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Forensic Evidence

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NEWS
February 8, 2009
When British researchers asked five crime lab examiners to evaluate a series of fingerprints, they were told one pair had been mistakenly matched to a terrorism suspect. The experts reached conflicting results. Only one judged the prints identical. The fingerprint examiners later learned that the samples were prints they each had previously reviewed and found to be the same. The study by Itiel E. Dror and two colleagues underscores what some defense attorneys in Maryland and elsewhere have argued - forensic experts can be influenced, and not in justice's favor.
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NEWS
By Ian Duncan, The Baltimore Sun | August 27, 2014
The state's highest court ordered a new trial Wednesday for a former Baltimore police sergeant convicted nearly two decades ago of murdering his young mistress - a ruling that could affect cases that relied on bullet testing used for decades until being debunked. Gina Nueslein, a 22-year-old clerk at a Royal Farms, became entangled with Sgt. James Kulbicki, who was 14 years her senior, in a relationship that soured as she sued him for child support. Twenty years later, Kulbicki has a chance to demonstrate the innocence he has maintained, but Nueslein's family must experience the ordeal of her death again.
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NEWS
By Ian Duncan, The Baltimore Sun | February 21, 2014
After being cleared of a murder for which he spent two decades in prison, Sabein C. Burgess spent some of his first free moments in a dingy carryout next to the city courthouse holding his baby granddaughter, with his family and lawyers swarming around. "There were a lot of times I didn't think I was going to get out," Burgess said. But the evidence - gathered over years - had reached a tipping point. Shortly after Burgess' conviction, another man confessed to carrying out the killing with a notorious hit man. Then two years ago, the victim's son, who witnessed the killing as a boy, came forward to say Burgess didn't do it. And the forensic evidence has been challenged as shaky.
NEWS
By Ian Duncan, The Baltimore Sun | February 21, 2014
After being cleared of a murder for which he spent two decades in prison, Sabein C. Burgess spent some of his first free moments in a dingy carryout next to the city courthouse holding his baby granddaughter, with his family and lawyers swarming around. "There were a lot of times I didn't think I was going to get out," Burgess said. But the evidence - gathered over years - had reached a tipping point. Shortly after Burgess' conviction, another man confessed to carrying out the killing with a notorious hit man. Then two years ago, the victim's son, who witnessed the killing as a boy, came forward to say Burgess didn't do it. And the forensic evidence has been challenged as shaky.
NEWS
By Jill Hudson Neal and Jill Hudson Neal,SUN STAFF | July 8, 1998
Howard County's Sexual Assault Center and Howard County General Hospital want to fund a program to train nurses to collect forensic evidence from rape and sexual assault victims.If their joint grant proposal is approved by the state, specially trained nurses would be on call 24 hours a day to treat and examine rape victims admitted to the hospital after an assault.Cheryl DePetro, executive director of the Sexual Trauma Treatment, Advocacy and Recovery (STAR) Center and the grant's co-author, says evidence collected during a hospital exam begins a process that ends in a courtroom.
NEWS
February 20, 2009
Baltimore prosecutors often complain that city jurors are unduly influenced by TV crime dramas. They call it the "CSI Effect," a reference to the popular television show where fingerprints, bullet fragments, gunshot residue, bite marks and other forensic evidence almost always match a suspect to a crime. That's not the way it is in real life, though plenty of criminal cases have been decided on just that kind of evidence. Now, prosecutors in Maryland and across the nation will have to contend with a judgment of forensic science more troubling and problematic for the criminal justice system than any prime-time soap.
NEWS
April 1, 2013
I assumed that finding Policarpio Perez and Adan Canela guilty of the murders of their young relatives would be a slam dunk ("Split verdict in child killings," March 27). After all, the prosecution had the blood of the victims on both of the defendants' jeans as well as a pair of gloves and shoes belonging to the suspects with the victims' blood. What could be more compelling than the blood of the victims on clothing with the suspects' DNA? Thus I was flabbergasted when the judge ruled most of the blood evidence inadmissible.
NEWS
By JULIE BYKOWICZ and JULIE BYKOWICZ,SUN REPORTER | May 26, 2006
The FBI is no longer analyzing gunshot residue in its investigations, a blow to once highly regarded evidence used to suggest that a suspected criminal had fired a weapon. Lawyers, scientists and law enforcement officials across the country said they were astonished by the decision and said it could mean the end of using such evidence. It also could become a weapon for defense attorneys in pending cases and in efforts to overturn convictions. "If the premier forensic science organization in the world isn't using gunshot residue, that certainly raises some questions about it," said Timothy S. Brooke of the American Society for Testing and Materials, which sets the policies used by many police crime labs, including Baltimore's.
NEWS
By Ian Duncan, The Baltimore Sun | August 27, 2014
The state's highest court ordered a new trial Wednesday for a former Baltimore police sergeant convicted nearly two decades ago of murdering his young mistress - a ruling that could affect cases that relied on bullet testing used for decades until being debunked. Gina Nueslein, a 22-year-old clerk at a Royal Farms, became entangled with Sgt. James Kulbicki, who was 14 years her senior, in a relationship that soured as she sued him for child support. Twenty years later, Kulbicki has a chance to demonstrate the innocence he has maintained, but Nueslein's family must experience the ordeal of her death again.
NEWS
By Stephen Kiehl and Stephen Kiehl,Sun reporter | November 5, 2007
Call it the CSI list: fingerprints, gunshot residue, ballistics, toxicology, bite patterns - the full rundown of forensic methods used by prosecutors to link defendants to crime scenes. Public perception and generations of prosecutors suggest that all of those forensic methods produce rock-solid scientific evidence against criminal defendants. And one by one, Patrick Kent, chief of the forensics division at the state public defender's office, is trying to destroy those certainties. Kent has enjoyed success by attacking the validity of gunshot residue and - just last month in a Baltimore County murder case - fingerprints.
