Advanced Criminal Law: Convicting the Innocent
Professor James R. Elkins College of Law
West Virginia University|Fall|2016|



Bad Forensic Science

Reading: Keith A. Findley, Innocents at Risk: Adversary Imbalance, Forensic Science, and the Search for Truth, 38 Seton Hall L. Rev. 893 (2008) [online text]

Videos: In Class-Viewing

[1:34 mins.] [NBC's Pete Williams reports on findings by the National Academy of Sciences, which says the science behind crime investigations may be faulty, and that crime labs are underfunded and unreliable] [Feb.18, 2009]

Getting It Right: Forensics
[2:59 mins.] Brandon Garrett, Innocence Project] [reference to Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz cases]

Forensic Science: Role of National Institute of Standards and Technology
[2:15:43 mins.] [Peter Neufeld's testimony at the Congressional hearing begins at 31:30 mins. and ends at 37:38 mins; comments begins with characterizing the nature and history of DNA science.] [reference to Kennedy Brewer, the subject of Joe York's documentary, "Mississippi Innocence," a film we viewed in class]

[Peter Neufeld, in his Congressional testimony refers to the Kenny Brewer case. On the Brewer case see: Levon Brooks & Kennedy Brewer: Flawed Autopsies Send Two Innocent Men To Jail [7:31 mins.] [NPR] [Mississippi Innocence Project] A Long Road to Innocence: A Screening and Dialogue of "Mississippi Innocence" [46:06 mins.]

Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
[1:27:48 mins.] [May 13, 2009, Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security] [Peter Neufeld, Co-Director, The Innocence Project, New York; Neufeld's testimony before the subcommittee begins at 28:10 mins. and ends at 37:42 mins; comments on Steven Barnes case]

The System: Flawed Forensics
[45:06 mins.] [Joe Berlinger; Al Jazeera]


The Problems and Crisis of Modern Forensic Science
[53:27 mins.] [Nova Documentary Channel]

Forensic Sciences and Miscarriages of Justice
[10:19 mins.] [Cameron Todd Willingham arson case] ] Pt2 [10:02 mins.] Pt3 [10:01 mins.] Pt4 [8:01 mins.] Pt5 [6:59 mins.]

Legal Avenues for Relief in Innocence Claims
[1:26:11 mins.] [focus on hair comparison cases]

Post-Conviction Challenges to Forensic Evidence in Shaken Baby Convictions
[1:06:57 mins.]

Fudged Forensics & Faulty Witnesses: The Science Of Justice
[1:10:06 mins.] [World Science Festival] [Journalist Jim Dwyer, Innocence Project founder Peter Neufeld, forensic scientist Mechthild Prinz, psychologist Saul Kassin, and law professor Ekow Yankah talk about uncertainty in the courtroom at the World Science Festival event, "The Science of Justice: A Matter Of Opinion?]

Forensics on Trial
[45:56 mins.] [Discovery Chanel]

National Academy of Sciences Report--2009

National Academy of Sciences Report

Science Found Wanting in Nation's Crime Labs
[New York Times, Feb.5, 2009]

U.S. forensic crime labs need major reform: experts
[Reuters news service, Feb.18, 2009]

Crime labs need major overhaul, study finds
[CNN, Feb.18, 2009]

[NBC's Pete Williams reports on findings by the National Academy of Sciences, which says the science behind crime investigations may be faulty, and that crime labs are underfunded and unreliable][Feb.18, 2009] [video; 1:34 mins.]

Call For Forensics Overhaul Linked To 'CSI' Effect
[NPR :: with link to audio :: 4 min.15 sec]

News Accounts of Problems in Crime Labs

South Carolina Crime Labs
[WYFF TV, Aug.17, 2007] [video]

Law enforcement using private labs for DNA
[Neveda, Desert News, Feb.22, 2009]

FBI Crime Lab Supervisor Dr. Fred Whitehurst & the Oklahoma City Bombing
[video; 4:03 mins.]

