Once Upon A Time In Wuhan . . .

“Complicit politicians and most media outlets have gone along with an engineered fabrication involving an invisible pathogen that has never been shown to exist.”

Jon Rappoport just published a great article that ties in nicely with this video.

Inconsistencies with “discovery” of bones in burn pit – Steven Avery case

After watching Making a Murderer as a wrongful conviction advocate, I felt compelled to research the case further. I was pleased when the transcripts and reports became publicly available. I’ve focused most of my attention on the credibility of the bonfire story and the discovery, handling, and reporting of the bone evidence. I did so because I found it so difficult to believe that a body was burned in the location alleged — the burn pit behind Steven Avery’s trailer. The photos do not support the claim. My disbelief has been confirmed in my mind by a combination of evolved witness statements and inconsistencies.

It was shocking that no one bothered to document the presence of this very important evidence allegedly found on the Avery property. (The word allegedly wouldn’t need to be stated if they had simply done their job, and photographed and filmed it.) Not a single photo of a bone on site exists, despite the fact that the state crime lab sent photographers to the property. Yet everyone, including the defense team, seemed to accept the word of the investigators, despite the lack of documentation. I will highlight inconsistencies observed as I reviewed the statements and testimony from those involved in the discovery of the bones in the burn pit.

Sergeant Jost, of the Manitowoc Sheriff’s Office was the first to discover the bones in and near the burn pit. This discovery was a huge break in the case, in fact Jost’s report describes the light bulb moment when he realized the burn pit behind Steven Avery’s trailer had been overlooked. His report will be highlighted, but first let’s examine the bonfire story.

Was there a bonfire on 10/31/05?

In an earlier blog article, I highlighted the fact that none of the many initial witnesses interviewed recalled a bonfire that night, but the statements evolved in subsequent interviews. This is one of the clearest examples of an organized effort to coerce the witnesses to offer statements consistent with the official story — that bones were found in the burn pit. Investigators needed the bonfire for their story to work. In later interviews, witnesses changed their statements to reflect observation of a fire in the burn pit, and the fire grew in size on third and fourth interviews. Ultimately everyone accepted that there was a bonfire that night. In fact, in Brendan Dassey’s first interrogation interview, the police told him there was a bonfire that night. It had become a “fact” by then. Please read more about the evolution of statements in this detailed summary here.

This is really important, because the absence of a bonfire that night changes everything. It goes a long way toward refuting the claim that Halbach’s body was burned behind Avery’s trailer, and the lie becomes circumstantial evidence that the discovery of remains on the property was manufactured evidence, just like the key. Many like to claim that the bones were planted, but I go one step further and suggest that they didn’t even need to be planted. Maybe they were never there at all. There is no proof. Someone simply supplied Dr. Eisenberg with a box of bones from who knows where. Done. There is a reason that courts require documentation of evidence and chain of custody. It is too easy for fraud to occur, but no one objected to the inclusion of the evidence, so all of the bonfire/bones testimonies were in.

Here are portions of Jost’s narrative from November 8, 2005:

“>11/08/05@ 1247 Hrs .: I, Sgt. Jost, drove Unit 70 down to that property. I allowed Officer Joanne Mignon to take a break. Officer Mignon gave me the log sheet, and she then drove Unit 70 back to the command post area. While I was waiting for B&M WASTE REMOVAL to return from Green Bay,I walked toward the south encl of the property, still keeping watch on the septic tank. While at the SW corner of the property, I noted the burn pit area which was located to the south of the garage for STEVEN AVERY’S residence.

While I was standing near the SW corner of the STEVEN AVERY property, I noted several items lying within close proximity to the burn pile. The items were as follows:

  • There were numerous rings of wire lying in and around the area of the burn pile. I recognized these as steel beltings from inside tires.
  • There was a tire which had not been burned. This was on the SE corner of the burn pit area.
  • There was a rubber mallet which was on the grass, SE of the pile.
  • There was a metal hammer, believed to be a claw hammer, lying on the ground, NE of the pile.
  • There was a gravel shovel which was tipped upside-down, located on the west side of the pile.
  • There was a burned/charred metal scraper with a wooden handle attached which was laying NE of the pile, on the grass area.

Earlier, when I had been in the command post area, I remembered someone mentioning that JOSHUA RANDANDT had checked on his hunting trailers on Monday evening. He saw there was a large fire burning near STEVEN AVERY’S property. The fire was described as being “larger than usual.”

Let’s examine Josh Radandt’s statements to police.

This information was included in Avery’s recent motion.

Similar to other witnesses, Radandt’s statements evolved. Initially there was only mention of a burn barrel fire, but investigators likely coerced him to modify his statements in a subsequent interview to “open burn pit, large fire.”

Update: Radandt signed a new affidavit in February, 2017 that describes the coercion. If it happened to him, and we know Brendan Dassey was coerced, why stop there? It’s likely ALL the witnesses were coerced about the bonfire.

It is interesting that Jost became suspicious that a body may have been burned in the burn pit based only on a described burn barrel fire. But statements would confirm that Jost’s intuition was right (absent documentation of the findings).

