Monday, November 17, 2008

"The Full Power of the... Government"

I've written before about Douglas County Crime Scene Investigations commander David Kofoed. As I wrote then:

Several years ago a rural Nebraska couple were brutally killed by shotgun blasts to the head. The investigation quickly focused on relatives, specifically cousins Matt Livers and Nick Sampson. Officials quickly theorized that the Sampson car was the getaway vehicle, but an initial search found no DNA evidence. That's when CSI commander David Kofoed was called in for one more search. He "found" a speck of blood matching one the murder victim's DNA on the vehicle's steering column.

Case closed, right? How is the defense lawyer going to demonstrate that the DNA isn't the smoking gun, in other words?

The only problem for Commander Kofoed was that shortly thereafter, two Wisconsin teens were arrested for the murder and a large amount of DNA evidence was once again found in their vehicle.


Yesterday the Omaha World-Herald described an FBI investigation into the matter. It reported that "the speck of blood was the only physical evidence linking cousins Matthew Livers and Nick Sampson to the killings of Livers' uncle and Aunt" and that "Livers- who had been characterized as borderline mentally retarded- implicated himself and Sampson in the murders during 11 hours of questioning." The cousins spent "months in jail" according to the article. It also describes the FBI "looking into why law enforcement continued to detain the cousins even after overwhelming DNA and physical evidence pointed to other suspects."

Kofoed described his reaction to the FBI investigation:

"It would be absolutely ridiculous to plant one little speck, and then be the one who finds it... if you were going to plant evidence, you're going to put it on the steering wheel, or on the car seat or on a door ahandle, a place where it makes logical sense to find it."


Doesn't sound like a guy who's ever considered planting evidence, does it? Remember also that Kofoed's search, which was conducted on his own initiative after an earlier search, by his own lab, yielded no evidence. So, finding more than a "little speck" on a "door handle" would have looked pretty suspicious, don't you think? As the World-Herald reported and I described in my previous post:

"An initial search of the car by a member of Kofoed's staff found no evidence linking it to the killings.

Sometime later, Kofoed re-examined the car, the suit says, and found a tiny spot of blood on the steering column.

A laboratory examination later determined that the blood was consistent with Wayne Stock's DNA.

The Stocks were killed by shotgun blasts to the head and were found in their farmhouse.

Almost immediately, Cass County Sheriff's investigators and the Nebraska State Patrol theorized that a disgruntled family member killed the wealthy couple and that the Sampson car was the getaway vehicle.


Keystone CSI Chief cop or was "the intelligence being fixed around the policy," created by the Sheriff's office?

Either alternative is very troubling. Just ask those people sitting on death row largely as a result of DNA evidence processed through Kofoed's lab.

Kofoed appears to have learned a lesson, however, through this investigation. After the "speck" of blood he found led to the jailing of two innocent men, one borderline mentally retarded, who "confessed" after 11 hours of questioning, who spent months in jail accused of killing their relatives for money, Kofoed has suffered gravely. Although he remains in his job, the investigation has been rough on him:

"I felt the full power of the federal government coming down on me," [Kofoed] said.

Have you ever heard a more ironic statement?

5 comments:

Glen Graham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Glen Graham said...

I am sure you are aware of multiple other cases involving false or faulty forensic evidence. In Oklahoma, we had Joyce Gilchrist, an Oklahoma City Forensic Scientist who testified in multiple trials over a period of about 15 years. She testified to a degree of certainty that subsequently was questioned by other scientists especially involving "hair" evidence. Subsequent, DNA examinations revealed that many of the people who were convicted were not guilty. One man, Jeffrey Pierce, convicted of rape by mistake, spent 15 years in prison, until subsequent DNA evidence proved he did not commit the rape. He was convicted primarily based upon the "hair" evidence testimony of Joyce Gilchrist.
You can google up multiple other instances of mistaken or faulty forensic scientist mistakes, including some at the FBI.
These fault forensic scientist evidence do damage to the system and resulted in many, many millions of dollars in the expenditure of funds over subsequent DNA investigations, legal appeals, and law suits.
How can this happen? If someone is asleep at the wheel. If the police fail to adequately do their job. If the police, the judge, jury, and prosecutor just take at face value the ideas of the very human "forensic scientist" and fail to make an adequate "independent" judgment. Some say an error rate of 1 or 2 per cent is acceptable. If it happens to you or your loved ones it is not. If you told the FAA that every 1 or 2 planes out of 100were going to crash and that this should be "acceptable" --- they would think you are crazy.
The burden is beyond a reasonable doubt because a human beings future is at stake and a mistake is NOT ACCEPTABLE!

Glen Graham said...

Science Magazine Declares - The King Has No Clothes and There is No Science in Forensic Science - "Junk Science Lives"
Thanks to former FBI chemist Fred Whitehurst comparative bullet lead analysis (CBLA) is an invalid technique. No one has done more to discredit CBLA than Whitehurst and his colleague Bill Tobin who performed the scientific work demonstrating the invalidity of CBLA. Now he and Tobin have forced the FBI to stop using CBLA, and no one will ever again be convicted on the basis of CBLA.
This is an unprecedented achievement. It means that thousands of cases will have to be re-opened and the potential for exonerations dwarfs the numbers of those released by DNA analysis. Not resting on his laurels, Whitehurst is now identifying and notifying prisoners and their attorneys around the U.S. He is also attempting to bring criminal charges against the FBI which never even attempted to validate CBLA during its 30 years of use. FBI lab agent Charles Peters, who has done tens of thousands of comparative bullet lead analyses, testified at Clemons' trial that he had validated CBLA, but this was a lie.
This comes at a time when Science magazine has confirmed Whitehurst's charges against the FBI: there is no science to forensic science. The king has no clothes. Yet operating under self-anointed authority and deceit, the FBI continues to wrongfully convict. In a poll of wrongful convictions, 14 of which resulted in death sentences, Science found that 90% were due to a combination of forensic science testing errors and false/misleading testimony by forensic scientists.
Like Whitehurst before, Science found supreme arrogance at the FBI which acts as if it is "perfect" and practices "an error-free science" where errors of method are "impossible." Science added that the FBI continues to "seek to preserve the illusion of perfection [even] after the disclosure of [errors]." Not only does this arrogance lead to wrongful convictions, but it also undermines the war on terrorism. "Such hubris," reported Science, "was on display . . . .
http://www.dcmetrosftp.org/local%20articles/kelly.fbi.html

John Roberts said...

It's kind of funny that in one of your previous posts, you neglected to cite the source of the crime lab guy's attorney. You just put [the attorney] instead of naming him. Is that because you don't want to rip on fellow defense attorneys? Just curious.

John Roberts said...

The other thing that I think bears mentioning; how familiar are you with the actual case? Being a public defender in Omaha (Douglas Co.) and not in Cass Co. must mean that you don't get materials from their cases. Also, did you forget to mention that two investigators from the Cass Co. Sheriff's Office interrogated the first kid, Livers, for several hours, including using phrases like "I'll hang you from the highest tree for this" to get a confession? What about them? Wasn't it because of that false confession that actually got those kids in jail? Here's a quote from your blog: [Several years ago a rural Nebraska couple were brutally killed by shotgun blasts to the head. The investigation quickly focused on relatives, specifically cousins Matt Livers and Nick Sampson. Officials quickly theorized that the Sampson car was the getaway vehicle, but an initial search found no DNA evidence. That's when CSI commander David Kofoed was called in for one more search. He "found" a speck of blood matching one the murder victim's DNA on the vehicle's steering column.]
I don't know how much sharing you lawyers do, but I certainly don't think it would be this much.