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Prison Profiteers

Articles by Jayson Hawkins

Warrant Gives Police Access to DNA Database

by Jayson Hawkins 

Advances in DNA technology over recent years have enabled people to discover genetic predispositions, reconstruct family trees, and track down lost relatives. Nearly 30 million users have uploaded their profiles to DNA sites in hopes of reconnecting with their past or catching a glimpse of future ...

The Faulty Science of Breathalyzers

by Jayson Hawkins 

The forensic sciences, once believed to offer infallible evidence against a wide spectrum of crimes, have in many instances been exposed as little more than smoke and mirrors. 

To the growing list of faulty, misleading, or disproven methods can be added alcohol breath-testing.

A recent ...

Federal Rules Limit Searches of Private DNA Databases

by Jayson Hawkins

A new policy instituted by the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”), effective November 1, 2019, is the first federal rule governing the use of family-tree DNA databases by law enforcement.

Services that allow individuals to trace their ancestry through DNA technology have grown increasingly popular in recent ...

Freedom or Restitution for the Wrongfully Convicted

by Jayson Hawkins

"I’m sitting here a semblance, trying to get back to me,” Jimmy Dennis admitted from the relative safety of his living room, afraid to venture beyond his doorstep.

Dennis exhibited the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, including menacing nightmares and acute paranoia, which are often associated with ...

Hundreds of Dishonest Cops Called as Witnesses

by Jayson Hawkins

Little Rock, Arkansas, is a typical American city. When two police officers there pinned down a suspect while a third, David B. Green, beat his face into the ground in 2011, it was not unlike incidents in other towns across the nation. That a bodycam video showed ...

National Fingerprint Database Frees Man After 36 Years

by Jayson Hawkins

Archie Williams seemed doomed to die in prison. Sentenced to life without parole for a 1982 stabbing and rape, he managed to survive in Louisiana’s Angola as months bled into years, and years pooled into decades. Where others may have lost hope, Williams clung to one forlorn ...

Police Use of Rapid DNA Machines Unregulated

by Jayson Hawkins

For every step that technological advances make on the march of progress, so too are pathways opened to abuse. The current rush among law enforcement agencies to acquire “Rapid DNA” machines has thus raised red flags.

These devices enable the user to “generate an identifying DNA profile” ...

Perils of Risk Assessment Tools in Criminal Justice

by Jayson Hawkins

Risk assessment tools have frequently been mentioned as useful aids in the push toward criminal justice reform, yet little research has been done concerning their accuracy, validity, or effectiveness in this area.

In response to legislation in several states that would make the use of such tools ...

$750,000 Settlement for St. Louis County Cops Shooting Dog

by Jayson Hawkins

They put me and my son on our knees to watch her die. The officer squatted over her while she was dying with the search warrant, and he said, ‘You know why we’re here?’ and I said, ‘No, I don’t know,’” Angela Zorich recalled of the day a St. Louis County tactical operations unit broke down her door and shot the family dog. “When he said, ‘We’re here because your gas is off,’ I lost it.”

The killing of the Zorich’s 4-year-old pit bull, Kiya, was the last in a series of unfortunate events.

The family was facing foreclosure on their home in April 2014 when they turned off the gas line to avoid yet another bill they could not afford. A neighbor reported them to the police, and the complaint reached Robert Rinck, problem properties unit officer. He requested a warrant to inspect the house — a minor matter of checking the gas line — which somehow resulted in the militarized raid and shooting.

At the ensuing civil trial, Priscilla Gunn, the county’s defense attorney, argued that armored officers and forced entry were necessary due to “a known history of confrontations between members of the Zorich ...

National Fingerprint Database Frees Man After 36 Years

by Jayson Hawkins

Archie Williams seemed doomed to die in prison. Sentenced to life without parole for a 1982 stabbing and rape, he managed to survive in Louisiana’s Angola as months bled into years, and years pooled into decades. Where others may have lost hope, Williams clung to one forlorn fact: He is an innocent man.

The circumstances of Williams’ case highlight how flawed the American system of justice can be. The victim was a Baton Rouge woman, who was sexually assaulted and then stabbed in her home when a neighbor tried to intervene. Almost a month later, police asked the victim if she could identify her attacker in a photo array that included Williams. She did not pick him but said the perpetrator looked like him. The police produced a second array that also had Williams’ picture, and she repeated that it was not him but someone who looked similar. Additionally, both the victim and her neighbor described the assailant as between 5 feet, 9 inches and 5 feet, 11 inches. Williams stands 5 feet, 4 inches.

Investigators interested in finding the guilty party rather than merely scoring a conviction might have considered other suspects, but the victim was ...




 

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