Arizona Supreme Court Compromises on Scottsdale DUI Evidence

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled that blood-alcohol tests from the Scottsdale crime lab will not be excluded as evidence in Scottsdale DUI cases.

Due to inconsistent error reports, the Court released an opinion in late April ruling that tests from the headspace gas chromatograph machine are valid to use in DUI cases.

While the machine did produce some faulty test results, results were not always inaccurate, therefore leading the justices to determine that evidence couldn’t be dismissed from all DUI cases. Instead, a judge will decide if the evidence is inherently unreliable, in which case the tests wouldn’t be considered.

However, in more difficult cases, a judge may not be able to determine whether the evidence is inherently unreliable, and it will be up to jurors to decide if the tests can be used as credible evidence.

This means that not every Scottsdale DUI case can dismiss BAC tests from the machine, but defense attorneys can present the flaws of the lab and the machine to the jury, regardless of whether their clients’ tests were erroneous.

In July 2013, the Scottsdale crime lab was the center of controversy when news broke that the equipment used to test blood alcohol levels of those arrested on suspicion of DUI was outdated and defective, resulting in mislabelled and inaccurate data for as many as 50 percent of samples.

The machine is longer in operation, and the Scottsdale DUI cases can proceed in court under this new ruling.

Students Use Prom as a Platform for Social Change

How did you spend senior prom? For many, prom and graduation are seen as opportunities to let loose and celebrate; however, some socially conscious teens are altering their focus this spring semester towards expanding social consciousness.

Students from across the country are using prom night to send the world a statement about tolerance and acceptance by attending the event as same-sex dates and challenging gender roles through dress.

Two juniors from Desert Oasis High School in Las Vegas chose to go to prom together, even though one is straight and the other gay.

Since neither Jacob Lescenski nor his best friend, Anthony Martinez, could find dates, Lescenski asked Martinez to go with him in a proposal that went viral. Despite being nervous about what others may think, Lescenski went forward with his plan with the support of his classmates.

“Jacob has made a huge change in the world somehow,” Martinez said of his friend’s actions.

In Monroe, Louisiana’s Carroll High School, Honor Student Claudetteia Love, 17, almost didn’t attend prom when she learned that the school’s principal wouldn’t let her wear a tuxedo instead of a dress.

Love, who is openly gay, spoke out about her school’s rule and expressed her desire to wear a tuxedo to prom. She received support from classmates who helped her create a petition for change, which was supported by gay rights groups, including the National Center for Lesbian Rights, as well as her family and members of the community.

After members of the public and The Department of Justice contacted the Monroe City School Board and the school district to discuss Love’s civil rights, the school changed its dress code and apologized to Love.

“The outpouring of support has been incredible and inspiring,” said Love. “It is a source of strength that I will keep with me as I move on the next phase of my education and life beyond high school.”

Like Lescenski and Love, Mareshia Rucker is another courageous teen who took it upon herself to expand her community’s social consciousness.

In 2013, Rucker initiated Wilcox County High School’s first integrated prom in Abbeville, a rural town in Georgia.

Previously, Wilcox County High School put on two proms each year, one for white students, and one for black students, until Rucker and three of her friends decided to make a change.

The four girls gathered support from Abbeville residents and raised enough money to create an event that welcomed all students.

Inspired by the efforts of the students and the community, the school changed its policy and now hosts one integrated prom each year.

Recently, Rucker’s exceptional leadership was honored by The Canadian Museum for Human Rights with a display of the red prom dress she wore in 2013.

Preparing for Prom: Talk to Teens About Drunk Driving

Prom and graduation seasons are here, which means teens around the country are preparing for nights of fun and celebration. While this is a joyful time, it’s important for teens and parents to understand the dangers of underage drinking and intoxicated driving.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in America, which means preparing young adults with the safety information they need is crucial, especially this time of year when they may be tempted to make troublesome decisions like drunk driving or riding in the car with an intoxicated driver.

