Mississippi bite mark “expert” continues to testify, despite several challenges and episodes of odd behavior
Back in the 1990’s, Mississippi’s Michael West was considered by some, to be the foremost expert on bite mark identification. That is the ability to “connect” a suspect’s dental records to a bite mark, either on an object (like a piece of cheese) or on a person’s skin. Despite challenges to his technique and expertise throughout the 90’s, he continued to be retained by attorneys in Mississippi and Louisiana.
After testifying in several high profile cases, in early 2012, West was questioned about bite mark analysis on the witness stand and testified that he no longer thought bite mark comparisons to be a scientifically valid discipline, stating, “I no longer believe in bite mark analysis. I don’t think it should be used in court. I think you should use DNA, throw bite marks out.”
In April 2016, West was deposed in the case of Eddie Lee Howard, who was in prison for 20 years after being convicted in the murder case of an 84-year-old Mississippi woman back in 1992. The case was reopened by the Innocence Project who maintain the Howard is innocent. At the time, and without any scientifically accepted evidence (fingerprints, witnesses, ballistics) found at the crime scene, the prosecution turned to Dr. Michael West and his signature bite mark analysis. Though the coroner never noted any bite marks on the woman’s body, it was exhumed 3 days after burial so that Mr. West could examine her remains for evidence of bite marks. In the end, Mr. West testified at trial that Howard was the one who had bitten the victim “to a reasonable medical certainty.”
Almost as alarming as the shoddy forensic science performed in this and other cases, is the fact that West seems to have no sense of accountability or remorse for putting innocent people in jail. In the recent deposition, West insults the prosecutor on the case, and spews profanities. And by most accounts, his train of thought and testimony regularly goes “off the rails” during the deposition, bringing up personal stories and other cases while peppering his testimony with vulgarities.
Several reporters are keeping tabs on this case, as well as others, as Mr. West continues to stay in the news, one way or another. In addition, Courtroom Insight has 12 known challenges to Mr. West’s testimony available for reveiw with a paid subscription. You can read more about this case and others in the Washington Post and the New York Times. Read more on the West case reopened by the Innocence Project here.
Chicago, IL and Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands are 7,230 miles from each other, but expert witness William Pelarenos testified in court without leaving his home state. Saipan is the most populated island in the group of Mariana Islands and has been a U.S.Commonwealth since 1978.
Early last spring, Mr. Pelarenos, was contacted by Saipan’s Office of the Public Defender and asked to testify in a DUI case. The only catch was that he would do so via the internet telecommuting program called Skype. Skype allows the users to view conference participants via the camera on their computer or tablet and audio is transmitted via the microphone.
Pelarenos is a former police officer, DUI instructor and has testified as an expert throughout Illinois. He was qualified by the Saipan court as an expert in the field of standardized field test sobriety tests and the NHTSA DUI Detection Manual.
Pelarenos testified in the Saipan court for more than 2 hours regarding proper testing procedures and answered questions from both attorneys with respect to NHTSA standards.
While expert witness testimony is not commonly requested via Skype or other similar telecommuting services, it might become more commonplace now that most municipalities have internet and Wi-Fi readily available to their attorneys and judges. Furthermore, accessing an expert in a particular field becomes increasingly easy, if one does not have to be concerned with flying the expert into town for the proceedings. Theoretically, attorneys could retain the top experts in a particular field for any court proceedings, if travel and locale are not a factor.
Pillsbury, a full service global law firm with 700 attorneys, has chosen Courtroom Insight to host its repository of information regarding experts, arbitrators and judges.
Pillsbury’s co-heads of litigation, Kirke M. Hasson and Kenneth W. Taber, recognized a need to better manage institutional knowledge of their numerous attorney relationships with experts, arbitrators and judges. “We were tired of reading firm-wide emails asking for information about prior experiences working with different individuals,” explained Mr. Taber. “Courtroom Insight provides a superior alternative.” Pillsbury’s Director of Knowledge Management, Lisa Gianakos notes “Courtroom Insight has been on my radar for some time and I appreciate their willingness to customize their solution to fit our specific needs.”