Jost’s statement, continued

I, Sgt. Jost, started to piece all of this information together. I felt this area, if not already looked at, should be checked for any type of evidence. When Officer Mignon returned, I spoke with her about my feelings of the burn pile. She stated she also felt that something was unusual with that area. Upon returning to the command post, I made contact with CASO Lt. Sippel. I explained to him that I felt the burn pit area specifically should be checked further. He responded to the property with me. Without disturbing the area, we walked close to the burn pit to take a further look. I mentioned to
him that due to the aggressiveness of the dog, it was very possible that the other K9 handlers may not have walked their dogs this close to the area. This also may have hindered officers from specifically going to this location.

As we were looking at the ashes lying in the area, it was evident that someone used some type of front end loader to remove ground from this particular location. The ashes were inside this area. As we looked at the ash pile, we observed that there was a bone lying near the south side of the pile, on the east side. Without disturbing the bone, I looked at it as closely as I could. It appeared as though it may have been a vertebrae bone. I could see another bone in the pile. At this time, we decided that someone from the Crime Lab or DCI needed to further investigate the area.

I, Sgt. Jost, remained at the burn pit area. A short time later, I believe it was TOM STURTEVANT from DCI who walked over to the burn pit with one of his female partners. Utilizing a small twig that was present, TOM moved the bone mentioned above. Without touching it, it still appeared to be some type of vertebrae bone. He moved some of the steel belting wires which were located on the east side of the burn pile and found there appeared to be several other items which appeared to be burns. One piece appeared to be in the shape of a part of a skull.

Based on this information, I returned to the command post to speak with the Crime Lab. Members of the Crime Lab responded to the scene. Using their sifting equipment, they sifted through the majority of the burn pile. They located numerous bones and teeth which were present among the ashes. These items were later given to the CASO for processing. No further details to add.

To summarize — Jost thought the burn pit seemed important, he discussed it with Sippel, the two of them walked over to the pit, discovered what appeared to be a vertebrae, Agent Sturdivant showed up, Jost went back to the command center to inform the crime lab of their findings.

Next, let’s look at Sippel’s report.

Lieutenant Sippel of the Calumet Sheriff’s office accompanied Jost to the fire pit. Here is his account of the discovery of bones.

It’s already obvious that their stories are inconsistent. In Sippel’s version, he went to the command post to inform them about the possible bones they’d discovered; Jost remained at the burn pit with Sturdivant.

Finally, let’s look at Sturdivant’s account. Keep in mind that neither Jost or Sippel testified at any of the preliminary hearings or the Avery and Dassey trials, therefore, these inconsistencies would not be brought to light.

Special Agent Sturdivant

Interestingly, Sturdivant describes how he was assigned to look at items of interest, but how was he assigned to look at Jost’s discovery of the bones, when both Jost and Sippel had just discovered them when Sturdivant walked up?

Sturdivant describes a red flag near the bone Jost had discovered. Interestingly, Jost never mentioned placing a red flag to mark the item. Maybe the inconsistent story is the red flag.

Sturdivant claims to have been the one to contact the crime lab unit, and John Ertl testified that he received a call from Sturdivant requesting the sifting equipment. If true, it means that Sippel and Jost did not notify the crime lab of their discovery as they described in their reports. These inconsistencies may seem inconsequential, but it is circumstantial evidence of deception and possible fabricated evidence. This aspect of the investigation should have been memorable to all involved, so why do their stories differ? How was Sturdivant summoned to the location?  Why weren’t Jost and Sippel called to testify?

Is it possible this “discovery” was made up? It’s interesting to note that Sippel described seeing the bones on top of crusted ash. This is circumstantial evidence that they were placed there OR there is also the possibility that the investigators were dishonest, and that no bones were actually found at all. That is the reason documentation is so important. The issues with the bones does not stop here. Please read more about the bone evidence here and here. Thus far, nothing about this case holds up to even a minimum amount of scrutiny.

 

 

 

 

If the Evidence is Unfit, You Must Acquit: Prosecutors are fighting to keep flawed forensic evidence in the courtroom

I’m sharing this important article about the reliability of forensic evidence. Link

Much of the forensic evidence used in convictions has been found unreliable. Prosecutors want to use it anyway

by Daniel Denvir

Under fire yet again, law enforcement is fighting back. Facing heavy criticism for misconduct and abuse, prosecutors are protesting a new report from President Obama’s top scientific advisors that documents what has long been plain to see: much of the forensic evidence used to win convictions, including complex DNA samples and bite mark analysis, is not backed up by credible scientific research.

Although the research is clear, many in law enforcement seem terrified that keeping pseudoscience out of prosecutions will make them unwinnable. Attorney General Loretta Lynch declined to accept the report’s recommendations on the admissibility of evidence and the FBI accused the advisors of making “broad, unsupported assertions.” But the National District Attorneys Association, which represents roughly 2,5000 top prosecutors nationwide, went the furthest, taking it upon itself to, in its own words, “slam” the report.

Prosecutors actual problem with the report, produced by some of the nation’s leading scientists on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, seems to be unrelated to science. Reached by phone NDAA president-elect Michael O. Freeman could not point to any specific problem with the research and accused the scientists of having an agenda against law enforcement.

“I’m a prosecutor and not a scientist,” Freeman, the County Attorney in Hennepin County, Minnesota, which encompasses Minneapolis, told Salon. “We think that there’s particular bias that exists in the folks who worked on this, and they were being highly critical of the forensic disciplines that we use in investigating and prosecuting cases.”

That response, devoid of any reference to hard science, has prompted some mockery, including from Robert Smith, Senior Research Fellow and Director of the Fair Punishment Project at Harvard Law School, who accused the NDAA of “fighting to turn America’s prosecutors into the Anti-Vaxxers, the Phrenologists, the Earth-Is-Flat Evangelists of the criminal justice world.”

