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Articles by Eike Blohm, MD

Three’s a Crowd: Issues of DNA Mixture Analysis and Interpretation

by Eike Blohm M.D.

A study funded by the National Institute of Justice recently found that the vast majority of forensic laboratories had difficulty correctly interpreting DNA samples derived from three donors.

Over 99.9% of our DNA is identical with that of random strangers. Forensic DNA analysis focuses on the ...

Inspector General Report: FBI Routinely Abused Access to Private Communications

by Eike Blohm, MD

A recent Department of Justice (“DOJ”) Inspector General report found that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) routinely sidesteps regulations of electronic surveillance and essentially deliberately misinterprets DOJ guidelines.

Edgar Hoover was the first director of the FBI and was notorious for amassing personal and private information of U.S. persons without their knowledge or consent and certainly not with court approval. This culture appears to be unchanged in 2022 as the FBI continues to engage in the practice.

Electronic surveillance is omnipresent in the U.S. The National Security Agency (“NSA”) stores vast amounts of raw communication data in so-called “haystacks” under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”) of 1978 (50 U.S.C. § 180). Law enforcement agencies such as the FBI may query those haystacks under specific rules.

Under 50 U.S.C. § 1805(c) part of FISA, the government has to submit an individualized application for surveillance identifying the target, type of information sought, and procedures to be used. As regulated by § 1805(a)(2)(A), a Foreign Surveillance Court (“FISC”) then has to find probable cause that the target is a “foreign power” or agent thereof. Continued compliance was intended to be assured by § 1805(d)(3), which provided for ...

‘Contagion Effect’ Spreads Brutality Among Police Officers

by Eike Blohm

The case of Tyre Nichols, beaten to death by five police officers during two encounters, has raised the question of how law enforcement officers could possibly commit such a brutal and heinous act. Laurence Miller, researcher and author of the 2020 book “The Psychology of Police Deadly Force Encounters,” believes the “contagion effect” gives rise to such instances of excessive force.

Most police officers are not bad people. While a small minority may fit the term “criminals in uniform,” using it as an explanation for incidents such as the murder of Tyre Nichols in Memphis is both simplistic and reductivist. Attribution of the cause of the officers’ behavior to their malicious character fails to consider the plethora of cultural and psychological factors which enable acts that end in the death of unarmed civilians and the hands of police officers.

Not every killing of an unarmed person constitutes excessive force by legal definition, although it may by ethical standards. If a police officer reasonably believes that a suspect presents an imminent threat to them or others, the law permits the use of deadly force. Application of force is only considered excessive if it surpasses the level necessary to ...

Study Explores Factors Underlying High Rate of American Police Killings

by Eike Blohm, MD

Fatal encounters with police occur in the U.S. with disturbing frequency, setting us apart from other Western industrial nations. A recent study published in the Annual Review of Criminology explores the drivers behind this American exceptionalism.

If one were to consider three countries, one with religious views and persecution, one that started as a brutal prison colony, and one that was founded by entrepreneurial and religious immigrants on the values of equality, freedom, and democracy, odds are one would be utterly incorrect in trying to predict which will have the highest rate of fatal police violence (“FPV”) two centuries later.

This is no hypothetical scenario but pertains to Germany, Australia, and the U.S. respectively. Each year about 11 people are shot by police in Germany, and 18 Australians lose their life at the hands of law enforcement officers. The number of citizens killed by American police in 2020 was an astonishing 1,133. In fairness, the incidence of FPV must be interpreted with population size in mind, so if Germany had the same population as the U.S., one would expect about 35 deaths – still a world apart.

America is only surpassed in annual FPVs by Brazil ...

Proactive Online Stings Do Little to Protect Children

by Eike Blohm, MD

Many Americans landed themselvesin prison for enticement of a minor as a result of a police sting operation. The practice continues although it has never been shown to actually prevent crimes against children.

The advent of the internet in the early 1990s led to an explosion of the distribution of child sexual abuse material (“CSAM”). In response, the U.S. Department of Justice created a task force initiative called the Internet Crimes Against Children (“ICAC”) program that provides grants to local police agencies to combat the online sexual exploitation of minors. The program remained small and received no federal funding until 2003.

This changed with the horrific kidnapping, sexual assault, and torture of Alicia Kozakiewicz, a 13-year-old girl who had chatted with a 38-year-old man online pretending to be a teenage boy. Her abuse was live-streamed on the internet. In response, Congress passed the PROTECT Our Children Act of 2008. The law quadrupled funding for the ICAC program to $75 million per year.

There are now 61 ICAC task forces nationwide that compete for funding. Money is allocated based on the number of arrests and convictions each task force secures. By far, the easiest and most cost-effective ...

How Junk Science Helped Kill Tyre Nichols

By Eike Blohm, MD

The militarization of American police is based on decades-old flawed pseudoscientific studies. The consequences are the deaths of unarmed civilians like Tyre Nichols.

In 1989, a pivotal study entitled “Killed in the Line of Duty” was published and circulated widely among law enforcement professionals. It even ...

An Argument Without Teeth: The Flawed Science of Bite Mark Analysis

by Eike Blohm, MD

A review published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (“NIST”) found that forensic bite mark analysis lacks sufficient scientific foundation.

Adult humans have 32 teeth but only the foremost dozen leave marks when one person bites another. Analyses of the patterns of injury are ...

Survivors of Police Shootings Face Daunting Legal, Emotional, and Physical Challenges

by Eike Blohm, MD

Approximately 1,100 Americans are shot and killed by police every year. In the shadow of this figure is a hidden population of survivors left with permanent disabilities, crippling medical debt, emotional trauma, and legal fallout.

Exactly how many Americans are wounded by police bullets each year ...

Study Finds DNA Similarities Among Look-alikes

by Eike Blohm, MD

A recently published study shows that “doppelgängers” — unrelated strangers who look eerily similar — don’t just share looks; they have similar DNA.

The advent of social media and ubiquitous cellphone cameras has resulted in some people discovering their virtual twin. Two unrelated individuals who look ...

Law Enforcement Accesses Commercial DNA Databases Without Warrant

by Eike Blohm, MD

Joseph James DeAngelo, known as the Golden State Killer who committed heinous crimes in California during the 1970s and 1980s, has been caught. Police were able to match crime scene DNA to DeAngelo’s distant relative in a genealogical genetic database.

As citizens of a country of ...

 

 

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