Saturday, November 24, 2007

The "new developments" in the Hollaway case are very disturbing

Yesterday we reprinted an article that reported: new evidence comes from recently monitored telephone calls between the three suspects.

Another article from paints a different picture (underlining added for emphasis).

The investigators used advanced techniques to re-examine existing information, including cell phone records and text messages exchanged the night Holloway disappeared. They found some discrepancies, Mos said.

As part of their work, investigators returned to the homes of the suspects to try to re-create transmissions.

The team also discovered that some existing evidence was improperly analyzed, he added.

This sounds like a chapter from Making Evidence fit the Suspect 101. I sincerely hope that these investigators aren't so desperate to bring closure to this case that they are manipulating evidence to make it produce the results they want -- that is a definite breeding ground for a wrongful conviction.

Friday, November 23, 2007

New Developments in the Natalee Holloway case


Latest News Hilversum, Friday 23 November 2007 18:43 UTC

Holloway suspect flown to Aruba

The Hague - Joran van der Sloot, the main suspect in the case of missing American student Natalee Holloway,will fly to the Caribbean island of Aruba on Friday - the scene of Ms Holloway's disappearance. Mr Van der Sloot was detained at his home in the Netherlands on Wednesday because of new evidence in the case. Two Surinamese brothers who were friends of Mr Van der Sloot have also been arrested on Aruba, which has an autonomous status within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reports that the new evidence comes from recently monitored telephone calls between the three suspects, the last people known to have seen Natalee Holloway before she went missing two-and-a-half years ago. Her disappearance has received major media coverage in the United States, amid angry accusations that the Aruban authorities have not been doing enough to solve the case.

Monday, November 19, 2007

FBI Laboratory to Increase Outreach in Bullet Lead Cases

Press Release: November 17, 2007
Washington D.C.
FBI National Press Office

Expanding on a series of efforts that were first initiated in 2002, the FBI Laboratory announced today that it has undertaken an additional round of outreach, analysis, and review efforts concerning a discontinued forensic test known as Bullet Lead Analysis, or BLA. Previously, in September 2005, the FBI Laboratory announced that, after extensive study and consideration, it would permanently discontinue the examination of bullet lead.

“Recently, joint reporting by The Washington Post and CBS News brought to our attention concerns that our messages on the discontinuation of bullet lead analysis were not clear enough and getting to the right people,” said John Miller, FBI Assistant Director for Public Affairs.

“In addition, working with the Innocence Project, the reporters brought to our attention some cases that may require closer examination of the scientific findings and testimony by FBI experts, and we are committed to go forward with that,” Miller said.

Those additional steps being taken by the FBI and the Department of Justice include the following:

The FBI has offered to work jointly with the Innocence Project, which has done legal research to identify criminal cases where bullet lead analysis has been introduced at trial.

An additional round of letters is being transmitted to the original recipients of the FBI notices in 2005, updating those state and local crime laboratories and other agencies on the additional developments noted above and requesting that they again notify state and local prosecutors that may have introduced bullet lead analysis during trial.

In particular, in BLA cases in which an examiner testified and which resulted in a conviction state, local, and other prosecutors are being asked to obtain and provide transcripts to the FBI and the DOJ of BLA testimony by FBI Laboratory examiners.

These transcripts will undergo a multi-step review conducted by scientific and legal experts at the FBI and DOJ to determine whether the testimony was consistent with the findings of the FBI Laboratory in 2005, particularly concerning the inability of scientists and manufacturers to definitively evaluate the significance of an association between bullets made in the course of a bullet lead examination.

If the reviews identify questions about the testimony, the prosecuting offices responsible for any such cases will be specifically and individually notified.

An enhanced system for monitoring testimony to ensure it comports with the findings contained in lab reports is being implemented by the FBI Laboratory.

Bullet lead examinations have historically been performed when a firearm has not been recovered or when a fired bullet is too mutilated for comparison of physical markings. BLA uses analytical chemistry to determine the amounts of trace elements (such as copper, arsenic, antimony, tin, etc.) found within bullets. As a result of that analysis, crime-scene bullets were compared to bullets associated with a suspect. From the early 1980s through 2004, the FBI Laboratory conducted bullet lead examinations in approximately 2,500 cases submitted by federal, state, local, and foreign law enforcement agencies. The results were introduced into evidence at trial in less than 20 percent of those cases.

