Sum it Up! #55

Sum it Up!Sum it Up! #55 covers a lot of ground. Here we go:

Wrongful Convictions
1: Lamonte McIntyre

After being wrongly imprisoned for a double-murder for the past 23 years, Lamonte McIntyre walked out of Wyandotte County Courthouse a free man!

Lamonte McIntyre was wrongly convicted in 1994 of a double murder he never committed. His conviction was based on witness accounts only.

Lamonte McIntyre (17) was arrested on April 15, 1994, in Kansas City, Kansas, for the double murders of Doniel Quinn, 21, and Donald Ewing, 34. His trial was held when he turned 18 so he could be tried as an adult. It lasted four days. He received two life sentences despite the absence of a murder weapon, a motive, any physical evidence to tie him to the crime, and no evidence that he knew either victim. Nor was there evidence that police then searched for such evidence.

Lamonte’s alibi came from his family who swore he had spent the day at home. The only witness against him was a woman in the neighborhood, a relative of the victims, who later recanted her testimony and said that she lied in identifying McIntyre because she was coerced by the then lead detective in the case, Roger Golubski. Golubski, who retired as a captain from the police force in 2010, has previously denied the allegation.

McIntyre has been offered a full scholarship to Metropolitan Community College–Penn Valley. After graduation, he wishes to open his own barber shop.

2: LaDura Watkins

LaDura Watkins (62) and his attorney, Wolfgang Mueller, filed a $168-million lawsuit against police, the prosecutor, and the City of Detroit for 42 years incarceration after he was framed for the 1975 murder of school teacher Yvette Ingram.

The case against Watkins, who was serving a life sentence, was dismissed after the accomplice in the case recanted his testimony and forensic analysis of hair evidence that was part of the case was discounted, Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office spokeswoman Maria Miller said in an e-mail.

The man, Travis Herndon, gave several versions of what happened. Herndon later repeatedly said Watkins had no part in the crime and that he and a corrupt cop, who was later found shot to death, killed the woman. The only evidence against Watkins: one strand of hair. The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project became involved in the case in 2016 and challenged testimony and characterizations of the hair analysis done decades earlier, pointing out flaws. And that is our next stop in this post!

3: Forensics

Evolving sciences: hair and bite samples are unreliable as evidence. The first recorded use of hair evidence in a criminal case dates back to 1855 on a cotton plantation in Mississippi. Over decades, police and prosecutors used microscopic hair analysis to identify suspects. Lab examiners place hairs found at the scene on slides. With a microscope, they compare those strands to hairs from a suspect. If the strands are “microscopically similar” they concluded that the hair sample came from or “likely” came from the suspect. Hair analysis became a challenged science. In 2005, Congress directed the National Academy of Sciences (NAS is a nonprofit of America’s leading researchers and scientists) to study all forensic sciences, including hair analysis. Their conclusion: this technique is “highly unreliable” and cannot identify one person to the exclusion of all others. The FBI released this statement in 2015.

If this is of interest check the website of the California Innocence Project for more information. “Today, scientists can use Short Tandem Repeat (STR) DNA testing so long as the hair sample contains a root. In crime scene investigations, it is often the case that hairs forcefully pulled from a person’s head contain a root. Typically, however, hairs are shed without a root. A hair without a root requires mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) testing. MtDNA testing is limited due to the fact that all siblings from the same mother have identical mtDNA. Regardless, the use of DNA testing on hairs is far superior to the subjective guess work used by experts in microscopic hair comparisons.”

4: New Approaches

With evolving sciences, the quicker spreading of news through social media, and a better informed public we need to take another look at some cold cases we thought we could never solve. How do we handle cases of missing people? Are we quick to say a teen just ran off? Do we worry less when it is a person of color who disappears? Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders announced that his force is exploring how it might better respond to missing persons cases. The acknowledgement followed months of mounting concern over whether police have done enough to solve disappearances in the area. Adding resource officers, keeping a better eye out for groups who are at risk for being targeted, and a quicker use of social media can make a difference in missing persons’ cases.

Another new approach to battle crime especially when hunting a serial killer, is the use of artificial intelligence (AI). According to this article, the FBI thinks about 150 people a year are murdered by serial killers. AI uses complex systems of algorithms to predict patterns based on the data you put into the computer. It can take several cases reported to police departments and scan for similarities e.g. trying to find patterns ans clusters of cases.

