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Articles by Matthew Clarke

Houston Police End Use of Error-Prone Drug Field Tests

by Matthew Clarke

In the summer of 2017, the Houston Police Department announced that it was ending its longstanding practice of using $2 field test kits for drugs that had frequently been used to persuade defendants to plead guilty—even when they were innocent.

In December 2016, the Timothy Cole Exoneration ...

U.S. Murder Clearance Rates Among Lowest in the World

by Matt Clarke

Statistically, U.S. law enforcement agencies are the worst crime solvers in the Western world. According to official data, there are arrests for about one-eighth of burglaries, about one-third of rapes, and about two-thirds of murders. But official methods of reporting can distort and exaggerate murder clearance rates, ...

Faulty Forensics and Lab Scandals Highlight Urgent Need for Enforceable Scientific Standards

by Matt Clarke

A 2009 report by the National Academy of Sciences (“NAS”) criticizing the varying quality of crime labs throughout the nation and questioning the scientific basis of several forensic methods that were routinely used to convict criminal defendants led to the hope that enforceable standards would soon be developed for forensic labs and the scientific methods introduced in court validated. That hope has proven to be overly optimistic, as prosecutors across the nation continue to introduce forensic testimony that makes unproven claims based on invalidated and even disproven methods such as bite mark analysis, microscopic hair comparison, and bullet groove and tool mark comparison. Even the gold standard cited in the NAS report—DNA testing—has proven to be fallible when comparison of complex, multiple-donor crime scene samples depends upon the subjective interpretation of forensic technicians.

The problems with forensic tests themselves are daunting, but they pale in comparison to the problems caused by corrupt and inept crime lab technicians who have tainted tens of thousands of criminal cases in recent years. Even when the technicians do their job honestly and competently, some prosecutors put a spin on the results that is anything but scientific.

Bite Mark Analysis

One common ...

No Qualified Immunity to Trooper Who Failed to Secure Treatment for Arrestee

by Matt Clarke

On April 27, 2016, the Eighth Circuit held that an Arkansas state trooper was not entitled to qualified immunity when he failed to seek medical care for a man he arrested who was exhibiting obvious medical problems and found dead at a detention center a few hours ...

Connecticut Supreme Court: Death Penalty Abolition is Retroactive

by Matt Clarke

On August 12, 2015, the Supreme Court of Connecticut ruled that to execute a person following the state legislature's prospective abolition of the death penalty would violate the state constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

Eduardo Santiago was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in ...

Pennsylvania Police Motor Vehicle Recordings Not Exempt From Disclosure

by Matt Clarke

On September 14, 2016, a Pennsylvania appellate court held that video and audio recordings made by police vehicles were not automatically exempt from disclosure under the Right-to-Know Law, 65 P.S. §67.101-76.3104 (RTKL) or the Criminal History Record Information Act, P.S. §§9101-9183 (CHRIA).

Michelle Grove made a request ...

Faulty Forensics and Lab Scandals Highlight Urgent Need for Enforceable Scientific Standards

by Matt Clarke

A 2009 report by the National Academy of Sciences (“NAS”) criticizing the varying quality of crime labs throughout the nation and questioning the scientific basis of several forensic methods that were routinely used to convict criminal defendants led to the hope that enforceable standards would soon be ...

Prosecutors in New Orleans Prosecute Public Defenders for Doing Their Job

by Matt Clarke

Where can you face criminal prosecution for doing your job? The answer is New Orleans if you work for the Orleans Public Defenders (“OPD”).

Prosecutors in New Orleans have been threatening to criminally charge the public defenders and investigators who conscientiously do their jobs, in a tactic ...

Texas Attorney General Rules Civilly Committed Sex Offenders Entitled to Vote by Mail Ballot

by Matt Clarke

In May 2017, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ruled that civilly committed sex offenders have a right to vote by mail ballot. The ruling puts an end to the confusion surrounding the issue, which resulted in all the mail ballots belonging to residents of the Texas Civil ...

Supreme Court Holds Texas May Not Use Outdated Standards to Determine Intellectual Disability in Death Penalty Cases

by Matt Clarke

In a 5-3 opinion handed down on March 28, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (“CCA”) violated the Eighth Amendment and Supreme Court precedent when it relied upon its own previous opinion and superseded medical standards to conclude that a ...

 

 

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