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Tag: Justice Department

Justice Department Public Integrity Section Gets New Leader

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department’s powerful Public Integrity section, which investigates politicians and judges, has a new leader, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

U.S. Attorney Jack Smith, who has been a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, brings a wealth of background and knowledge to the position. Smith was a criminal prosecutor, for example, in the International Criminal Court at the Hague.

Smith has tapped a top deputy – Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Raymond Husler, who has been acting chief of the Public Integrity section.

The Washington Post has more.

President of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI Addresses Controversy Over FBI Labs and Hair Analysis

Ellen Glasser

By Ellen Glasser
President, Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI
Throughout its history, the FBI has accepted its responsibility to serve and protect the American people. At times, this responsibility draws intense scrutiny. As former agents, we understand and accept such scrutiny because we know the public trust is earned.
 
Last week, the FBI acknowledged preliminary results of an ongoing and transparent effort to address historical issues related to scientific testimony by FBI Laboratory examiners. The FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ), along with the Innocence Project (IP) and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), issued an historic, joint statement on the ongoing review of pre-2000 cases involving Microscopic Hair Comparison Analysis. The statement reported that, in approximately 500 cases reviewed thus far, scientific testimony in a high percentage of trial transcripts contained erroneous statements.

The FBI has made every effort to be on the leading edge of scientific advancements and to set a worldwide example of excellence to other crime laboratories. Notwithstanding the need to make improvements based on the stated findings, any reasonable scrutiny should consider advances in science, historical context, and the criteria used to categorize error.

Before 2000, prosecutors routinely relied on microscopic hair comparison to link criminal defendants to crimes. In 1996, the FBI Laboratory developed and implemented mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis, in conjunction with probative hair analysis, because it was clearly the most effective protocol for the forensic examination of hair, and it provided a more meaningful association than either technique used alone. Thereafter, mtDNA testing became standard to analyze hair in criminal cases. It is important to note that the advent of mtDNA testing did not – and does not – negate the validity of Microscopic Hair Comparison Analysis. The latter technique is still used by the FBI Laboratory, and the science of microscopic hair comparisons has never been in question.

Using broad criteria that all parties could agree on, the review largely focused on whether examiner testimony regarding microscopic hair comparison analysis met accepted scientific standards. In trial settings, examiners are qualified as expert witnesses based on their experience. Because the science was not in question, many of the statements were identified in testimony where the experience of examiners may have been used to extrapolate statistical probabilities.

The FBI’s reputation as the premier law enforcement agency in the world is earned every day. The dedicated men and women of the FBI Laboratory have had an undeniable positive impact on public safety. In performing and testifying to countless forensic examinations, they have helped the cause of victims and helped to render justice. Improvements that will result from this review will strengthen our criminal justice system and reinforce public trust in the FBI.

 

Baltimore Mayor Asks for Full-Scale Civil Rights Investigation of Police Department

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

In an unusual move for a city, Baltimore’s mayor is asking for a full-scale civil rights investigation into alleged abuse within the police department following a riot over the police-involved death of Freddie Gray and other black suspects.

“We all know that Baltimore continues to have a fractured relationship between the police and the community,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said, reports the Baltimore Sun. “I’m willing to do what it takes to reform my department.”

Spokeswoman Dena Iverson said Attorney General Loretta Lynch “is actively considering that option in light of what she heard from law enforcement, city officials and community, faith and youth leaders in Baltimore.”

The Justice Department has conducted investigations of police departments in 20 cities, including Cleveland and New Orleans.

The investigations typically take 18 to 24 months.

State Justice Department Employee Accused of Helping Run ‘Fictitious’ Police Department

Brandon Kiel

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A state Justice Department employee was among three people arrested for allegedly operating an underground police force in California.

Brandon Kiel, 31, of South Los Angeles, was charged with seven counts of impersonating a police officer and is on administrative leave, SignalSCV.com reports. 

“We cannot comment on the ongoing personnel matter or criminal investigation,” California DOJ spokeswoman Kristin Ford said.

During a raid last week, federal investigators found badges, police ID cards, weapons and uniforms.

The suspects declared the Masonic Fraternal Police Department to be a sate agency.

Kiel has worked with the California DOJ since July 2013 as the deputy director of community affairs.

What’s unclear is whether the trio ever performed law enforcement activities, such as pulling over cars and conducting raids.

Justice Department to Spend $20M on Body Cameras for Police

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department plans to help police departments equip officers with body cameras, The Washington Post reports. 

The DOJ is launching a pilot program to determine the impact of the cameras, which come at a time when protesters nationwide are accusing police of unlawful force and racism.

