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Archive for February, 2009

Scientific Report Cites Shoddy Lab Results in Court

Some of the lab evidence being introduced into criminal trials these days is shameful. It’s really been no secret. Here’s a report that spells it out.

By SOLOMON MOORE
New York Times
Forensic evidence that has helped convict thousands of defendants for nearly a century is often the product of shoddy scientific practices that should be upgraded and standardized, according to accounts of a draft report by the nation’s pre-eminent scientific research group.
The report by the National Academy of Sciences is to be released this month. People who have seen it say it is a sweeping critique of many forensic methods that the police and prosecutors rely on, including fingerprinting, firearms identification and analysis of bite marks, blood spatter, hair and handwriting.
The report says such analyses are often handled by poorly trained technicians who then exaggerate the accuracy of their methods in court. It concludes that Congress should create a federal agency to guarantee the independence of the field, which has been dominated by law enforcement agencies, say forensic professionals, scholars and scientists who have seen review copies of the study. Early reviewers said the report was still subject to change.

For Full Story

Appeals Court Ruling Could Spell Trouble For Probes of Congress Members

Details of the ruling have not been released, but it appears it has potential to create more problems for investigators looking at public corruption cases involving members of Congress.  Lately, this issue seems to be a recurring one in FBI probes involving  Congressional members.

Ex-Rep. Tom Feeney

Ex-Rep. Tom Feeney

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court has dealt a blow to the investigation of a former congressman in a ruling that could also limit probes of other lawmakers, according to three sources familiar with the matter.
The order, which has not been made public, came during the grand jury investigation of former Representative Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) and his potential ties to former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the sources said. The appellate judges who issued the ruling did not say when they would release an opinion explaining their decision, which reversed a lower court order favorable to prosecutors seeking documents and grand jury testimony, the sources said.
Even without knowing the details of the ruling, sources and legal experts said it is important because it is the second time in two years that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has sided with Congress in its fight with the Justice Department over what protections lawmakers are granted under the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause. The clause is designed to shield lawmakers’ official work from executive branch interference and has been increasingly cited by members of Congress under federal investigation.

For Full Story

Report Says Priorities Shifted Away From Nabbing the Most Dangerous Illegal Immigrants

An illegal immigrant deported to Mexico on Tuesday

An illegal immigrant deported to Mexico on Tuesday/ice photo

The Obama administration seems bent on changing policy in many areas including illegal immigration. This report suggests change is not only preferable, but necessary to make the U.S. safer.

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — As the Obama administration vows to re-engineer immigration policy to target criminals, a new report says that in recent years, a high-profile federal program shifted its focus away from catching the most dangerous illegal immigrants who were evading deportation orders.
Between 2003 and 2008, 27 percent of the more than 96,000 illegal immigrants arrested under U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s National Fugitive Operations Program had criminal convictions. And in 2007, 9 percent of those arrested were fugitives from deportation orders who were criminals or were considered dangerous. That same year, the share of arrests of illegal immigrants not facing deportation orders grew to 40 percent.
The findings come as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has ordered a review of which immigrants are targeted for arrest and as a Democratic Congress has shifted ICE money toward pursuing criminals.
For Full Story

Gambino Mobster Sings on the Stand in Brooklyn

It seems more often now, tough-guy mobsters are turning into big time snitches. In Brooklyn federal court Tuesday, Gambino solidier Peter Zucarro was on  the stand helping out prosecutors nail mobster Charles Carneglia.

BY JOANNA MOLLOY
DAILY NEWS COLUMNIST
BROOKLYN — It was a day of naming names in Brooklyn Federal Court Tuesday. You know: Quack Quack. Johnny One Arm. Vinnie Mad Dog. Little Fat Joe. Could Big Pussy be far behind?
Turncoat Gambino soldier Peter Zucarro took the stand to testify against Charles Carneglia, who’s accused of five murders.
In a tough, gravelly voice he told why the Mafia kills people:

– “He cursed at a capo in Italian.”

– “He didn’t pass on money (a superior) could use for snacks in the jail commissary.”

