All posts in Science and Law

SIU_School_of_Law_08-04

Currently there are dozens of institutions wringing their hands about what to do about law school.  If you didn’t know a law school education costs more than you can make being a lawyer.  And because lawyers are famously math-impaired, they are still going to law school not realizing that it is the space equivalent of a black hole.

You can read what the problems are here http://news.yahoo.com/draft-law-school-reforms-could-broader-implications-145322045.html

and here  http://insidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com/

So, like always I will fix the problem.

You take what the students pay in tuition no more than say $4,000 a semester, and then (wait for it)

That is how much you can spend for professors and everything else.

You’re welcome.

Notice how  it would be impossible for you to pay any professor anything North of $80,000 …sorry, (sad trombone sound effect).

Law Dude, Ray Flavin, represents drivers that have been charged with DUI in McHenry County Illinois. His law offices are located across the street from the courthouse in Woodstock, IL.

Nicasa 2

So if you get a DUI in Lake County, Illinois you are COMMANDED to go to NICASA.  NICASA stands for Northern Illinois Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.  They have been in “business” since 1966, and what a business it is.

Now I am not saying that some people don’t need help with their alcohol addiction.  However, the way the law works EVERYONE gets “help” whether they have a problem with alcohol or not.  This is fantastic, if you’re in the alcohol counseling business.

The court will order you to get an evaluation.  When a court orders you to do something and you don’t do it, they want to send you to jail.  Why?  Because they can.

Look at the beautiful building that court ordered alcohol counseling built!

Nicasa 1

I am guessing about 2 million dollars worth of court ordered alcohol counseling.

You are probably wondering why I am so flummoxed about this.  Well, here it is in a nutshell:  Do you know how much testing they have done with regard to the efficacy of the counseling done by this and other alcohol counselors?

If you guessed none, you would be right.

There has been no study which compared DUI recidivism rates of those who received court ordered counseling and those who received none.

That is a great business- you don’t have to be good at it, you only have to open your doors and have the court order people arrested for DUI to use your services.  Oh wait, you can’t do that, because in Lake County NICASA is the only place you can go for court ordered alcohol counseling.

Nothing shady about that.  LOL

And I didn’t even get to breathalyzer manufacturers and BAIID Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device manufacturers.

Law Dude, Ray Flavin, represents drivers that have been charged with DUI in McHenry County Illinois.  His law offices are located across the street from the courthouse in Woodstock, IL.

Every contact leaves a trace.

I once did a jury trial where they had my guy’s DNA.  I mean, I’ve had a lot more than one case where there’s DNA.  A lot of them don’t go to trial though.  That’s because DNA seems so definitive.  It’s exact.  They can exclude the rest of the world to say your guy did it.

In my case, it was the defendant’s theory that the defendant was never at the scene of the crime.  The DNA, of course, was found on a beer can that was at the scene of the crime.  At first blush, it looked like we were screwed, right?

Maybe.  When the guy from the crime lab (or, the “DNA Dork” as I’m prone to calling them in casual conversation- ask a DNA expert about DNA sometime and you’ll see why) testified, I didn’t really contest any of his methods or calculations or even his linking the beer can from the crime scene to my client.  In trying to explain DNA to the jury, though, he did a pretty good job of explaining it in a way a layperson would understand.  The first thing he said was that “DNA tells a story.”

That’s what I crossed him on.  The story. DNA, when perfectly collected and analyzed tells a story.  It doesn’t tell a “Who Done It” story.  It doesn’t tell a “this guy is guilty” story.  It’s not that smart.

It tells a story of contact. A story of touching. A story of who touched or spit or bled where. And on what.  It tells that story when it’s properly collected, stored and analyzed, anyway.

In my case, it told a story of my client touching a beer can at one point. It didn’t tell a story of where or when he touched the can. Or, more importantly, how the can managed to get to the crime scene.  It didn’t tell any of that.

