The Washington Post, March 2015
A series examining the child abuse prosecutions attributed to shaken baby syndrome since 2001, including more than 200 cases that were ultimately dismissed, overturned or resulted in acquittal. The vast majority of cases, however, ended with convictions. Many guilty verdicts relied on disputed science that supports the shaken baby diagnosis. “My greatest worry is that I have deprived someone of justice because I have been overtly biased or just mistaken,” Dr. George Nichols, former chief medical examiner of Kentucky, told the Post.
With the introduction of DNA analysis three decades ago, criminal investigations and prosecutions gained a powerful tool to link suspects to crimes through biological evidence. This field has also exposed scores of wrongful convictions, and raised serious questions about the forensic science used in building cases.
This week, The Washington Post reported the first results from a sweeping study of the FBI forensic hair comparison unit, finding that 26 of 28 examiners in the unit gave flawed testimony in more than 200 cases during the 1980s and 1990s. Examiners overstated the accuracy of their analysis in ways that aided prosecutors. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Innocence Project are conducting the study with the cooperation of the U.S. Justice Department.
The development is only the latest to shake public faith in what police and prosecutors have often cited as scientific proof. In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences published an exhaustive review of the forensic sciences, concluding that only nuclear DNA analysis has a foundation in research. “Although research has been done in some disciplines,” the report states, “there is a notable dearth of peer-reviewed, published studies establishing the scientific bases and validity of many forensic methods.”
A recent federal appellate decision, EEOC v. New Breed Logistics, affirmed a $1.5 million jury verdict for four employees who had experienced or witnessed harassment and were subsequently terminated. In doing so, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (which covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee) found that workers who complain directly to a harasser by telling that person to stop have engaged in a protected activity that shields them from retaliation under Title VII. The case also reminds employers about the importance of educating temporary workers about their anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies.
A civil rights historical marker whose base was damaged during a move to create a new curb cut for Embassy Suites valet parking will be reinstated across from Guthrie Street after a new base arrives.
A new base for the marker that was ordered after the original one was damaged in the move is expected to arrive this week, and the marker will then be erected again, Chris Poynter, a spokesman for Mayor Greg Fischer, said.
Reporter Martha Elson can be reached at (502) 582-7061. Follow her on Twitter at @MarthaElson_cj.
A judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by a former University of Louisville football player who claimed that the university and former Coach Charlie Strong reneged on a pledge to continue his scholarship through graduate school after he was injured in an assault by two teammates.
Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Susan Schultz Gibson dismissed the suit filed by Patrick Grant, saying the university and Strong were protected by sovereign immunity, which shields the state from liability except in some circumstances.
Grant’s lawyer, Scott Zoppoth, called the ruling disappointing and said his client would appeal.
Reporter Andrew Wolfson can be reached at (502) 582-7189