It has also, however, also lent credence to a longstanding criticism that American prosecutors are more concerned with winning than in establishing a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

“Prosecutors should not be concerned principally with convictions; they should be concerned with justice,” said Daniel S. Medwed, author of “Prosecution Complex: America’s Race to Convict and Its Impact on the Innocent” and a professor at Northern University School of Law, told Salon. “Using dodgy science to obtain convictions does not advance justice.”

In its press release, the NDAA charged that the scientists, led by Human Genome Project leader Eric Lander, lack necessary “qualifications” and relied “on unreliable and discredited research.” Freeman, asked whether it the NDAA was attempting to discredit scientific research without having scientists evaluate that research, demurred.

“I appreciate your question and I can’t respond to that,” he said.

Similarly, Freedman was unable to specify any particular reason that a member of the council might be biased against prosecutors.

“We think that this group of so-called experts had an agenda,” he said, “which was to discredit a lot of the science…used by prosecutors.”

The report, “Science in Criminal Courts: Ensuring Scientific Validity of Feature-Comparison Methods,” was the result of a comprehensive review or more than 2,000 papers and produced in consultation with a bevvy of boldfaced names from the legal community. It found that there is no solid scientific basis to support the analyses of bite marks, firearms, biological samples containing the DNA of multiple individuals and footwear. The report also found that the certainty of latent fingerprint analysis is often overstated, and it criticized proposed Justice Department guidelines defending the validity of hair analysis as being grounded in “studies that do not establish [its] foundational validity and reliability.”

The new report is comprehensive but hardly the first time that scientific research has cast doubt on the reliability of evidence used in trials — everything from eyewitness identification to arson investigations. The report cites a 2002 FBI reexamination of their own scientists’ microscopic hair comparisons and found that DNA testing showed 11 percent of the samples that had been found to match in reality came from different people. A 2004 National Research Council report cited found there was an insufficient basis upon which to draw “a definitive connection between two bullets based on compositional similarity of the lead they contain.”

One of the most important developments in recent decades has been DNA science, which has not only proven that defendants have been wrongfully convicted but also raised questions about the forensic evidence used to win those convictions.

In the Washington Post, University of Virginia law professor Brandon L. Garrett describes the case of Keith Harward, who was exonerated on April 8 for a Newport News, Virginia rape and murder that DNA evidence later showed someone else committed. His conviction, for which he spent 33 years behind bars, hinged on the false testimony of two purported experts who stated that his teeth matched bite marks on the victim’s body.

“Of the first 330 people exonerated by DNA testing, 71 percent, or 235 cases, involved forensic analysis or testimony,” Garrett writes. “DNA set these people free, but at the time of their convictions, the bulk of the forensics was flawed.”

In an interview, Garrett called the NDAA response “juvenile.”

“The response seems to be you say that certain forensic sciences are unscientific, well you’re unscientific,” said Garrett. “To call a group of the leading scientists in the world unscientific, it’s just embarrassing….I really doubt that they speak for most prosecutors.”

Many cases, the report found, have “relied in part on faulty expert testimony from forensic scientists who had told juries incorrectly that similar features in a pair of samples taken from a suspect and from a crime scene (hair, bullets, bitemarks, tire or shoe treads, or other items) implicated defendants in a crime with a high degree of certainty.”

Expert witnesses have often overstated the certainty of their findings, declaring that they were 100-percent certain when in fact 100-percent certainty is scientifically impossible.

Forensic science has largely been developed within law enforcement and not by independent scientists, said Medwed. In the case of bite mark analysis, the report concludes that the method is basically worthless. But by and large, the report calls not for the science to be thrown out forever but to be improved so that it is in fact reliable.

“The NDAA response strikes me as a bit defensive to say the least and puzzling because my hope is that in looking at this report the reaction of prosecutors would be, how do we improve the system,” said Medwed. “Even if they believe that some of these disciplines are legitimate, how do we further test them, and refine them so they can be better?”

The NDAA, however, not only dismisses the scientific research in question but asserts that scientific expertise has no role to play in determining what kind of evidence judges decide to admit into court. They accuse the council of attempting “to usurp the Constitutional role of the Courts” by “insert[ing] itself as the final arbiter of the reliability and admissibility of the information generated through…forensic science disciplines.”

The council acknowledges that judges make these decisions. But since judges are typically not scientists they must make them under the guidance of scientific expertise.

“Judges’ decisions about the admissibility of scientific evidence rest solely on legal standards; they are exclusively the province of the courts and PCAST does not opine on them,” the report states. “But, these decisions require making determinations about scientific validity. It is the proper province of the scientific community to provide guidance concerning scientific standards for scientific validity.”

When prosecutors use scientific evidence to prosecute a defendant, that evidence should be scientifically valid. It’s clear, however, that it is often bogus or unreliable. There is a growing consensus that the United States locks up far too many people, and it’s increasingly clear that an untold number of those people haven’t even committed a crime. Many prosecutors might be unwilling to solve this problem. Voters, who have recently tossed out incumbents in Chicago, Cleveland and Jacksonville, might have to take the lead, said Garrett.

“The American public today doesn’t want prosecutors to win at all costs,” said Garrett. “They don’t want prosecutors using fake evidence.”

