prosecutor misconduct

Crime Labs Come Under Fire Nationwide for Questionable Tactics

In the criminal justice system, there is a skewed – but high – incentive for forensic scientists to get a conviction, whether it is a valid one or not. Crime and forensic labs are being paid fees per conviction, creating a higher possibility of bias.

Crime labs conduct tests such as toxicology, fingerprint analysis, DNA evidence analysis, ballistics and hair microscopy. How confident would you be if you found out the lab conducting your toxicology test got paid only if you were convicted? Throughout the country, there have been thousands of falsely convicted individuals due to forensic lab mistakes, all to the benefit of the labs. Massachusetts Crime Lab Scandal

The Houston Police Department Crime Lab has been under investigation since 2002, for countless lab errors and faulty forensic testing. An estimated 16,000 rape kits were discovered to be untested in a property room of the facility, leaving thousands of innocent people falsely convicted and sent to prison.

In 2002, Lazaro Sotolusson, a prisoner at Las Vegas Detention Center was prosecuted for his cell mates’ crimes–sexual assault of two juveniles at gunpoint– when it was discovered that the DNA samples of the two were switched a year before.

Mistakes like these are, unfortunately, very common. Few crime lab workers and lab examiners are scientists, and many labs are affiliated with, or run by police departments– which put the desire for closed cases and secured convictions above all else.

In addition to the perverse incentive of getting paid, sadly, lab examiners have less of a reason to spend time on preventing someone’s conviction. Crime labs get paid to provide evidence of conviction, giving more reason for incompetent labs or faulty machines to be left unfixed, to corrupt prospective tests. Crime labs may also falsify, alter, neglect or simply lie about evidence and test results to get the conviction that will go straight into their pocketbook.

Many states have this flawed justice system incentive in place. In Carolina, you can be fined up to $600 just for lab processing fees upon conviction. Would you want to pay that if you were wrongfully found guilty?

No one wants to end up with a false conviction. To prevent any forensic malpractice, whether illicit or not, it is best to seek legal council from trustworthy and knowledgeable lawyers who know you and your case, and are dedicated to seeking the truth. From DUI’s, to photo radar cases, or felony charges, you need someone who can get you the fairest outcome possible and challenge any injustices that could come your way.

Scottsdale Crime Lab Ruling Challenged

Prosecutors in Maricopa County are fighting a Superior Court judge’s ruling to eliminate blood evidence in 11 DUI cases which could affect previous DUI convictions in Scottsdale.

Defense attorneys in the 11 aggravated-DUI and extreme-DUI cases argued that defective equipment and lab administrators of the Scottsdale Police Crime Lab did not meet scientific standards to merit or account for the accuracy of the four-year-old blood-testing machine. They also questioned the capability of the lab employees, doubting their ability to detect errors should they occur. Arizona DUI Charges

In August, Judge Jerry Bernstein barred prosecutors from introducing the machine’s blood-testing results in the 11 cases, and in response, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office filed a special action challenging this ruling.

The appeal stated that Bernstein misunderstood the state’s grounds for evidentiary dismissal and that a handful of errors revealed in the court could not condemn a machine that has conducted thousands of tests during a two-year period.

The machine performed more than 20,000 tests during a two-year period, and although the lab has suspended its use, prosecutors argue that there is allowance for a slight margin of error.

Of the 31 problem tests recorded in the appeal, the County Attorney’s office must determine whether these are the only bad results that Scottsdale is aware of, and if the lab has conducted an audit and can confirm that of the thousands of tests conducted, these 31 are the only erred ones.

This evidentiary debate has caused concern because if the ruling stands, any DUI convictions in the past few years in Scottsdale could be called into question.

Currently, the Scottsdale City Prosecutor’s Office is not considering the superior court’s decision at all in its evaluation of cases and extension of plea offers. Judges have precluded defense attorneys from even mentioning the decision at trial, allowing many jurors to remain uninformed of such problems.