Agencies are beginning to employ AI, like Veritone’s, to sift through video. This is a task that we’ve had to rely on humans to do traditionally. In a future where thousands of hours of video can be analyzed instantly, our ability to connect the dots between one murder and the next will increase exponentially.” Veritone is a company that uses AI. It can extract information such as faces and license plates, tagging each piece of evidence with a place, date and time. This is valuable information for law enforcement.

One example of AI you can see in action on the History Channel is of course, the case of the Zodiac. The artificial-intelligence software was created by Kevin Knight, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute. A supercomputer named CARMEL has developed the ability to think like the elusive serial murderer after it was fed all the available data about the Zodiac cases, the victims, etc. If you wish to know more about that follow this link.

Another example of a new approach is the collection of familial DNA to try and zero in on the suspect. The French used it to solve the cold case of Elodie Kulik. Dutch police (the Netherlands) used it in the cold case of Marianne Vaatstra. Now, Dutch police did it again in the 1992 rape-murder of  Milica van Doorn.

Dutch police have arrested a suspect in the 1992 rape and murder of a 19-year-old woman after asking over 100 men to volunteer their DNA for testing, authorities announced Monday. The man accused of raping and stabbing Milica van Doorn before dumping her body in a pond in the city of Zaandam in the Netherlands was one of only two men who refused to give a DNA sample after police asked 133 men to volunteer, but was discovered through a relative who did volunteer, according to DutchNews.”

The use of familial DNA is not without controversy and of course, privacy issues. “So far, only 10 states (California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Ohio) have protocols in place to use the technique to search for the criminals behind unsolved crimes. But there are new calls to expand its use.” Read more about that here.

5: The Old-Fashion Way

But even with all the supercomputers in the world and AI and using familial DNA, we cannot neglect how we used to solve crime. The old-fashion way. And it still pays off. On 4 December 1965, a body was discovered on the side of the road just on the outskirts of Bellevue (Washington, USA) next to a patch of blackberry bushes. Stabbed 13 times, the victim was identified as Loren H. Sundholm (23), who served in the navy and had been stationed nearby. He had earlier been reported missing.

In 2014, Shelby Shearer, a Bellevue police detective, took up the case. He hoped that, as with the majority of cold cases, there would be some forensic evidence that could be scrutinised further with the advanced technology that was now available. However, all he found to work with was a set of black and white photos. There had been a suspect but no solution to the crime. If you want to know how this detective solved the case with just black and white photography, click here.

Officer Shearer did the right thing. He picked up the file and started reviewing everything, interviewing everyone. But not every officer plays fair, alas. There is a secret 2014 list with hundreds of Los Angeles deputies who have with histories of dishonesty and similar misconduct according to the LA Times. This list is understandably under tight wraps. But with more cases of police misconduct in the media, “Sheriff Jim McDonnell wants to give the names on the list to prosecutors, who are required by law to tell criminal defendants about evidence that would damage the credibility of an officer called as a witness. But McDonnell’s efforts have ignited a fierce legal battle with the union that represents rank-and-file deputies.” The types of misconduct found were labelled as dishonesty, family violence, immoral conduct, stealing, and sex.

Can you imagine the consequences? We could have more wrongful convictions and with that, more cold cases if police didn’t follow up on other leads.

The California Supreme Court is expected to decide next year how to proceed. California is a state with some of the nation’s strictest secrecy laws on police misconduct. It is among 22 states that keep officer discipline from the public, but it is the only one that blocks prosecutors from seeing entire police personnel files.

The investigation from the LA Times also found mistakes on the list. Some officers who had their names cleared so the list should be viewed with precaution. If you click here you will find 23 cases discussed.

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We end with a tribute to Federal Senior Judge James “Jim” Brady. He passed away and at age of 73.

In 2015, Judge Brady ordered the release of Albert Woodfox, the last “Angola Three” member still in prison after decades of solitary confinement (since April 1972) at the Louisiana State Penitentiary known as Angola. The other two men were Robert King and Herman Wallace. Each was kept in solitary for more than 25 years; two of the men served more than 40 years each in solitary.

Judge Brady also barred a retrial for Woodfox, then 68, who was awaiting a third trial in the 1972 stabbing death of a Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola guard.

Rest in peace, Judge Brady.