Strike Another One for DNA


You may have heard the good news that DNA testing has uncovered a serial killer who murdered a dozen people in South Los Angeles. Now the bad: Another man, "a barely literate part-time janitor described by a psychiatrist as having the mental capacity of an 8-year-old," spent 9 years behind bars (note: was previously "11 years") after being wrongfully convicted in the slayings of three of the victims. There were no witnesses, no corroborating evidence, just "the inconsistent statements of a man who was found to have an IQ of 60 to 73 and cannot read words longer than four letters." Who waved his rights to a lawyer, was badgered into a "confession," part of whch was not taped. Whole ugly story here (reg. required).


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  1. BugMeNot doesn’t seem to work on this site. Anyone have a login?

  2. Damn skippy! There should be a rule: No Reg. Req. links unless you supply a login too.

  3. user name: Reason

    Password: Reason or if it needs an email works for almost of the news sites.

  4. From what I read, the crime spree lasted eleven years. The wrong man was jailed for 9, not 11.

  5. When you read the story, it becomes clear this case is in the “Crime Makes You Stupid” category. The real killer’s DNA got picked up when he ***voluntarily*** gave a DNA sample as part of a plea agreement in another case.

  6. This afternoon, on BBC2 (tv), there was a program about juveniles on death row.

    One anecdote about a Louisianna man… Found not to have been guilty thanks to DNA after having spent I don’t know how many years on death row. “Learning disabled”.

    Only two countries have not signed on to the treaty forbidding the execution of people who were juveniles at the time of their crimes, according to the BBC: The USA, and Somalia.

  7. CA has a proposition that would take the DNA of every felon prisoner and those convicted of felonies.

    However, starting in 209 it would also require those *arrested* for any felony to give up their DNA. If they’re acquitted they can (supposedly) have their DNA removed from the DNA database.

    Because of the latter provision, I oppose it and I’d imagine that libertarians would as well.

  8. P.S. I oppose it because of the *arrested* part and because I don’t think the DNA would ever be completely removed from the system even upon legitimate request.

  9. Matt Welch,

    How were statements inconsistent specifically? Was an out of court admission/statement (testimonial or otherwise) or a statement during a hearing or the grand jury proceeding compared to his statements during the “trial?”

  10. JB — From the article:

    Jones, a barely literate part-time janitor described by a psychiatrist as having the mental capacity of an 8-year-old, waived his right to a lawyer and was interrogated by police three times over two days.

    Transcripts from two taped interviews show that he repeatedly denied killing the women, but under detectives’ prodding admitted to having sex and smoking crack cocaine with the victims at the places where their bodies were found.

    Jones also said that he fought with the women and placed them in a police-style chokehold when they demanded more money or drugs. […]

    “He admitted to having sex with them. He admitted to having raped before,” said juror Stanley Buliavac, who said he would convict Jones again today on the same evidence.

    During detectives’ first interview with Jones about the killings, which was not taped, Jones was shown photos of bodies at the crime scenes, according to records. During subsequent taped interviews, detectives asked leading questions and corrected Jones when he gave statements that contradicted the evidence or his prior statements.

    When detectives asked Jones about his interactions with Williams, they twice corrected him on the locations of the crimes.

    “You remember yesterday we showed you that picture by the water fountain there?” said Frederick Miller, the lead robbery-homicide detective on the case, referring to the unrecorded interview in the county jail.

    Jones accepted the location, but said the woman was unhurt when he left. Miller corrected him again.

    “Well, yesterday you said that ? that she fell. You saw her falling back down the steps. Do you remember that?” Miller said. “Remember we showed you that picture?. Remember she’s laying down in the steps down there? You said that she fell trying to get over that gate?”

    “Oh, yeah,” Jones replied.

    Then Jones denied having fought with the woman. Miller again reminded him that he had admitted to it the day before.

    “Now, you know, you tell just the truth, you know. I’m just trying to repeat what you told us yesterday,” Miller said.

    “There’s a lot of things I do forget,” Jones replied.

    “I know. That’s why, you know, I’m just trying to remind you. I’m not trying to tell you what you did,” Miller said.

  11. Screwed up the blockquote function; everything after the “:” was from the LAT story.

  12. Admittedly this sounds horrific at first, but think it thru…

    I like to hope. (read that twice) I like to hope that the young man perhaps was not that bad off in an institution. Clearly someone with his mental ability would be challenged to take care of themselves.

    I would not be surprised if the guy actually got out and wanted back in.. After all it would be hell to us but to him it was home.

    No, I’m not saying we should lock people up according to IQ. Just the optimist looking for a silver lining.

  13. Matt Welch,

    That’s an (under the Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE), which tend to track pretty well in the states) admission. It comes in against the party-defendant, and he can confront his past statements by his testimony before the court. Personally, I think this is a case of having crappy counsel (assuming he got counsel after he waived his rights to counsel during the questioning); there are a couple ways this testimony could and should have been excluded.

  14. Proof positive of the deterrence effect of capital punishment.

    Re-elect the Lord High Executioner in ’04!

    Keep America safe.

  15. : “He admitted to having sex with them.
    : He admitted to having raped before,”
    : said juror Stanley Buliavac, who said
    : he would convict Jones again today on
    : the same evidence.
    : But Deputy Dist. Atty. Lisa Kahn, who
    : secured Jones’ release from prison based
    : on the DNA evidence, said the case against
    : him at trial was strong.
    : “If the Jones case came in the door for
    : me today to file and prosecute,” she said,
    : “it would be an easy call.”

    So in other words the people who did this
    would do it again and have no regrets. Time
    to start publically funding Project Innocence.
    There are a lot more cases out there, bet on it.

  16. This is not worthy of a civilized country.

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