Case Study: Cameron Todd Willingham

What We Have Learned From the Cameron Todd Willingham Case
[8:49 mins.] [National Institute of Justice] [panel on the use of forensic science] Pt2 [9:02 mins.] Pt3 [9:08 mins.] Pt4 [10:26 mins.] Pt5 [9:16 mins.] Pt6 [6:31 mins.] Pt7 [7:05 mins.] Pt8 [8:50 mins.] Pt9 [8:07 mins.] Pt10 [7:10 mins.]

Case Study: Sabrina Butler

Sabrina Butler: Expert Witness Testimony
[6:05 mins.] [inadequate autopsy] [coercive police interrogation]

Case Study: Ron Williamson & Dennis Fritz

Summary Comments on Forensic Evidence
[2:57 mins.] [the defendants, Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz, are the subject of John Grisham's The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town (New York: Doubleday, 2006)]

The Ron Williamson Case

Case Study: David Stagg

Forensic Justice
[8:47 mins.] [A professor finds his long-term partner dead. This 'suicide' is evidently a homicide. But does that implicate the professor? Forensic experts battle it out.] Pt2 [8:48 mins.] Pt3 [8:47 mins.] Pt4 [8:47 mins.] Pt5 [8:48 mins.] [The David Stagg Case]

Case Study: George Perrot

Judge frees man who spent decades in prison
[1:54 mins.] [WVCB, Channel 5, Boston]

Wrongfully Convicted For 30 Years, George Perrot Is Finally Free
[6:18 mins.] [conviction based on FBI testimony about hair] [victim testified Perrot was not the perpetrator]

DNA in Forensic Science

Early Implementation of DNA in Forensic Science
[46:48 mins.]

DNA Exoneration
[49:44 mins.]

Post-Conviction DNA Case Management Symposium
[52:49 mins.] Cold Cases [1:02:04 mins.]

Bernard Webster Case
[32:41 mins.]

Forensics in a Non-Exoneration Case

Forensic Justice
[8:48 mins.] Pt2 [8:48 mins.] Pt3 [8:48 mins.] Pt4 [8:48 mins.] P5 [8:46 mins.] [focus on the Kevin Neal case in Ohio]

Hair Analysis

Flaws in FBI forensics analysis may have helped convict wrong people
[2:48 mins.] [CBS News]

FBI Forensic Unit: Flaws in Hair Analysis Led to Convictions
[8:25 mins.]

Arson Investigations

Wrongful Arson Convictions and Developments in the Forensics of Fire Investigations
[15:10 mins.] [focus on the Teri Smallwood case]

Crime Labs

Crime Labs and the Courts
[58:17 mins. ] [National Forensic Science Technology Center]

Forensic Science: Law Review Articles

M. Chris Fabricant & William tucker Carrington, The Shifted Paradigm: Forensic Sciences's Overdue Evolution from Magic to Law, 4 Va. J. Crim. L. 1 (2016) [online text]

Jonathan J. Koehler, Forensics or Fauxrensics? Ascertaining Accuracy in the Forensic Sciences [online text]

Paul C. Giannelli, Wrongful Convictions and Forensic Science : The Need to Regulate Crime Labs, 86 N.C. L. Rev. 163 (2007) [online text]

_____________, Microscopic Hair Comparisons: A Cautionary Tale [online text]

Brandon L. Garrett & Peter J. Neufeld, Invalid Forensic Science Testimony and Wrongful Convictions, 95 Vir. L. Rev. 1 (2009) [online text] [extract from the Article Synopsis: "This is the first study to explore the forensic science testimony by prosecution experts in the trials of innocent persons, all convicted of serious crimes, who were later exonerated by post-conviction DNA testing. Trial transcripts were sought for all 156 exonerees identifed as having trial testimony by forensic analysts, of which 137 were located and reviewed."]

Web Resources

Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
[a 2009 report by the National Academy of Sciences (in collaboration with the National Institute of justice), a research report submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice]

Unreliable or Improper Forensic Science
[Innocence Project]

Junk Science in the Courtroom

Convicted Defendants Left Uninformed of Forensic Flaws Found by Justice Dept.
[Washington Post, April 16, 2012]

Problems with Presentation of Forensic Science Evidence
[resources collected by James R. Elkins for teaching the West Memphis 3 case]



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