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UNDER THE MICROSCOPE

----- Original Message -----
From: Sherry Swiney
To: Patrick Crusade
Sent: Friday, May 20, 2005 2:26 PM
Subject: [patrickcrusade] Under The Microscope

The article below reads <<"I think this proves our point, that crime labs cannot police themselves," said Neufeld, Washington's attorney in a civil suit stemming from his wrongful conviction.>>

That sure IS the case with Patrick Swiney's case in Alabama!!!  www.patrickswiney.com  You see, in Patrick's case we are not talking about DNA.  We are talking about gunshot residue.  In the record, the rifle allegedly used in the crime was said to be Patrick's .22 caliber AR-7 semi-automatic rifle using Remington Brand gunpowder.  This is a lightweight survival rifle that can be taken apart and stored in a small container.  It is a very dirty rifle, meaning that anyone who shoots this thing gets literally covered with gunshot residue.  The stuff gets in between your fingers, all in your hair, in your ears and nose, and it makes a mess of your clothes too.  You can't just wipe it off or your clothes would get stained and it's hard to wash it off because it clings to the small hairs inside your nose and ears, not to mention the hair on your head.

Because this little rifle is so dirty, the burned and unburned powder (gunshot residue) gets all over the rifle mechanisms and causes it to jam.  No one can shoot this particular model weapon and NOT be covered with gunshot residue, and it's not a weapon one would use to kill people "execution-style" the way these two people were said to be killed.  Oh, and I have to tell you something else.  The fact that some of the bullet holes were larger than what a .22 would make didn't phase the forensic lab.  They simply explained this away as something called wobble.  Now "wobble" they said happened because Patrick shot through a window and screen right into the male victim's neck which caused the victim to be instantly paralyzed, dropping to the ground right where he was shot.

Problem is, none of the bullets tested showed any glass or screen particles which it would if it had gone through glass.  We proved this in an independent test using an identical model of weapon in 2003.  Another strange thing that couldn't be explained is that there were no glass fragments found either inside the house or outside the house from the alleged bullet that traveled through the window and screen.  But all of that was ignored in the trial by both defense counsel and prosecutor.

Strangely enough, the crime scene was pretty bloodless for all the shooting that took place.  I'll bet that crime scene was one of the cleanest crime scenes ever found.  Also strangely enough there was never any kind of blood splatter tests done at that crime scene.

I wonder how two people could be shot so many times in that room and no blood splattered on the walls, carpets, or furniture.  Mmmmmm.

Well, back to the gunshot residue.  The forensic lab at the time of the shooting found no gunshot residue on Patrick's hands or clothing (well, they said they didn't test the clothing since nothing was found on his hands).  Oh, but they did test his clothing and shoes for blood and found nothing there either.  Mind you, this shooting supposedly took place inside Patrick's house.  It was said to be a shooting frenzy where he shot this dirty weapon at least 8 times in that enclosed space and yet somehow didn't get any gunshot residue or blood on him.  With that amount of shooting going on, he and his clothes would have been covered with gunshot residue that would have probably been visible with the naked eye, looking sort of like soot.  So under a microscope, it would have been easy to detect burned or unburned gunpowder on his hands, hair, ears, nostrils and clothing had he actually been the shooter!

But you know what the forensic lab did?  They took swabs from Patrick's hands and they ran a scientific test.  They tested for an element called Antimony and when they didn't find any Antimony, they looked no further and called the test "Inconclusive".  The funny thing is that in 1987 when the shootings took place, the gunpowder made by Remington Brand didn't contain any Antimony.  In other words, Remington Company did NOT add Antimony to its gunpowder in those days.  They didn't add Antimony to its gunpowder until two years later in 1989.

This means that the test that was done was a complete sham.  They knew they would not find Antimony and yet tested for exactly that element.  Why?  Well, then they could call the test inconclusive and that would mean they could tell the jury, "Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, the fact that the lab did not find any gunpowder residue on the defendant does not mean he did not shoot that rifle, because certain brands of .22 caliber rim fire ammunition do not contain the elements necessary to make this determination."

This is Alabama-speak for "this guy is guilty because we say so.  we don't need any proof.  we are the law!"  Hey, only in Alabama!!!