– “Vinnie Gotti thought he was sleeping with his wife.”

– “He didn’t come when he was called.”
For Full Story

ATF and FBI Investigating Arkansas Car Bombing that Seriously Injured Head of State Medical Board

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1kgFyytRXY

UPDATE: Thursday, 3:40 P.M. — The Associated Press is reporting that the doctor was awake and responsive this morning.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

READ THE ENTIRE LIST OF BERNIE Madoff’s VICTIMS (PDF)

Will the FBI Find the Cure For the Uncommon Cold Case?

For investigators, it’s a headache worth tackling.  But will advances in science be enough to crack the case?

BY NATASHA KORECKI AND FRANK MAIN
Chicago Sun-Times
CHICAGO — Investigators have breathed new life into the decades-old, unsolved Tylenol killings, prompted by advances in forensic technology and new tips on the crimes, FBI officials said today.
The FBI executed search warrants today on the man convicted of extortion related to the infamous Tylenol killings that claimed seven lives in the Chicago area in the 1980s.
“Given the many recent advances in forensic technology,” an FBI statement read, “it was only natural that a second look be taken at the case and recovered evidence.”
Sources say James William Lewis – long viewed as a suspect – is part of the investigation under way in Chicago and that one of the search warrants was for his home in Cambridge, Mass., outside Boston.
The FBI in Cambridge confirmed that agents searched multiple locations today, including 170 Gore St. in Cambridge – Lewis’ residence and registered place of business. They also searched two storage facilities near Cambridge.

Book Review: SECURING THE CITY Inside America’s Best Counterterror Force — The NYPD

After Sept. 11, 2001, New York City assembled one darn impressive counter-terrorism unit.  Christopher Dickey, a Newsweek correspondent, takes an in depth look at the department in  his latest book.

By DWIGHT GARNER
New York Times Book Review

Roland Emmerich’s 1998 remake of “Godzilla,” starring Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno, was a hapless piece of moviemaking, panned by critics and largely rejected by American audiences.
In the third world, though, the movie touched a chord. Among those who loved it were Qaeda sympathizers and hangers-on in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The scenes of Godzilla stomping across New York City, crushing everything in its path, were mesmerizing and inspiring. One captured terrorist later warned of an attack against “the bridge in the Godzilla movie.” Interrogators had to go rent Mr. Emmerich’s film to find out what he meant: the Brooklyn Bridge.
It is both comical and scary to witness the degree to which terrorists (and would-be terrorists) have been in thrall to American action movies. Richard Reid, the failed shoe bomber, used the pseudonym Van Damme, after the B-grade martial arts star Jean-Claude Van Damme. Another terrorist was obsessed with “Air Force One,” the Harrison Ford president-in-peril film.
Weirdest of all, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – the pudgy 9/11 plotter who will be forever remembered for his disheveled mug shot – was supposedly an amusing guy when he attended an agricultural state university in North Carolina. His nickname? “B’lushi.”
In his revealing and nerve-rattling new book, “Securing the City,” a look inside the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism division, Christopher Dickey recounts the details of dozens of terrorist plots against New York City and elsewhere.

For Full Story

Prosecutors Say Barry Bonds Used Designer Steroids and a Female Fertility Drug to Trick Tests

Now that the government has released a barrage of documents, the question remains: What’s Bond’s defense? It better be good.

Lance Williams and Bob Egelko
San Francisco Chronicle
SAN FRANCISCO — Former Giants slugger Barry Bonds used the BALCO designer steroid “the clear” during the 2003 baseball season and also was taking a female fertility drug that can mask drug use on steroid tests, federal prosecutors say.
Also in 2003, Bonds’ trainer, Greg Anderson, was secretly tape-recorded describing the regimen of undetectable banned drugs that baseball’s all-time homerun leader was using, federal prosecutors say.
In documents unsealed today in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, the government laid out what it hopes will be the core of evidence it will present to a jury next month in Bonds’ trial on perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges.
He is accused of lying when he told a grand jury in 2003 that he had never knowingly used steroids.
For Full Story

Read Prosecution Documents