.S. v. Con-Ui
, a BOP homicide case (corrections officer killed) pending trial in the MDPA, the government withdrew the non-statutory aggravating factor of future dangerousness but advised the court it still planned to introduce evidence of the defendant's evidence of alleged acts of violence committed by the defendant both in and out of prison. The defendant asserted that he will attempt to prove a lack of future danger and intends to introduce expert testimony to bolster his lack of future danger argument to the jury. The defendant argued for nationwide BOP data "critical to providing an individualized evaluation of Mr. Con-Ui's behavior in comparison" to various categories of inmates in the federal BOP. Without ruling on the admissibility of any potential testimony or evidence, the trial court determined that certain of the requested discovery - including substantial nationwide BOP data - may be material to the defense, and ordered it produced. The district court opinion can be found at 2016 WL 4140520 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 4, 2016), or here
US v Fell (D Vermont) - Federal Death Penalty Challenge Hearing
U.S. District Judge Geoffrey Crawford (D. Vermont) will take testimony on Donald Fell's challenge to the Federal Death Penalty - Motions to Dismiss the Death Penalty as Punishment because it is Unconstitutional, to Dismiss the Superseding Indictment and/or Strike the Amended Notice of Intent as Violative of the Principles of Limited National Powers and State Sovereignty, to Dismiss based on Ring,
to Dismiss because of the Unconstitutionality of Selecting a Fair Jury in a State where most citizens oppose the death penalty, and to Declare the FDPA unconstitutional for failure to require comparative proportionality review. The hearing which began July 1 is ongoing at the federal courthouse in Rutland, Vermont. Click here
for a news article about the hearing.
U.S. Ronell Wilson - Court finds intellectual disability (March 15 2016)
On a March 15, 2016 a district court found that Ronell Wilson was intellectually disabled and, therefore, vacated his death sentence. Mr. Wilson was previously convicted and sentenced to death for the murders of two New York City Police detectives. Click here
for the full opinion.
Per Curiam Reversal in Louisiana Death Penalty Case
U.S. Supreme Court per curiam reversal of conviction in Louisiana death case for Brady violations, see Wearry v. Cain, 2106 WL 854158__ U.S. __, No. 14-10008 (March 7, 2016) (“[c]ontrary to the state postconviction court, we conclude that the prosecution’s failure to disclose material evidence violated Wearry’s due process rights”).
Sixth Circuit Affirms Rejon Taylor Convictions and Death Sentence
The Sixth Circuit affirmed the convictions and death sentence of Rejon Taylor. One judge dissented and would have granted relief on 5 grounds. Click here for opinion.