After all, they did have proof - overwhelming proof, they said.  And what was that proof?  Well, there was a witness in the trial who told the jury that her son who was now dead and buried, told her that Patrick once told him, "If you ever come into my yard again, I'll kill you."  The funny part is that Patrick and her son never even met!

Was the son ever in Patrick's yard?  We don't know except that he was in Patrick's house on the night of the shooting, and who was this son?  He was Patrick's then wife's ex-husband.  So does that make Patrick a suspect?  Sure it does.  The husband is always the first suspect in a case like this (adultery).  But when the husband is cleared because there's no evidence of wrong doing, then the another suspect is sought.  Did they ever do that?  No.  Instead, they built the case around Patrick's actions that night rather than on what might have actually happened.  They wanted him to be the killer and so they painted that picture despite the fact that they had NO evidence to convict.

By the way, had the Alabama lab looked for anything legitimate in that gunshot residue test, such as unburned powder (soot) or barium and not found anything, it would have proven that Patrick was not the shooter and then they would have lost their case against him.  You see how clever they are?  So, no - crime labs cannot police themselves, especially in Alabama!

Meanwhile, the real shooters have been walking free, enjoying life, while Patrick has been wasting away in prison for 17 years for a crime he absolutely did not commit. Feel free to pass this information around if you like.  And, if you would like to read the scientific proof of all of the above, please read the documents at www.patrickswiney.com.

If you would like to know more of this story please see the table of contents at
http://www.patrickcrusade.org/TABLECONTENTS.html

Blessings, Sherry Swiney
P.A.T.R.I.C.K. Crusade
www.patrickcrusade.org

PRISON REFORM MARCH IN DC
www.journeyforjustice.org/

PATRICK SWINEY - Innocent in Prison
www.patrickswiney.com
 
 

----- Original Message -----
From: Do Not Give Up Hope
To: virginiaprisoners@yahoogroups.com ; incarceratedinvirginia@yahoogroups.com ; VirginiaSouthCentralTriCityIncarceratedPeople@yahoogroups.com
Sent: Wednesday, May 11, 2005 10:57 AM

Subject: Virginia-For Under The Microscope - Daeth Penalty News VIRGINIA - Forensics Under The Microscope - Death Penalty News. From Rick Halperin 10th May  VIRGINIA Forensics under the microscope----Top lab repeatedly botched DNA tests Audit: Errors pass reviews in Virginia Death Row case

 

One of the nation's premier crime labs repeatedly failed to catch botched DNA testing in the case of a Virginia death row inmate who spent 17 years in prison before being exonerated, according to an independent review.

The audit, ordered by Virginia Gov. Mark Warner after the lab's director balked at an outside review, determined that the facility's senior DNA analyst erred twice in crucial evidence tests.

The independent review released Friday also found that the Virginia state crime lab failed to detect the errors when the testing was reviewed by another lab analyst and then failed to detect them yet again in an internal audit last fall.

The outside reviewers called for retesting some of the work of the  senior analyst, Jeffrey Ban, who handled DNA tests in many of Virginia's capital cases and serves on a panel setting standards for DNA testing nationwide. They found that Ban succumbed to pressure from the lab's director as well as from the office of former Gov. Jim Gilmore.

Critics of the lab's performance in the case of Earl Washington Jr. said the findings called into question the lab's work in other capital cases and underscored the poor quality of work done at some of the nation's crime labs.

"This laboratory that touts itself as the best DNA laboratory in the country generated erroneous test results in a capital case twice, using two different DNA methods," said Peter Neufeld, co-director of the New York-based Innocence Project.

"I think this proves our point, that crime labs cannot police themselves," said Neufeld, Washington's attorney in a civil suit stemming from his wrongful conviction.

Washington, a mentally retarded former farmhand from rural Virginia, spent more than nine of his 17 years in prison on death row before being exonerated of a 1982 rape and murder.

The case involved Rebecca Williams, a 19-year-old mother of 3 from Culpeper, Va. She had been raped and stabbed to death.

Sentenced commuted

Washington was convicted and sentenced to death in 1984, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison about a decade later after DNA testing in 1993 on semen at the crime scene raised doubts about his role in Williams' slaying.

Those tests, more primitive than today's DNA analyses, should have cleared Washington, the new audit suggested. Instead, he spent seven more years in prison.

He was pardoned in 2000, although Virginia law-enforcement officials refused to say he was innocent, in part because of DNA testing done that year by Ban.