Courtroom Insight Chief Executive Officer Mark Torchiana said, “Our company is eager to work alongside Pillsbury’s knowledge management group to install our solution for the Pillsbury litigation team. They have already provided useful product feedback and we will continue to incorporate their input going forward to help entrench Courtroom Insight as the leading litigation knowledge management solution.”
Courtroom Insight, the leading litigation knowledge management solution for sharing critical information about experts, arbitrators, judges and attorneys, is proud to announce Sheppard Mullin as its newest law firm client.
Sheppard Mullin’s Director of Research & Library Services, Martin Korn, chose Courtroom Insight to help the team provide the right information at the right time. Mr. Korn states “I’m excited to add Courtroom Insight to our arsenal of resources and expect it to enhance the background reports we regularly deliver to our attorneys. This is yet another way in which we can add value to the services we provide our clients.”
Sheppard Mullin’s Chief Knowledge Officer, Dora Tynes, explains that “by signing up our library staff, I am able to provide a central repository of key information about experts and other litigation professionals. I particularly like the way expanded research and expert witness search services are made available directly from the product interface.”
You can read more about the partnership between Sheppard Mullin and Courtroom Insight in the full press release.
When Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky handed down, what many consider to be an extremely light, and possibly irresponsible sentence of just 6 months to Brock Turner, a former Stanford University swimmer, convicted of sexually assaulting a woman on campus, he could not have predicted the firestorm that has followed. While the majority of the criticism was in favor of a harsher sentence for the defendant, the public outrage has been followed by a move to recall the judge from the bench.
However, 18 retired Santa Clara County judges have now penned an open letter, denouncing the recall of Persky. It’s not that they disagree with the public outcry, but rather, they are balking at the precedent that could potentially be set if Persky is recalled. In the letter, the group of judges point out that “the essence of judicial independence is that judges must be able to make decisions without fear of political repercussions.”
Persky has been on the bench since 2003, and it will be interesting to see how the push for his recall plays out once the media attention dies down.
Read more about the open letter here: http://www.law.com/sites/almstaff/2016/07/06/removing-judge-aaron-persky-would-set-a-dangerous-precedent/?slreturn=20160612195241
Courtroom Insight significantly upgrades its knowledge management platform with the release of a new international attorney referral directory. Clients may now search for the best attorney to fit their needs in the international market based upon criteria such as language, country and legal expertise. In addition, Courtroom Insight’s expert witness, arbitrator and judge directories may now include professionals in all international jurisdictions. This development solidifies our position as a leader in litigation knowledge management.
We are thankful for the opportunity to partner with Littler on developing this new software. To read the full press release, click here.
A Civil Grand Jury in San Francisco mandated on June 1, 2016 that the San Francisco Police Department Crime Lab divest itself from the SFPD and become an independent entity. The Crime Lab has long been plagued by a number of scandalous incidents, including a lab employee stealing and using evidentiary cocaine in 2010 and a DNA analyst failing a proficiency test in 2014. Problems with case tracking and lab management with little or no scientific background have also surfaced.
Although the Lab was recently accredited by the American Society of Crime Lab Directors (ASCLAD), the Jury found that additional steps, including replacing the current Lab Director with a civilian and removing the Lab from the oversight of the SFPD were necessary in order to increase the credibility of the Lab in court and in the community.
There will, of course, be implications of this change in management and in the findings of the Grand Jury. Laboratory staff and management will likely need to defend their previous work on past cases and all current cases in the courtroom. Defense attorneys are sure to use these Jury findings as a way to challenge the witness’ expertise and ability to work in an unbiased fashion. Maintaining a high level of transparency and accountability will be important if the Lab is to raise its status in the legal community.
Read the full article here: http://www.sfexaminer.com/sfpd-shouldnt-oversee-crime-lab-report-recommends