Daily Archives: July 19, 2013

Hair evidence analysis is not so great

I came across this very interesting press release which stated that in many FBI cases hair analysis’ reliability was exaggerated when making a positive identification in FBI cases.  These include 27 capital cases.

According to the press release, the FBI labs reports have consistently asserted that hair analysis can’t be used to make a positive identification.  However, some FBI agents asserted that hair analysis led to near-certain matches.

In other words, the practice of using hair analysis was deemed “highly unreliable” by the National Academy of Science.  Even though it is possible to conduct hair microscopy and find similarities among various samples, “in many cases the FBI analysts were overstating the significance of these similarities, often leaving juries with the false impression that a hair recovered from the crime scene must have come from the defendant and could not have come from anyone else.” (italics and underline added).

The FBI and the Justice Department uncovered the cases in a review of more than 20,000 lab files that was undertaken in consultation with the Innocence Project and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the story says.  So far, about 15,000 files have been reviewed, turning up about 2,100 cases in which hair evidence was used and 120 convictions that could be problematic, including the 27 capital cases.

The Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld made the following statement:

The government’s willingness to admit error and accept its duty to correct those errors in an extraordinarily large number of cases is truly unprecedented.

The Justice Department will notify prosecutors, convicted defendants and their lawyers if a review panel finds FBI examiners made excessive claims. In such cases, the Justice Department will waive rules that restrict post-conviction appeals and will test DNA evidence upon the request of judges or prosecutors.

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Detroit files for bankruptcy

When I heard about this story on NPR I wasn’t surprised.  Detroit has struggled since the closing of car factories.  Several years ago when I visited Detroit, in my opinion Detroit seemed like an empty city.  The factories were big lots of land deserted.

Yesterday (July 18th) Detroit filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 9.  Detroit is seeking to negotiate is $18.5 million debt.  Governor Snyder stated,

The fiscal realities confronting Detroit have been ignored for too long. I’m making this tough decision so the people of Detroit will have the basic services they deserve and so we can start to put Detroit on a solid financial footing that will allow it to grow and prosper in the future.

This is a difficult step, but the only viable option to address a problem that has been six decades in the making.

Consequently, two pension funds have filed a complaint against emergency manager Kevyn Orr (Gen. Ret. Sys. of the City of Detroit v. Orr., No. 13-768-CZ, Circuit Court Ingham County, Michigan) and Governor Snyder seeking to block the bankruptcy from proceeding.

The funds allege that a bankruptcy proceeding would interfere with the constitutional protection of public retiree rights.

via Detroit files for bankruptcy, the biggest US city ever to do so – ABA Journal.

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Law Schools Cuts

The ABA Journal reporting on an interesting trend.  Law Schools are trying to deal with the current economic situation and the decline of law school applicants.

The Wall Street Journal  (subscription required) reports that LSAC’s (Law School Admission Council) most recent data shows that as of July 5th, applications for the entering class of 2013 fell by 36% compared to the entering class in 2010.

These faculty cuts are noted in the article:

  • Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, Minn., has cut full-time faculty about 18 percent since 2010. Fourteen faculty members have left or plan to leave after accepting early retirement incentives.
  • Eight professors at Vermont Law School have agreed to retire early, take pay cuts or give up tenure.
  • Twenty-one professors accepted buyout packages at Widener University School of Law in Wilmington, Del., and Harrisburg, Pa.
  • Seven professors accepted early retirement packages from the University of Dayton School of Law.
  • Seven untenured professors at Seton Hall University School of Law in Newark, N.J., have received notice that their contracts might not be renewed for the 2014-15 academic year.
  • The University of the Pacifics McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, Calif., is accelerating plans to cut the size of the law school and use some of its campus for other graduate-level classes.

via Law schools cope with declining enrollment by quietly cutting faculty – ABA Journal.

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