Link to article: http://www.salon.com/2016/09/23/if-the-evidence-is-unfit-you-must-acquit-prosecutors-are-fighting-to-keep-flawed-forensic-evidence-in-the-courtroom/

 

 

Death by the River: The Fisherman’s Defense

Elizabeth Leland with the Charlotte Observer recently published a six part series about the Mark Carver case. The series contains updates about Mark’s case as he continues to maintain his innocence. The North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence is currently representing Mark Carver.

image

 

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/special-reports/death-by-the-river/

Scrutinizing the DNA Evidence – Teresa Halbach Investigation

Updated for clarity 8/30/16

My previous article addressed the issues with chain of custody and documentation of the bone evidence. The issues don’t stop there. The testimony and DNA reports contain even more serious concerns about the validity of the bone evidence. Recently Reddit contributor, Amber Lea pointed out major red flags with the way the DNA evidence was presented at trial. Her research indicates that the only bone fragment found with intact tissue was purportedly processed simultaneously in two separate locations at the same time.

Special Prosecutor Ken Kratz displayed this photo during opening arguments and stated that Teresa Halbach’s shin bone was the large bone on the left.

bone fragments

That’s what Kratz asserts, but is there proof that this shin bone was identified as Teresa’s? Two witnesses testified about this key piece of evidence — Dr. Leslie Eisenberg (Forensic Anthropologist) and Sherry Culhane, lab analyst with the Wisconsin crime lab. The photo above was referenced as Exhibit #150 during the Brendan Dassey trial.

First, let’s begin with Dr. Leslie Eisenberg’s testimony about Exhibit #150. Dr. Eisenberg testified that she examined the bone specimens at the Dade County Morgue on November 10, 2005 and discovered the bone with the tissue.

Q All Right. And what is, um, Exhibit 150?

A One-five-zero is a portion of burned human bone that was recovered with other smaller burned human bone fragments and fragments of dried or desiccated human muscle tissue.

Q All right. And is the a fragment that you transferred to the crime lab for DNA analysis?

A That is one of the fragments that I transferred to the Federal Bureau of Investigations for DNA analysis.

During the Avery trial, Dr. Eisenberg testified more affirmatively that she packaged and sent the items directly to the FBI when asked if she sent the items to the crime lab.

Q Now the one we’ve been examining more closely here, is that the bone that you arranged to be sent to the FBI, or excuse me, to the crime lab for further analysis?

A No, the contents of all of the items you see on this screen, this larger bone, which is about two and a half inches long, and some of these other bone fragments and this muscle tissue was packaged by me and transferred directly to the FBI in November of 2005.

So she was clear that the specimens did not go back to the crime lab and that is important.

Note that the FBI referenced the specimen as “charred remains“, rather than “bone fragments“, even though they referred to several subsequent samples that were sent by Dr. Eisenberg as bone fragments.

**Also very important is the evidence that the shin bone referenced in exhibit #150 is referenced as Q1 Charred remains in the FBI document.**

FBI report Q1The trial testimony revealed a contradictory claim about the shin bone fragment. Sherry Culhane testified that she received the bone fragment into her lab on November 11, 2005 and removed a portion of  tissue that she believed was suitable for DNA testing.

A Item BZ was taken into the laboratory on November 11th, 2005.

Q And when you examined this, was it a combination of bone and tissue?

A It appeared to be, yes.

She referenced it in her report as “charred tissue” and labeled it BZ.

Item BZ

Item BZ was the same specimen that Dr. Eisenberg claimed to have shipped to the FBI. How do we know that? This PowerPoint slide which was shown to the jury during Sherry Culhane’s testimony is proof.

Culhane powerpoint bone

Q When you examined this, was this a combination of bone and tissue?

A It appeared to be, yes.

Q And what is shown on the big screen here, which we will later get an exhibit for and mark it, is that the bone and tissue fragment that you examined?

A Yes, it is.

 

 

Sherry Culhane testified that she removed tissue from the very bone that Dr. Eisenberg packaged and shipped directly to the FBI.

A Um, this is a bone fragment here with a piece of charred tissue attached to it. When I sampled this, I took a portion of the tissue that appeared to be least burned towards the bone and that’s what I used for my examination.

Q And did you assign a crime lab designation to this?

A Yes, I did.

Q And what was that?

A Item BZ.

Q And did you conduct DNA testing on this tissue portion of this burned bone fragment?

A Yes I did.

 

What does this mean?

  • The shin bone photograph was used twice at both trials to illustrate how they were able to obtain testable material from a fire that caused such extensive damage that the crowns of the teeth were completely burned; yet the timeline and circumstances of the handling of the only tissue found on that single bone do not add up. Dr. Eisenberg stated that she sent it directly to the FBI. How could that be? Did Culhane receive the tissue/bone specimen before Dr. Eisenberg even identified it as human? If Culhane removed a section from it before Dr. Eisenberg received it, she would have been doing so with no confirmation that the bone was even human. She would have also been altering evidence before Dr. Eisenberg would have had a chance to examine it. It wouldn’t make sense.
  • Both the Wisconsin Crime Lab and the FBI characterized the specimen as  “charred tissue/remains,” even though it was described by Dr. Eisenberg as a “two-and-a half inch fragment of shin bone with intact tissue”. This is very suspicious in light of the fact that there are already obvious issues with the handling of the bones alleged to have been discovered on the Avery property.
  • Once again we are left with an enormous question mark related to the bones, the DNA and the identification of the victim. In fact, the absence of any characterization of a bone fragment in the lab reports could indicate that there were no bones at all! Perhaps the prosecution felt they needed to present solid proof that a bone from the pit was definitively identified as Teresa’s, and if there were no bones, maybe they had to get creative. Maybe there is nothing more than the photo of the shin bone of unknown origin and the box of bones, which by the way look very similar to pig bones.

bones3
Bones in Halbach investigation

Pig bones
Pig bones

  • One has to wonder where the tissue came from. Did the crime lab and FBI in fact test sections of the golf ball sized tissue alleged to have been discovered by Agent Pevytoe?