In fact, starting in April, when prom and graduation season begins, the number of fatal car accidents involving teenagers increases, with an average of 246 deaths per month until class begins again in late August and September.

Findings from the most recent study on young drivers by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report that 28 percent of drivers 15 to 20-years-old who were killed in car accidents had alcohol in their systems.

Many crashes involving teens happen late at night on the weekends, with 49% of teen deaths from car accidents occurring between 3 p.m. and midnight on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

Knowing these facts, parents and teens need to work together to create a plan for prom night and graduation parties that encourages making the right choices and asking for help if they need it.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving said that almost half of all 10th grade students drink alcohol, so even if you don’t think your child will be drinking on prom night or after graduation, establish guidelines and discuss safe options with them just in case.

Fugitive Turns Himself in After 40 Years on the Run

After escaping from police custody three times and living on the lam for nearly 40 years, Clarence David Moore, 66, turned himself in to police.

With three successful prison breaks and a secret life under the alias of Ronnie T. Dickinson, why would Moore want to turn himself over to the authorities after all these years?

“I think he was tired of running. He’s at a point in his life and medically that he’s got to have help,” said Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton.

When police arrived at his home last month in Frankfort, Kentucky, Moore was in a hospital bed.

Among other health issues, he suffered a stroke last year that left his right side paralyzed, and because he didn’t have a legitimate Social Security Number, wasn’t able to get the medical help he needed.

As police entered the home, Moore began crying when he saw the deputies, “He said, ‘I just want to get this behind me. I want to be done,'” Melton recalled.

Moore was first convicted in 1967 in North Carolina of larceny. He was sentenced to up to seven years in prison, but escaped while working with a road crew in the area. He was captured again in 1971, but fled the following year and was on the run until he was found in Texas in 1975. His final escape was from Henderson County prison on August 6, 1976.

A woman who lives with Moore answered the door when police arrived, but like Moore, has declined to comment.

Neighbors, Jim Clark and Richard Colyer, both knew him as well, but as his alias, Ronnie Dickinson. Both said they had no idea of Moore’s past.

“He was a nice neighbor. He was a very compassionate person. He didn’t have any hatred in his heart toward anyone,” Clark said, and Colyer described Moore as a private person who moved to the neighborhood a few years ago.

Moore was taken to a local hospital for evaluation, then to jail where he’s in custody.

FBI Reviews Thousands of Criminal Cases Involving Flawed Hair Forensics

After discovering that flawed testimonies were made by most FBI examiners in almost all trials offering hair forensics as evidence against defendants for the past several decades, the Justice Department and FBI formally acknowledged this error and have begun a long list of reviews.

The Washington Post reports that legal analysts have suspected problems with forensic techniques based on patterns for decades. Hair and bite mark comparisons have been criticized because the examiner is left to make a subjective call on whether the patterns match.

To put the gravity of this admission into perspective, the FBI has identified 2,500 cases so far that reported hair matches, with 342 completed reviews by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project.

Of the 342, there were 268 cases that used hair forensics to convict defendants, and 257 of these cases included wrongful testimonies from examiners.

In fact, 26 of 28 of these examiners gave exaggerated testimonies favoring prosecutors. That is 95 percent of cases in which forensics were inaccurately used against defendants from 1986 to 2000.

While there could be other evidence involved in these trials that lead to guilty convictions, this large of an error by the FBI could mean hundreds of others have been wrongly convicted or sentenced to death.

It’s likely that the 2,500 under review are just a fraction of the countless other cases that have suffered the same injustices because not all state records from decades ago are available, and some police and prosecutors aren’t answering requests for more information.

In addition, it’s possible that even more cases have been misguided by the same style of testimony. The FBI’s examiners under review have taught 500 to 1,000 other crime lab analysts nationwide their methods.

As a result, several states including New York, North Carolina and Texas have started reviewing cases involving hair forensics, and at least 15 others are expected to do the same.