An influential scientific commission in Texas called Friday for a halt to the use of bite-mark identifications in criminal trials. After a six-month investigation the Texas Forensic Science Commission recommended excluding bite-mark testimony, the first of its kind from any official state or federal body. The commission said, when appropriate, convicts and their defense lawyers would be notified whether to pursue new trials or exonerations. Specialists used to claim that they could reliably match tooth patterns to a defendant in criminal cases involving bites. The malleability of human tissue, and discrepancy in wound patterns from the same teeth can differ making the results of bit mark analysis very unscientific. Several people convicted based on this evidence were later exonerated by DNA testing. In one study presented to the Texas commission, a panel of leading forensic dentists studied photographs of purported bit wounds and in most cases could not even agree whether the marks were caused by human teeth. This new call to exclude bite mark evidence in criminal cases has huge implications. Those already convicted on bite mark evidence will need new trials. We can assume that several innocent people across the country were convicted on this faulty evidence. What other types of evidence will later be exonerated? The Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani specialize in the area of Criminal Defense and assault defense. If you have been charged with a Misdemeanor, Felony, assault, or any other crime, call our office for a free consultation.
Cite: Erik Eckholm, The New York Times, February 12, 2016
An 11-year old Connecticut girl doodled a suspicious man for cops. The likeliness led him to be charged with serial burglary. Rebeca DePietro saw Pedro Bruno wandering around her neighborhood during a series of break ins. When police arrives at her house, she was able to quickly sketch the burglar. “They asked me if I had seen anyone strange or who didn’t belong, and I said, ‘I can draw him for you!’” Instead of tossing the crudely drawn sketch, the cops took it seriously, forwarding copies to many other precincts. This drawing somehow led cops to Pedro Bruno, who was in custody for another burglary earlier this year. The police told him they had a sketch and a witness, and Pedro allegedly confessed to the crime. If Mr. Bruno saw the sketch or the doubted the officers who were interrogating him, he might have remained silent, but the officer’s bluff was enough. Stories like this go to show that every little piece of evidence can play a big part in even the most serious of cases. The Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani specialize in the field of Criminal Defense. Call out Denver Office today for a free consultation.
Cite: Chris Peres and Kevin Sheehan, The New York Post, 10/16/2015
We all can relate: after a chaotic or traumatic experience, memories can be etched in our mind of a particular detail, but other details can be omitted from memory or simply mis-remembered. Colorado is the 12th state to introduce legislation like this to prevent misidentifications. In my time as a Denver Criminal Defense Attorney, I have seen lineup cards with individuals who clearly stick out or do not belong. I have heard about police telling the victim they picked out an alleged suspect. These are elements the new bill seeks to do away with and this is a positive both for the prosecution and the defense. The only person who has an interest in a wrong identification is the perpetrator. Below is some more information on the bill and how it would affect police identifications:
• Development of easily understood instructions for eyewitnesses.
• Instructions to investigators regarding choice of photo array and live lineups.
• Protocols on documenting the confidence level of an eyewitness.
Proponents of the bill called for an end to lineups where one suspect bears no resemblance to others. The bill also calls for witnesses to be told by police that the criminal investigation will be ongoing, whether or not a suspect is initially identified.
Source: Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_27492845/colorado-senates-eyewitness-id-bill-passes-judiciary-committee?source=email