Coupled with the State having to use a witness that was an absolute buffoon and the police not doing a very good job, that allowed the jury to see the absolute innocence of my client. Or, at least feel comfortable signing the “Not Guilty” verdict form, anyway.

So, maybe DNA isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe, 30 years from now, the FBI will be reviewing all it’s DNA cases as potentially faulty just like it is reviewing all its old hair analysis cases.  Maybe someday DNA will be looked at with the same suspicion as police canine searches- as something that could  be accurate when used correctly but probably isn’t used as correctly as often as it should be.

I’m already looking at it like that now. So is the New York Times, which today ran an opinion piece called, “High-Tech, High-Risk Forensics”.  They also realize that the story of how DNA gets wherever it ends up is more important than whether or not it’s there:

 Once presented with Mr. Anderson’s [alibi] hospital records, prosecutors struggled to figure out how an innocent man’s DNA could have ended up on a murder victim.

Late last month, prosecutors announced what they believe to be the answer: the paramedics who transported Mr. Anderson to the hospital were the very same individuals who responded to the crime scene at the mansion a few hours later. Prosecutors now conclude that at some point, Mr. Anderson’s DNA must have been accidentally transferred to Mr. Kumra’s body — likely by way of the paramedics’ clothing or equipment.

This realization, of course, came after Mr. Anderson sat in jail facing life in prison for nearly 5 months.  That case was just a fluke, though, right?  No need to get all bent-out-of-shape about one guy spending a night or 200 in jail, right?  Right:

In one famous case of crime scene contamination, German police searched for around 15 years for a serial killer they called the “Phantom of Heilbronn” — an unknown female linked by traces of DNA to six murders across Germany and Austria. In 2009, the police found their “suspect”: a worker at a factory that produced the cotton swabs police used in their investigations had been accidentally contaminating them with her own DNA.

As if that’s not scary enough, the article’s discussion of the accuracy of DNA to pinpoint a specific person is even more scary:

Contamination is not the only way DNA forensics can lead to injustice. Consider the frequent claim that it is highly unlikely, if not impossible, for two DNA profiles to match by coincidence. A 2005 audit of Arizona’s DNA database showed that, out of some 65,000 profiles, nearly 150 pairs matched at a level typically considered high enough to identify and prosecute suspects. Yet these profiles were clearly from different people.

I know that probably doesn’t bother you. It wigs me out, though.  The fact that random DNA has the police running around and arresting people who shouldn’t be arrested, and the idea that DNA may not exclude “the entire rest of the population” (as the “experts” have been saying for decades) paints a fairly uncertain picture of the world we live in.

But, I’ve suspected that for years. So has just about anybody else on the criminal defense side of things.  Now, the New York Times does as well.  It will be interesting to see if things change any time soon. I doubt that they will.

All science is junk to some degree.

You know how that guy you read about on the news is guilty?  He confessed. And, even if he didn’t they have his hair at the crime scene.  That’s why Nancy Grace is crying about the case on T.V.  Nancy wouldn’t cry for no-good reason.  So you know the state has a good case.

That guy needs to be convicted and fry.  We all know he’s guilty.

But not these guys.  And by these guys I mean all of the “old” cases where the FBI helped convict and condemn people on similar evidence.  Apparently these guys might have suffered from being “mistakenly” linked to crimes through “exaggerated” scientific claims.  “Mistakenly” and “exaggerated” by the FBI, according to the Washington Post:

FBI officials discussed the review’s scope as they prepare to disclose its first results later this summer. The death row cases are among the first 120 convictions identified as potentially problematic among more than 21,700 FBI Laboratory files being examined.

***

At issue is a once-widespread practice by which some FBI experts exaggerated the significance of “matches” drawn from microscopic analysis of hair found at crime scenes.