Pevytoe charred tissue

Summary of the bone discovery, collection and processing:

MTSO Deputy Jost finds 1 inch object believed to be a bone (11/8/05) 

Investigators dig up the burn pit, transfer everything to the Calumet SO (11/8/05)

Box of bones are transferred to Dr. Eisenberg (11/9/05)

Agent Pevytoe finds golf ball sized piece of charred tissue while examining debris at Calumet Sheriff’s Office (11/10/05)

Dr. Eisenberg examines bones at Dade County Morgue, identifies shin bone with charred, attached muscle – sends it to FBI (11/10/05)

Sherry Culhane claims to somehow receive same shin bone with charred, attached muscle, labels it item BZ (11/11/05) and reports that a partial profile was obtained and that seven markers matched Teresa Halbach’s profile.

 

There’s a lot of confusion and misinformation about the bone/tissue DNA evidence and exactly which types of tests were performed. There were three separate sets of specimens submitted for DNA identifications — one went to the Wisconsin crime lab, and two separate sets of specimens went to the FBI.

  1. We really don’t know where item BZ came from. We do however know that the reported result of the STR DNA test was grossly misstated. The reported “partial profile”  — 7 of 16 locations should have been recorded as “inconclusive” because it was an indication that the test didn’t work — the sample was too degraded to trust the result. Instead, it was reported that since seven alleles matched the standard profile, statistics indicate that only one person of a billion would have that partial profile in a Caucasian population. It was suggested that although it was not a conclusive match, it was very unlikely that the specimen could have originated from anyone beside Teresa. This was very misleading, but the defense never refuted it.

DNA stat

DNA pic

2. The FBI received charred remains purportedly from the shin bone on 11/16/05 and performed mitochondrial DNA testing. They compared it to DNA from Karen Halbach’s buccal swab. It is unclear why no one sent the FBI Teresa’s DNA to compare to the charred material (designated as Q1 by the FBI). Since the MtDNA database is small, the report only concludes that Teresa cannot be ruled out as the contributor. No one from the FBI testified at either the Avery or Dassey trials.

FBI DNA MT

To avoid confusion, the designation of the same shin bone/charred tissue specimens from Exhibit #150:

  • BZ – Wisconsin Crime Lab
  • 1B2 – Dr. Eisenberg
  • Q1 – FBI

3. In January, 2006 Calumet County Sheriff Jerry Pagel incorrectly informed the media that the FBI confirmed the bones were Teresa’s, even though the FBI report clearly stated simply that she could not be ruled out.

On January 19, 2006, Calumet County Sheriff says bones found at the family auto salvage yard of a man charged with murder match those of a freelance photographer.Sheriff Jerry Pagel says the FBI confirms that the bones found at Steven Avery’s family salvage yard are those of 25 year old Teresa Halbach. The report from FBI headquarters in Quantico, Virginia says Mitochondrial DNA analysis of evidentiary remains found in a burn pit match the DNA sample of Halbach’s mother.

Prosecutor Ken Kratz referenced this in an email to Sherry Culhane. Apparently the media was never instructed to edit their misleading articles about the FBI “match” so the public believed there was conclusive proof that Teresa’s remains were found on the Avery property.

Kratz Culhane email

4. In November and December of 2006, several additional bone fragments were sent to the FBI.  They reported that none of them were suitable for mitochondrial DNA testing.

DNA fragments FBI

This is not surprising, as many studies have shown that DNA cannot withstand high heat exposure — such as the heat alleged to have been generated in the raging bonfire.

Recent progress of DNA analysis techniques is improving its discrimination power and sensitivity on an ongoing basis and now this technique is routinely applied to the identification of skeletal remains.7476 DNA profiling was expected to be a useful tool for identifying severely burnt bones when morphological tests would fail because of the deformation and fragmentation. However, casework we have encountered and studies published on burnt bone DNA typing show the harsh reality of this application. As mentioned earlier, the organic matrix disappears at a comparatively early phase in the burning process, and DNA is no exception.

Several studies have reported the applicability of DNA typing to the investigation of burnt bones.28,33,36,45,52 As a pioneer of experimental study in this area, Cattaneo et al assessed the amplification of 120 bp products of the human mitochondrial DNA region V in experimentally burnt human compact bones (800°C–1,200°C, for 20 minutes) as well as in charred bones obtained from actual forensic cases.52 They found that none of these burnt specimens retained DNA that was amplifiable and concluded that DNA typing cannot be used successfully with charred bones. (source)

 

There is simply no evidence that bones were found during the investigation. No one documented the bones on site at any of the three locations where they were allegedly found. Not a single photo exists. No one documented the “charred material” — not a single photo is in evidence. The FBI and crime lab reports didn’t even designate the shin bone as bone. If true that no bones were found, one can only speculate about the origin of the tissue sent to the labs. Clearly there were problems identifying the remains as Teresa Halbach’s, though one wouldn’t  know that from trial testimony or media reports. The defense accepted Culhane’s report as proof that Teresa’s body was found. How can it be trusted when there is a huge problem with the chain of custody? If Dr. Eisenberg shipped it directly to the FBI as stated, how did Culhane test it at all?