As always, having an experienced DUI defense attorney on your side can help prevent or correct a wrongful conviction. Seeking professional counsel is the best choice if you or a loved one is involved in a DUI case. You need someone who can get you the best outcome possible and challenge any injustices that have already, or could come your way.

Milke Case: Is Double Jeopardy a Factor?

The defense attorney of Debra Milke, a woman who has served 23 years in prison for the death of her son and was released from death row last year, claims that retrying Milke in court because of the prosecution’s withholding of evidence in the initial trial would violate her Fifth Amendment rights.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Milke’s case when it was found that the state did not turn over evidence of misconduct by their key witness, Armando Saldate Jr., in the emotionally-charged 1990 trial. The evidence would have allowed the defense to question the witness’s credibility. Debra Milke

Saldate, a Phoenix police detective at the time, told jurors that Debra Milke confessed to the 1989 killing of her son when he questioned her, which was a key piece of evidence in the case. After Milke’s conviction, the court found that Milke never waived her right to have an attorney present in the interrogation.

The court accused Saldate of multiple occurrences of misconduct and eradicated many of his confessions in the case and other cases because he lied under oath and violated Milke and other defendants’ constitutional rights.

The overturned case now faces a new problem: the defense claims that retrying Debra Milke in court would be “double jeopardy”, violating her Fifth Amendment right of not being tried twice for the same offense.

Saldate is attempting to refuse to testify at Milke’s retrial by asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. In December, a judge sided with Saldate, although prosecutors are currently challenging the ruling.

Why would Saldate choose to plead the fifth?

If Saldate changes his testimony now from what he said in the original trial, he could face criminal charges for violating Milke’s rights. If he maintains the same testimony, he could be pursued for perjury charges based on the appellate court’s evaluation that his testimony may not have been credible – including a concurring opinion by Justice Kozinski indicating he believed the confession probably had never taken place.

Until further notice, Milke’s retrial is set for February 2, 2015.

Man Held Since ’04 for the Death of His Son Freed Because of Prosecutor Misconduct

Jeffrey Martinson, who spent nine years in custody for the death of his son in 2004, was released in November after a judge ruled that misconduct by the prosecutor in the case was too much to overcome.

The decision has far-reaching implications: Because Martinson’s verdict was overturned with prejudice, he cannot be retried for murder without invoking double jeopardy. Jeffrey Martinson

And despite an Arizona Court of Appeals ruling in 2012 that the prosecution could re-indict Martinson on different charges, the trial judge found that prosecutorial misconduct precluded filing new charges.

Martinson was charged with first-degree felony murder in 2011 for killing his son with muscle relaxant pills.

According to Martinson, he found his 5-year-old son, Josh, floating in the bathtub in 2004 and tried to save him but ultimately failed. Martinson said he then tried to kill himself. Autopsy reports, however, found muscle relaxants in the boy’s system. Based on the new evidence, Martinson reasoned his son must have taken the pills, thinking they looked like candy.

In 2011, a jury found Martinson guilty – a verdict that allowed for the death penalty. But one juror came forward before Martinson could be sentenced, stating that the forewoman forced other jurors into finding Martinson guilty. The guilty verdict was thrown out in March 2012 and by that fall, Martinson was facing new charges.

Martinson was ordered released from jail after Judge Sally Duncan ruled that the prosecutors’ actions had resulted in a “a win-by-any-means strategy.”

Duncan’s 28-page ruling detailed the conduct of the prosecution, including Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Frankie Grimsman, and concluded that their actions had demonstrated “a pattern and practice of misconduct designed to secure a conviction without regard to the likelihood of reversal”

Several things factored into Duncan’s decision:

– Martinson had been charged with felony murder, with the prosecution arguing that the boy had died as a result of child abuse. Despite the charge, prosecutors tried the case as if Martinson were charged with intentional, premeditated murder. Several times over the course of the trial, Grimsman was warned by the trial judge not to continue with the premeditated course of action.

– After the first conviction was thrown out because of improper testimony and juror misconduct, Grimsman then tried to re-indict Martinson on premeditated murder charges.

– Grimsman then repeatedly tried to have both Duncan and Martinson’s defense attorneys removed.