Thankfully we are talking about old cases.  The law has come a long way since then (except, maybe, for in Georgia, of course).  Forensic Science has come a long way since then (except, maybe, for DNA, Fingerprints, or anything else crime lab corruption can screw up).  The accuracy of police interrogations has come so far (except, you know, for a pesky false confession or two).  Besides, the problems in the old cases really wasn’t that bad, anyway:

The new review listed examples of scientifically invalid testimony, including claiming to associate a hair with a single person “to the exclusion of all others,” or to state or suggest a probability for such a match from past casework.

Is that really any reason to let the scientific misgivings of the past diminish the scientific absoluteness of the present?  Of course not.  Besides,  we really shouldn’t expect total accuracy when it comes to  science and your freedom.   Forensic scientists have tough jobs toiling countless hours in windowless rooms.  They have to, like, measure things or count stuff.  They use calculators.

Cut them some slack. And, don’t point at them. They hate it when you point.

Matt Haiduk is an uncooperative Criminal Defense Lawyer with offices in Kane County and McHenry County, Illinois.  Feel free to mock him on twitter or add him on Google+.
hypodermic-needle

We are probably in our 25th scandal about this athlete or that using steroids to aid his or her performance.  I am guessing there is a scandal that you have never heard about that involves steroids (but after you read about it forget that I was the one that told you about it).

Police behavior is odd.

Cops killed a guy who suffered with Down’s Syndrome the other day.  After being told that the guy “didn’t like to be touched” they decided they would drive hime to the ground face down and asphyxiate him (that ought to shut him up).  It seems after every high speed chase, they seem to beat the shit out of some dude who is laying face down on the ground.  Have you ever wondered why that is.  I may have the answer.

As it turns out performance enhancing drugs are not for everyone, but they may be for the police.  Call your local police department and ask them if their officers are routinely screened for anabolic steroids.  (Wait, I meant to tell you to do that from a pay phone because they are gonna want your name and address after that question).

Let’s just take a quick surf on the internet to see what the effects of anabolic steroid abuse are:

Irritability, rage, uncontrolled high energy (mania), or false beliefs (delusions).

Are there any other explanations of the conduct that you and I see everyday by the police?

Can you think of any other behavior that you would NOT want to see in a police officer more than that associated with anabolic steroid use?  Isn’t anabolic steroid use sort of the “opposite day” of what we want in our police forces?

Then you would figure they would test for that without a doubt, eh?

Not a chance.  (Also, I was just kidding about calling the department and asking if they test, …. really don’t do that).

Law Dude, Ray Flavin, represents drivers that have been charged with DUI in McHenry County Illinois.  His law offices are located across the street from the courthouse in Woodstock, IL.

They are watching

An interesting report spurred on by the ACLU is hitting the news today.  It seems that your local police department may be using cameras and computers to store your license plate information… including the location of where and when your car is located.  According to the USA Today report:

The digital dragnet mostly collects data that are unrelated to any suspected lawbreaking or known activity of interest to law enforcement. It is a fast-growing trend ripe for misuse and abuse, the ACLU says.

We know the ACLU has nothing to worry about if it has nothing to hide.  What’s a little license plate data collections among friends, really?  Maybe the ACLU just doesn’t want you to know it’s shopping at Costco instead of Freshmarket?

Thankfully some of the cops are telling us that these are actually good.  After all, when your ’94 Chevy Malibu gets stolen from the church parking lot they’ve been monitoring, you’ll be happy they’ve also been scanning the license plates of all the cars pulling in and out of the Dog ‘n Suds up the street, right?  That way they cops will be able to know what the thief who “borrowed” it had for lunch on the way to the chop shop.

Wait.  They’d never go to a place of worship to record who is coming and going and where people practice their religion, would they? Of course they would:

In perhaps the most high-profile case, police in New York City used the readers to record license plates of congregants as they arrived to pray at a mosque in Queens.

And Rockwell thought it was the mailman and I.R.S. who were watching him. So silly.

 

Matt Haiduk is an uncooperative Criminal Defense Lawyer with offices in Kane County and McHenry County, Illinois.  Feel free to follow him on twitter or add him on Google+.
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