Criminal Justice

A Forensics Disaster in Detroit

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Detroit's crime lab may have a ten percent rate of error:

The Police Department here shut down its crime laboratory on Thursday after an audit uncovered serious errors in numerous cases. The audit said sloppy work had probably resulted in wrongful convictions, and officials expect a wave of appeals in cases that the laboratory processed.

The interim mayor, Kenneth V. Cockrel Jr., and the new police chief, James Barren, ordered the laboratory closed; Mr. Cockrel called the audit's conclusions "shocking and appalling." Pending and future cases will be sent to the Michigan State Police, which operates seven laboratories.

Officials from the Detroit Police Department, the Wayne County prosecutor's office and the State Police will try to determine whether the errors resulted in guilty verdicts against innocent people.

"We do not want any of our activities to result in someone being imprisoned that doesn't belong there," the Wayne County prosecutor, Kym L. Worthy, said at a news conference with Mr. Cockrel and Mr. Barren. Ms. Worthy said the mistakes also might have let violent criminals remain at large.

David E. Balash, a retired State Police official who consults on firearms cases, said the audit's findings could lead to payouts of hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits.

"I would have never anticipated that it would have been this systemic," Mr. Balash said. "It's almost incomprehensible."

Disturbing as all of that is, the city is at least acknowledging the mistakes and doing what it can to correct them.  Which is more than we can say for Mississippi.

Roger Koppl and I discuss how to ensure more reliable forensic evidence in criminal cases here.

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  1. Wow.

    At least Ken Cockrel is acknowledging the problem. Doesn’t mean anything is going to be fixed.

    Radley, you should look into the criminal justice system in Detroit. It can’t be worse than Mississippi, but it’s probably close.

  2. Detroit’s crime lab may have a ten percent rate of error:

    That good, eh? 😉

    I’m afraid that my observation is that anywhere you go criminal trials are an orchestrated farce.

    Almost all the witnesses are lying or full of shit.

    And the witnesses most full of shit are the “experts”.

  3. Isaac,

    “Almost all the witnesses are lying or full of shit.”

    Not in Detroit!

    You’re right though. Radley’s work depresses the hell out of me, but I’m so glad he does it.

  4. Well at least they caught the mayor for gettin his swerve on.

  5. I was not one bit surprised.

    UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, v. CITY OF DETROIT, MICHIGAN and the DETROIT POLICE DEPARTMENT [pdf]

    Well at least they caught the mayor for gettin his swerve on.

    Just to set the record straight, plaintiffs in a civil suit and the “left wing media” nailed Kwame.

  6. But for some reason, said left wing media CONTINUALLY refused to name Kwame’s party. I know, typing “(D.)” or “(R.)” is very difficult work, and it takes up a lot of space that could otherwise be used for political spin…

  7. But for some reason, said left wing media CONTINUALLY refused to name Kwame’s party. I know, typing “(D.)” or “(R.)” is very difficult work, and it takes up a lot of space that could otherwise be used for political spin…

    FYI, Detroit elections are officially non-partisan. Americans with multiple fuctioning neurons know that politicians are all Democrats in Detroit.

  8. J sub,

    I just got my absentee ballot in the mail.

    I can vote straight ticket Natural Law Party! Or the US Taxpayers Party! Michigan is so far behind the times.

    But yeah, the Democratic primary is really the only race that usually matters in Detroit. Thats why Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick can eek out a win in the primary and probably win the general in a landslide.

  9. I know, typing “(D.)” or “(R.)” is very difficult work,

    Apparently, typing “(D.)” is a lot harder than typing “(R.)”. Not sure why, since the letters are right next to each other on the keyboard.

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