NEWS
April 1, 2013
I assumed that finding Policarpio Perez and Adan Canela guilty of the murders of their young relatives would be a slam dunk ("Split verdict in child killings," March 27). After all, the prosecution had the blood of the victims on both of the defendants' jeans as well as a pair of gloves and shoes belonging to the suspects with the victims' blood. What could be more compelling than the blood of the victims on clothing with the suspects' DNA? Thus I was flabbergasted when the judge ruled most of the blood evidence inadmissible.
NEWS
By Peter Hermann | March 30, 2012
The woman who along with her husband were held up at gunpoint last weekend in South Baltimore was positive she had identified the correct suspects. But after one proved, with the help of video surveillance, that he was in a restaurant at the time, prosecutors were forced to drop the charges. The case has raised questions about the reliability of witnesses and of police, who arrested and charged before checking an alibi and without having found the gun or any of the victims' belongings, including rings worth $22,300.
NEWS
February 20, 2009
Baltimore prosecutors often complain that city jurors are unduly influenced by TV crime dramas. They call it the "CSI Effect," a reference to the popular television show where fingerprints, bullet fragments, gunshot residue, bite marks and other forensic evidence almost always match a suspect to a crime. That's not the way it is in real life, though plenty of criminal cases have been decided on just that kind of evidence. Now, prosecutors in Maryland and across the nation will have to contend with a judgment of forensic science more troubling and problematic for the criminal justice system than any prime-time soap.
NEWS
February 8, 2009
When British researchers asked five crime lab examiners to evaluate a series of fingerprints, they were told one pair had been mistakenly matched to a terrorism suspect. The experts reached conflicting results. Only one judged the prints identical. The fingerprint examiners later learned that the samples were prints they each had previously reviewed and found to be the same. The study by Itiel E. Dror and two colleagues underscores what some defense attorneys in Maryland and elsewhere have argued - forensic experts can be influenced, and not in justice's favor.
NEWS
By Julie Bykowicz and Julie Bykowicz,julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com | September 7, 2008
Forensic evidence - DNA on a victim, gunshot residue on a hand, fingerprints on a weapon - holds a special place in courtrooms, often treated as irrefutable proof that police have nabbed the bad guy. But the labs processing that prized evidence can sometimes become the suspects. Last month, the Baltimore Police Department disclosed that its lab employees were leaving their own DNA on crime scene evidence. Lab director Edgar Koch lost his job because of the contamination, which had gone unidentified for years because the lab didn't take the basic step of cataloging employee DNA in a database.
NEWS
By Stephen Kiehl and Stephen Kiehl,Sun reporter | November 5, 2007
Call it the CSI list: fingerprints, gunshot residue, ballistics, toxicology, bite patterns - the full rundown of forensic methods used by prosecutors to link defendants to crime scenes. Public perception and generations of prosecutors suggest that all of those forensic methods produce rock-solid scientific evidence against criminal defendants. And one by one, Patrick Kent, chief of the forensics division at the state public defender's office, is trying to destroy those certainties. Kent has enjoyed success by attacking the validity of gunshot residue and - just last month in a Baltimore County murder case - fingerprints.
NEWS
By Peter Hermann | March 30, 2012
The woman who along with her husband were held up at gunpoint last weekend in South Baltimore was positive she had identified the correct suspects. But after one proved, with the help of video surveillance, that he was in a restaurant at the time, prosecutors were forced to drop the charges. The case has raised questions about the reliability of witnesses and of police, who arrested and charged before checking an alibi and without having found the gun or any of the victims' belongings, including rings worth $22,300.
NEWS
By Julie Bykowicz and Julie Bykowicz,julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com | September 7, 2008
Forensic evidence - DNA on a victim, gunshot residue on a hand, fingerprints on a weapon - holds a special place in courtrooms, often treated as irrefutable proof that police have nabbed the bad guy. But the labs processing that prized evidence can sometimes become the suspects. Last month, the Baltimore Police Department disclosed that its lab employees were leaving their own DNA on crime scene evidence. Lab director Edgar Koch lost his job because of the contamination, which had gone unidentified for years because the lab didn't take the basic step of cataloging employee DNA in a database.
NEWS
By JULIE BYKOWICZ and JULIE BYKOWICZ,SUN REPORTER | May 26, 2006
The FBI is no longer analyzing gunshot residue in its investigations, a blow to once highly regarded evidence used to suggest that a suspected criminal had fired a weapon. Lawyers, scientists and law enforcement officials across the country said they were astonished by the decision and said it could mean the end of using such evidence. It also could become a weapon for defense attorneys in pending cases and in efforts to overturn convictions. "If the premier forensic science organization in the world isn't using gunshot residue, that certainly raises some questions about it," said Timothy S. Brooke of the American Society for Testing and Materials, which sets the policies used by many police crime labs, including Baltimore's.
NEWS
By MELISSA HARRIS and MELISSA HARRIS,SUN REPORTER | March 12, 2006
A man wanted in the fatal stabbing of a West Friendship small-business owner has fled to a northern region of Mexico where Howard County police must navigate a lengthy and difficult legal process to retrieve him. Mexican authorities will not give up Joel Nunez Valles, 32, unless Howard County prosecutors promise not to seek the death penalty in the mid-October killing of Abolinar Avila, 50, also known as Juan Miguel Gonzalez, who ran a lawn-care business...
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