At 16, Brandon Whitehead and his father were held at gunpoint by an off-duty Chicago police officer. The cop got suspended for five days, which he served 11 years later. Brandon, now 27, goes back to the scene.
We reported on a dispute over the methods used by New York City’s crime lab to analyze complex DNA samples. Now similar concerns are prompting a national study. In this Q&A, a leading expert explains why labs may be making mistakes — and what can be done about it.
New York City’s crime lab has been a pioneer nationally in analyzing especially difficult DNA samples. But the recent disclosure of the source code for its proprietary software is raising new questions about accuracy.
Fred Steese served more than 20 years in prison for the murder of a Vegas showman even though evidence in the prosecution’s files proved he didn’t do it. But when the truth came to light, he was offered a confounding deal known as an Alford plea. If he took it he could go free, but he’d remain a convicted killer.
The behavior of Bill Kephart, who led the murder prosecution of Fred Steese, was repeatedly lambasted by the Supreme Court of Nevada. But that didn’t stop him from becoming a judge. This month he was charged with misconduct in that position too.
Tens of thousands of people every year are sent to jail based on the results of a $2 roadside drug test. Widespread evidence shows that these tests routinely produce false positives. Why are police departments and prosecutors still using them?
Houston cases shed light on a disturbing possibility: that wrongful convictions are most often not isolated acts of misconduct by the authorities but systemic breakdowns — among judges and prosecutors, defense lawyers and crime labs.
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