The fact is the remains (if there were any found to begin with) were never conclusively identified and that means the fraud in this case may be much bigger than anyone could have imagined. Hopefully at some point Avery’s attorneys will look into this matter. It is too important to overlook.

 

 

 

 

Scrutinizing the Bone Evidence – Teresa Halbach Investigation

There’s undoubtedly a lot of questionable evidence in this case – the magic key, the magic bullet and the possibility that Steven Avery’s blood was planted in the RAV 4. Should the bone evidence rise above similar scrutiny or can we consider the possibility that the bone evidence was also fabricated?  The suspicious mishandling of the bones is described in this article.

Summary of discovery and handling of bone evidence

  • Teresa’s ’99 Toyota RAV 4 was found at approximately 10:30 the morning of Saturday 11/5/05 on the Avery salvage yard. Investigators arrived at the scene and remained on site for eight days — searching for Teresa and/or evidence of foul play.
  • Bone fragments were allegedly found in the burn pit behind Avery’s garage on Tuesday 11/8/05.
  • Special Agent Tom Sturdivant requested sifting equipment from the Wisconsin crime lab (John Ertl).
  • No one photographed the bones or the collection process.
  • The (alleged) bones were placed into boxes and removed from the site.
  • Dr. Leslie Eisenberg, a Forensic Anthropologist with the crime lab received a box of bones on Wednesday 11/9/05.
  • Since Dr. Eisenberg often worked at the Dane County morgue, she carried the box to the morgue for examination on 11/10/05. She concluded that the bones were human. Specimens were submitted to the crime lab and the FBI for identification.
  • Special Agent Pevytoe allegedly discovered bones in the Janda burn barrel at the Calumet sheriff’s office on 11/12/05. No photos documented this discovery either.
  • Lab analyst Sherry Culhane issued a report on 12/5/05 stating that a partial profile was obtained from a charred piece of tissue and that seven of sixteen markers matched Teresa’s standard profile. The other markers were not present due to the condition of the sample.
  • On December 5, 2005 Dr. Eisenberg, Special Agent Pevytoe, John Ertl, Detective Wiegert and Special Agent Fassbender gathered at the crime lab (basement?) to sift through more of the ash and debris. They allegedly found metal grommets consistent with what would be common on blue jeans.

 

Sifting through ash and debris 12/5/05
Sifting through ash and debris 12/5/05

Exhibit-274-processing-debris-1024x676

The absence of a chain of custody of the bones is critical because it could very well have rendered it inadmissible. What happened? They brought in the state officials right away to ensure that everything would be properly handled. Who dropped the ball? It is very suspicious given everything else that happened in this case.

Since the scene wasn’t documented, there is no proof that any bones were ever on the Avery property. As well, the Manitowoc County coroner was forbidden from entering the scene and none of the forensic experts were summoned until after the bones had been removed. We are to simply accept the word of the state witnesses who claimed to see the bones.

Interestingly, the descriptions of the bones were inconsistent. Dr. Eisenberg claimed to have pieced together fifty-eight fragments of skull bones from the burn pit. That is consistent with them finding a considerable number of fairly large pieces; yet Agent Pevytoe described seeing very small pieces of bone fragments.

  “Yes, the fragmentation that I was finding from the burn pit was very small. Much of it was — in some cases was the size of half your little fingernail, if you will. Most of the bones were very fragmented there.” (Pevytoe testimony, day 18)

Pevytoe testified that three to four larger bones were found in the Janda burn barrel. If only a few bones were found in the barrel and tiny fragments were found in the burn pit, where did all the larger bones originate? This is a box of bones in evidence. Note that non-human charred bones were also found in each of the locations – burn pit, Janda barrel and quarry. Burnt insulation that appeared to be bone fragments was also found in the burn pit.bones3

 

Exhibit 391 skull bones
Exhibit 391 skull bones

DNA Testing

Crime lab analyst, Sherry Culhane reported that a partial DNA profile was obtained from a charred piece of tissue (item BZ) alleged to have been found in the burn pit ash. She used the STR Promega 16 amplification kit where fifteen markers are compared, with one gender marker. Culhane testified that since the specimen was degraded (likely due to extreme heat) she only obtained peaks for seven markers of the fifteen plus the gender marker, so less than 50%. The FBI CODIS database does not even record DNA profiles with less than nine identified markers.

The partial profile matched Teresa Halbach’s standard, but since it’s a partial profile it can’t be conclusively reported as matching Teresa’s DNA. What is the degree of certainty? Culhane reported that the probability of a random unrelated person matching the same seven (eight if including the gender loci) markers is 1 in a billion in the Caucasian population.