In 2002, the FBI asked the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Science to have an independent committee of experts evaluate the scientific basis of comparative BLA. Specifically, the FBI divided the bullet lead examination into three parts – the scientific method, the data analysis, and the interpretation of the results – and asked the NRC for an impartial review of each area. The technology reviewed by the NRC had been used by the FBI Laboratory since 1996. Following the study, the NRC’s recommendations were set forth in a 2004 report entitled “Forensic Analysis: Weighing Bullet Lead Evidence.”

The NRC found that the FBI Laboratory’s analytical instrumentation was appropriate and the best available technology with respect to precision and accuracy for the elements analyzed. It also found that the elements selected by the FBI for this analysis are appropriate. The NRC expressed concerns, however, on the interpretation of the results of bullet lead examinations.
Following the issuance of the report, the FBI Laboratory voluntarily discontinued bullet lead analysis while it embarked on an exhaustive 14-month review to study the recommendations offered by the NRC, including an evaluation of numerous statistical methodologies. That review resulted in the FBI announcement in 2005 that the temporary discontinuation of BLA would be made permanent. Several factors played a role in the decision, but it was primarily based on the inability of scientists and manufacturers to definitively evaluate the significance of an association between bullets made in the course of a bullet lead examination. The announcement received prominent media attention at the time.

At the time, Congress was briefed and letters outlining the FBI Laboratory’s decision to discontinue BLA were sent to approximately 300 state and local crime laboratories and other agencies that received laboratory reports indicating positive results, as well as the National District Attorney’s Association, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Innocence Project, a litigation and public policy organization. Recipients were provided with a link to the NRC report and asked to provide a copy of the letter to all prosecutors working on any case to which the BLA may relate. The FBI offered to assist recipients, including assistance with regard to any discovery obligations, and provided name and contact information for experts at the Department of Justice and the FBI Laboratory. State prosecutors were asked to consult with discovery experts or appellate specialists within their office of the State Attorney General’s Office to determine the effect of the announcement on their prosecutions. In addition, for all federal cases, the FBI notified its field offices and the Executive Office for United States Attorneys advised those U.S. Attorneys offices where cases had been brought utilizing BLA testimony.

Recently, in response to the 2005 notification, two news organizations working with the Innocence Project initiated an effort to obtain selected trial transcripts from state and local court cases and to undertake additional assessment. The Innocence Project analysis of some of the transcripts that were identified raised a question concerning the BLA testimony of FBI examiners, particularly concerning the inability of scientists and manufacturers to definitively evaluate the significance of an association between bullets made in the course of a bullet lead examination.

Assistant Director Miller acknowledged the efforts of both the legal organization and the news media.

“The digging into individual cases done by the Innocence Project, The Washington Post, and CBS News brought some serious concerns to our attention. The FBI is committed to addressing those concerns. It’s the right thing to do,” Miller said.

“These additional and ongoing efforts further demonstrate the commitment of the FBI to advancing the cause of forensic science and to the utilization of the highest scientific and evidentiary standards – and to protect innocent Americans from erroneous accusations,” Miller said.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

A New Book on Scott Peterson -- comments from our readers

We have received several comments on our October 17 article about the new book on Scott Peterson due to come out in December, called "The End to the Laci Peterson Mystery: Scott Peterson Finally Confesses."

One comment just received posed these questions: "Marlene, why would you promote this book? Are you tied to it?"

No, I don't have any ties to this book, and I am not promoting it. I simply reported it as news.

My guess is that this book is not going to change any one's mind about Scott Peterson's guilt or innocence and certainly won't end the mystery to Laci Peterson's death. Unless she reveals how and when and why Scott Peterson moved Conner's and Laci's bodies to places that ensured he would be convicted. Because one thing I am sure of is that Conner did not wash ashore. And if he didn't, then neither did Laci. She may have been dropped into the Hoffman channel, and thus "technically" washed ashore, but she wasn't put in the Bay on December 24 -- by Scott Peterson or anyone else.