The plan is to spend nearly $20 million on cameras for dozens of departments.

“This body-worn camera pilot program is a vital part of the Justice Department’s comprehensive efforts to equip law enforcement agencies throughout the country with the tools, support, and training they need to tackle the 21st century challenges we face,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.

Lynch said the idea is to learn what really happens when accusations are made.

“Body-worn cameras hold tremendous promise for enhancing transparency, promoting accountability, and advancing public safety for law enforcement officers and the communities they serve,” Lynch said.

A separate task force found that body cameras reduce the use of force by police.

“Now that agencies operate in a world in which anyone with a cell phone camera can record video footage of a police encounter, [body cameras] help police departments ensure that events are also captured from an officer’s perspective,” the report stated.

Los Angeles County Reaches Civil Rights Agreement with Justice Department

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Less than two years after prosecutors discovered a pattern of racial discrimination, the nation’s largest sheriff’s department reached a sweeping agreement Tuesday with the Justice Department to restore civil rights.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the deal 4-1 after patterns of abuse were found, including unlawful stops and seizures and excessive force, The Christian Science Monitor reports.

In addition, the Justice Department claims that Los Angeles sheriff’ deputies harassed and intimidated minorities in public housing.

The agreement means the sheriff’s department admitted no wrongdoing but will be overseen by three outside experts.

 

AG Loretta Lynch Tested with Baltimore Riot, Releases Plan of Action

Loretta Lynch

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

New Attorney General Loretta Lynch received her first big test after riots broke out in Baltimore this week.

Lynch, the first black female attorney general, released a statement soon after violence broke out, examining what happened and “going beyond the criminal civil right investigations” launched last week by her predecessor Eric Holder into the death of Freddie Gray, The National Journal reports.

Read Lynch’s statement:

“I condemn the senseless acts of violence by some individuals in Baltimore that have resulted in harm to law enforcement officers, destruction of property and a shattering of the peace in the city of Baltimore.  Those who commit violent actions, ostensibly in protest of the death of Freddie Gray, do a disservice to his family, to his loved ones, and to legitimate peaceful protestors who are working to improve their community for all its residents.

“The Department of Justice stands ready to provide any assistance that might be helpful.  The Civil Rights Division and the FBI have an ongoing, independent criminal civil rights investigation into the tragic death of Mr. Gray.  We will continue our careful and deliberate examination of the facts in the coming days and weeks.  The department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services has also been fully engaged in a collaborative review of the Baltimore City Police Department.  The department’s Community Relations Service has already been on the ground, and they are sending additional resources as they continue to work with all parties to reduce tensions and promote the safety of the community.  And in the coming days, Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division, and Ronald Davis, Director of Community Oriented Policing Services, will be traveling to Baltimore to meet with faith and community leaders, as well as city officials.

“As our investigative process continues, I strongly urge every member of the Baltimore community to adhere to the principles of nonviolence.  In the days ahead, I intend to work with leaders throughout Baltimore to ensure that we can protect the security and civil rights of all residents.  And I will bring the full resources of the Department of Justice to bear in protecting those under threat, investigating wrongdoing, and securing an end to violence.”

Hemp Today: Department of Justice Guidance Should Shield Tribes Who Want to Grow Hemp

By Hemp Today

A 2013 Department of Justice memorandum designed to prioritize the goals of anti-marijuana legislation should shield Indian tribes who are looking at growing hemp as an industrial crop, former ND Federal Prosecutor Timothy Purdon said.

The so-called “Cole memo” is a policy statement based on Deputy U.S. Attorney General James M. Cole’s Aug. 29, 2013 guidance to federal prosecutors regarding anti-drug laws in states that have adopted ballot initiatives that “legalize under state law the possession of small amounts of marijuana and provide for the regulation of marijuana production, processing, and sale.”

Subsequent DOJ guidance in October 2014 expressly made the Cole memo’s priorities applicable on Indian reservations, meaning the prosecutorial focus would specifically not be on tribal lands.

While the Cole memo is focused on marijuana cases involving drug cartels, sales to minors, the use of firearms in drug deals, and interstate transport of pot, “It seems likely that those memos would apply to hemp farming,” Purdon told the Associated Press. “Under the factors in the Cole memo, it would seem like the department should not be prioritizing the investigation and prosecution of industrial hemp.”

A North Dakota bill passed this legislative session sets guidelines for industrial hemp production, and should make it easier for tribes to grow and process hemp-based products, boosting the tribes’ economic fortunes. ND State Rep. David Monson sponsored the bill, which is meant to put the state in line with the new federal farm policy that allows experimental hemp farming through state ag departments and university research programs .

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