DNA stat

 

DNA pic

It’s unclear how she arrived at that statistic. Arizona is the only state that made their DNA database publicly accessible. Interestingly, based on the available DNA information from Arizona, it appears that the partial profile of item BZ would in fact be much more common than 1 in a billion. These are the actual matches based on a total of approximately 65,000 profiles:

  • 122 pairs match at 9 of 13 loci
  • 20 pairs match at 10 of 13 loci
  • 1 pair matches at 11 of 13 loci (full siblings)
  • 1 pair matches at 12 of 13 loci (full siblings)

(source)

This means that even with 12 of 13 markers matching there would be an occurrence of 1 in 65,000 — much more common than 1 in a billion. The less markers compared, the more common the occurrence. 122 pairs matched at 9 of 13 markers. Clearly a match of 7 of 15 would be considerably more common than the reported 1 in a billion at trial. The DNA evidence should have been reported more generally as “Teresa Halbach can not be excluded as source.”

FBI DNA Analysis

A section of the charred specimen (BZ) was also sent to the FBI in November, 2005. They conducted a mitochondrial DNA test and reported that Teresa could not be excluded as the source of the charred remains.

In 2006 investigators sent the FBI thirty-one additional samples – bone fragments. The FBI reported that no mitochondrial DNA testing was conducted due to the condition of the fragments but interestingly they also reported that some DNA was obtained and they were returning the processed DNA samples.

DNA fragments FBI

It is puzzling that they obtained DNA yet were unable to perform the mitochondrial testing. Is it possible it excluded Teresa Halbach as the contributor? Contrary to the DNA report, Calumet County Sheriff Jerry Pagel incorrectly informed the media that the FBI confirmed the bones were Teresa’s.

The Calumet County Sheriff says bones found at the family auto salvage yard of a man charged with murder match those of a freelance photographer.Sheriff Jerry Pagel says the FBI confirms that the bones found at Steven Avery’s family salvage yard are those of 25 year old Teresa Halbach. The report from FBI headquarters in Quantico, Virginia says Mitochondrial DNA analysis of evidentiary remains found in a burn pit match the DNA sample of Halbach’s mother.

Prosecutor Ken Kratz referenced this in an email to Sherry Culhane. Apparently the media was never instructed to edit their misleading articles about the FBI “match” so the public believed there was conclusive proof that Teresa’s remains were found on the Avery property.

Kratz Culhane email

Why question this?

Everyone accepts as fact that Teresa’s remains were found in the burn pit. Obviously it appears to be very incriminating, but what is going on with this evidence? Why weren’t protocols followed?  No coroner, forensic anthropologist, arson investigator or photographer was called to the scene when the evidence was discovered. They had all of these high paid experts at their disposal and didn’t call on them until after the evidence had been shoveled up and taken to the sheriff’s office.

The DNA evidence described above is not conclusive. How is it even possible for tissue to survive a fire that disintegrated 60% of the bone mass? The teeth which are commonly used to identify a body because they outlast bone didn’t even survive the fire. Something’s wrong and it becomes difficult to accept this evidence as presented.

Since there’s circumstantial evidence that all of the other evidence was fabricated, is it such a stretch to consider that the bone evidence doesn’t hold up either?  If we can accept that the RAV4 was placed on the property, key planted in his residence, blood planted in vehicle, bullet planted in garage, should we blindly accept 100% that the bones were Teresa’s just because Culhane reported the partial profile as a “match?”  It’s difficult to trust it when proof of the bones on the property doesn’t even exist!

Is it possible that police were unable to find a body but wanted to secure a conviction so they fabricated the bone evidence?

A Similar Case

Around the time of Teresa Halbach’s disappearance, Kristine Rudy of Clark County, Wisconsin also went missing. She was last seen November 12, 2005.  She was twenty-one years old and six months pregnant, married to Shaun Rudy. Search efforts were unsuccessful and in December, 2005 investigators discovered a burn pit — sound familiar?

In December, detectives piecing together a case against Christine’s husband Shaun were led to the suspect’s mother’s home in northwestern Clark County. According to court documents, they found a burn pile they believe Shaun used to destroy evidence of the crime. In that burn pile, they found what a well-respected forensic anthropologist determined were fetal remains.

Court documents show Dr. Leslie Eisenberg of the State Crime Lab in Madison wrote investigators asking them to consider the mechanisms by which the fetal remains, yet very few adult remains, made their way to the burn pile, and says it’s possible the fetus was deliberately removed and burned independently of the majority of the adult remains. (link)

The really interesting thing is that the victim’s body was found a few months later – fetus intact.

But investigators were surprised when what’s believed to be Christine Rudy’s body was found last month in the Chippewa River – the fetus was still intact.

It kind of throws us for a loop. It raised a couple questions, says Clark County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Jim Backus.

The bones found in the burn pile were severely charred, but Dr. Eisenberg has an excellent reputation and it’s seen as somewhat unlikely that her analysis was wrong, Backus says.(audio)

Dr. Eisenberg incorrectly identified bones as human. Though it may be possible to make a mistake like that, it certainly calls her credibility into question. Had they not found the woman, would they have prosecuted Shaun Rudy with the bone evidence?

We must consider the possibility that Dr. Eisenberg may have been mistaken with the Halbach case as well. We know there were charred animal bones mixed in. Is it possible there was nothing but animal bones?

We can also consider that maybe the state revealed just enough to convince the public that Teresa’s remains were found — photographs of random bones in a box and high priced experts sifting through debris. If true, it’s possible Teresa’s body was never found because it wasn’t on the Avery property. Police were searching in the wrong place.

 

 

David Camm’s alibi

There is a lot to this case, but clearly the most important aspect of the case that can’t be dismissed is the fact that David Camm had an airtight alibi.  At the time of the murders, he was playing basketball with family and friends at a nearby church. He arrived at the church at 6:59 PM and remained there until 9:22 PM and this was verified. Eleven people saw him and interacted with him the entire time in question.  Most of these people knew him well and they were 100% certain that David was there the entire time.  So how were jurors able to dismiss this and how were prosecutors able to address this?