Since then, DNA testing has connected a convicted rapist to Williams' rape and murder, though the man has not been charged.

The case and the Virginia lab's role in it were examined last year in a Tribune investigation, "Forensics Under the Microscope."

Washington's case sparked a fierce dispute in the forensic world. On one side were the Virginia lab, director Paul Ferrara and Ban. On the other side were Washington, Neufeld and one of the nation'sleading DNA scientists, Edward Blake of California.

At Neufeld's request, Blake reviewed Ban's work and tested the DNA evidence himself, concluding that Ban botched the testing.

When Neufeld called for an outside review of the case, Ferrara refused, saying scientists could arrive at different conclusions from the same DNA samples. In an interview with the Tribune last year, he criticized Blake as a "hired gun."

Ferrara insisted that Ban had not erred in Washington's case and suggested the criticism grew out of jealousy of the lab's sterling reputation.

"When you are on the top of the heap," Ferrara told the Tribune, "you are going to have someone trying to knock you down."

He relented when Warner ordered the review by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board, or ASCLD/LAB, a professional group that inspects and accredits crime labs across the country.

The auditors found that Ban misinterpreted both the 1993 and 2000 tests. It found, too, that when another lab analyst reviewed the 2000 tests, the analyst failed to catch Ban's errors. An internal review last year also missed the errors.

While the audit released Friday said some of Ban's results could be attributed to a poor DNA sample and small quantities of the sample, it clearly stated he had erred.

Analyst's duties curtailed

The auditors recommended that Ban's work be reviewed and he be relieved of some duties during the review. Ferrara said he was doing just that, according to a letter from him to Ban that Warner's office released.

Auditors also said the high-profile nature of the case contributed to the errors: Ban and Ferrara both told auditors the case was "not a normal law enforcement type of case," according to the report.

The report said Ferrara's "excessive managerial influence" on Ban had a "detrimental" effect.

Both were out of the office Friday and could not be reached.

The audit report also stated the office of then-Gov. Gilmore put pressure on the lab and that Ban felt "inconclusive results were not an option."

Ferrara told auditors he, too, felt pressure from Gilmore's office. In response, the reviewers recommended the Virginia lab insulate its employees from outside pressure.

Warner, who took the unusual steps of ordering the outside audit and then making it public, said in a statement Friday he hoped "the implementation of these recommendations helps restore confidence in Virginia's DNA testing."

He noted that the state's four-lab system recently was the subject of a general inspection and it met or exceeded national standards.

But Richmond lawyer Betty Layne DesPortes, who also is chairwoman of the jurisprudence section of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, said she was "more than disappointed" that Ferrara had "failed to acknowledge" some of Ban's errors.

Though ASCLD/LAB routinely inspects crime labs, the audit in Virginia was unusual because of the controversy that surrounded the case. It also was unusual because the report was publicly released, said ASCLD/LAB Executive Director Ralph Keaton.

Trying 'too hard'

In describing the nature of the case, Keaton said, "We don't have a situation here where there was any deliberate intent to come up with a result in a wrongful way. If anything, there was an effort to try too
hard to interpret data that was not quite there because of external pressure."

Blake said the reluctance to admit an error was just as bad as the analytical failures themselves, if not worse.

"If they had said they [erred] in the very beginning, this thing wouldn't be what it is today," he said in an interview Friday. "The Virginia forensic laboratory should be the hero in this case. . . . Now they're
part of the scandal."

Though Ban made the mistakes, Blake said those above him share in the responsibility.

"You've got everybody interfering in the case, and you're going to blame Jeff Ban?" he said. "Nobody should let Jeff Ban be the fall guy here."

Neufeld said Ban should be removed from the national panel that sets DNA standards. Officials from the panel could not be reached for comment Friday.

Suggesting that Ferrara set up a permanent outside auditor, Neufeld also criticized him for responding defensively instead of quickly addressing questions about the Washington case.

"When it first came to his attention and he saw Blake's report, he could have easily done what any professional leader of a scientific laboratory would do, which is ask for an external audit," Neufeld said. "Instead, he circled the wagons, said, 'We did nothing wrong.'" "And it turned out that he was completely wrong." ON THE INTERNET Find the complete Tribune series "Forensics Under the Microscope" online at chicagotribune.com/forensics

(source: Chicago Tribune, May 9)


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