From the FAQ section of the website:

Q.   Were the basketball players relatives of David and did they lie?

Several players were, in fact, relatives of David, including two cousins and his uncle. Others included the husband of his cousin, as well as friends and players with whom he had played previously. One person accompanied his brother to the game and it was his first ball game that he played with David. Their brother was a local police officer.

During the initial telephone interviews of the players by the ISP, their words were accepted without question. Not one player has ever stated or inferred that David Camm left the church gym that evening. The fact that he sat out one game so his uncle, Sam Lockhart, could play is also without question. However, he sat along the baseline with a church elder and they talked. He sat at the end of the court where the other ten players saw him as they would run towards that basket. Near the end of that game, David got up and began stretching in order to play again.

During the time of the prosecution’s first theory that David had murdered his family after he returned home, the basketball players weren’t important to the prosecution. It was only after the forensic evidence indicated that it was impossible for the murders to have occurred after 9:22PM (the time that the church alarm was set and David left the gym) did the basketball players become critical.

Indeed, during David’s last interrogation before he was arrested on October 1, 2000, Detective Neal told David that the basketball players are “not trying to hide anything.”

The prosecution’s subsequent theories that the family was killed after they returned home and before David came home around 9:27PM meant that the basketball player’s credibility had to be attacked. Although the players had never changed their stories, nonetheless they were painted as either lying or mistaken because the prosecution had to “get David out of the gym” in order to kill his family.

All of the basketball players vehemently deny that they have lied or shaded the truth for David Camm. As one said, “David was at the gym for the entire time I was there. He didn’t leave, nor did he come back. I wouldn’t lie for him or anyone.” The other players expressed very similar comments and have told their stories repeatedly and under oath several times.

The basketball players were honest and not mistaken on October 1, 2000 but were liars and mistaken only after the prosecution changed their theory as to when the family was murdered. They have never been inconsistent but rather any inconsistencies lie with the prosecution.

It is indeed ironic that ten basketball players (with one additional spectator) who were present with David Camm during the entire evening of September 28, 2000 are considered liars or mistaken but yet the eight other basketball players who supposedly played with Boney and David have never been identified nor come forward. The police and prosecution chose to embrace Boney’s fictitious story without any corroboration and cast aside the stories of eleven solid citizens but only after their theory changed.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

During the trials, the prosecution tried to discredit the eyewitnesses by picking apart their testimony about details of the game. They had to.  With the inability to discredit these people, their theory holds no weight and the case falls apart.

A snippet from the 2nd trial:
Three of the 10 men who say they were playing basketball with Camm at the time of the murders testified Wednesday that they don’t believe it was possible for him to leave the gym for more than a couple minutes without being noticed.

Prosecutors allege Camm planned to commit the murders during the weekly game in order to establish an alibi, believing he could sneak out, drive 5 minutes to his home, shoot his family and return without anyone noticing his absence.

Steve Owen, Floyd County’s chief deputy prosecutor, grilled players about the specifics of that night — who was on the teams during each game, who scored first, who guarded who, how many games were played.  (Seriously?  Keep in mind, this was 6 years later.  It is sad the jurors were influenced by questions such as this.)

Their varying answers to those questions show how difficult it was for them to remember specifics of the evening, including where Camm was during each game, Owen said.

The nature of pickup basketball games — unorganized games without time limits, referees and with few rules — would make it impossible for Camm to plan an exact time to commit the murders, defense attorney Katharine “Kitty” Liell said.

What happened in this case is that prosecutors convinced the jury that the blood spatter evidence was stronger than the statements of 11 eyewitnesses.  They presented the evidence in such a way that it appeared to be an irrefutable fact, but that wasn’t accurate.  Contrary to some claims, blood spatter analysis is not a real science.  Studies have shown that it is not a reliable method of determining what happens at a crime scene. That is why it’s common to see expert witnesses offering completely different opinions on this type of evidence. Please watch the video at this link to see how much the opinions differed in this particular case. I believe when that is the case, you have to look beyond this evidence.

In cases like this where stronger, more compelling evidence exists, it logically should take precedence over the subjective, weaker evidence. There is no doubt that the 11 eyewitness accounts should have overridden the blood evidence in this case.  Blood spatter evidence is different than something like DNA evidence which can’t be refuted… there won’t be opposing expert witnesses offering different opinions about DNA evidence.  It’s black and white.  It either matches or it doesn’t.  Period. That is just not the case with blood spatter evidence.

The chart below lists all the different types of scientific evidence currently being presented in trials.  Please note how blood pattern analysis is rated versus DNA.

For the reasons described, this case is more complicated than most realize and clearly some of the evidence that convicted Camm is very questionable.  What remains consistent is the testimony of the people who were with David Camm the night of the tragic murders.

With a 3rd trial approaching, I hope that people will not simply assume that Camm must be guilty because he was convicted twice. It is time for people to take a careful look at everything about this case.  And remember that both convictions were overturned with good reason and that Camm has yet to receive a fair trial.  I hope this one will be different and people will see the truth.

One final thought about the alibi.  It is extremely unlikely that 11 people would carry a lie all these years on their conscience.  They had no reason to lie and we have no reason to doubt them.

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