July 18, 2013 Atlantic Wire
An expert witness testifies at a trial to provide evidence in his or her field. Over the course of several decades beginning in the late 1970s, witnesses with the FBI went further, suggesting that particular evidence—hair-match analysis—was a stronger indicator of guilt than the science supports. They tried, in other words, to help prosecute the case.
Now, in an apparently unprecedented move, the Department of Justice has agreed to review 120 convictions that may have been influenced by the agents' exaggerated testimony. In 27 of those cases, the convicted individuals were sentenced to death.
If so, the department will assist the class of prisoners in unprecedented ways, including waiving statutes of limitations and other federal rules that since 1996 have restricted post-conviction appeals. The FBI also will test DNA evidence if sought by a judge or prosecutor.
As many as 21,000 cases may have been affected by similar testimony. The Innocence Project, one of the groups that worked with the Department of Justice on the issue, explained why the cases are being reconsidered.
Stephen "Stippo" Rakes, a possible witness in the murder trial of alleged crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger, has been found dead, authorities said.
The body of Rakes, 59, had "no obvious signs of trauma" and an autopsy is being performed to determine the cause of death, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and Lincoln, Mass., Police Chief Kevin Mooney announced today.
The corpse was found on Mill Street in Lincoln yesterday at 1:30 p.m., police said.
Rakes had been on the witness list and had been eager to testify that Bulger threatened his family at gunpoint and forced him to turn his liquor store into a front for the Winter Hill Gang. But earlier this week prosecutors informed Rakes he would not be called to testify, a decision that left Rakes "despondent," a source close to his family told ABC News.
The judge overseeing the Bulger case hunkered down with lawyers in a confidential conference at the South Boston courthouse today where the trial is being held. Bulger, alleged to be a notorious and murderous crime boss and federal informant, is standing trial after being found on the lam in California two years ago.
Federal prosecutors said Rakes was supposed to testify that Bulger and associate Stephen Flemmi threatened his daughter at gunpoint, and took over his South Boston liquor store for Bulger's headquarters. Bulger sidekick Kevin Weeks testified last week Rakes' contention that Bulger's gang put a gun to his daughter's head was bogus. Read More
On July 18, 1984, James Huberty opens fire in a crowded McDonald's restaurant in San Ysidro, California, killing 21 people and wounding 19 others. Minutes earlier, Huberty had left home, telling his wife, "I'm going hunting... hunting for humans."
On July 17, 2011, Casey Anthony is released from jail in Orlando, Florida, after being acquitted on charges that she killed her 2-year-old daughter. Caylee Anthony was last seen alive with her mother on June 16, 2008, leaving the Orlando home they shared with Casey Anthony’s parents, George and Cindy Anthony. Casey Anthony waited a month to report her daughter missing, and when questioned by police in mid-July, she told them a nanny had kidnapped her daughter. On October 14, 2008, Anthony was indicted on charges of first-degree murder and lying to police. On December 11th of that year, Caylee’s skeletal remains were found in a wooded area less than a mile from George and Cindy Anthony’s house.
On July 16, 1979, Jeffrey MacDonald's murder trial begins in North Carolina. He was accused of the murder of his wife and children which had occurred in 1970. Captain MacDonald, an army doctor stationed at Fort Bragg, made an emergency call to military police in the early morning hours of February 17, 1970. Responding officers found Colette MacDonald and her two children, five-year-old Kimberley and two-year-old Kristen, dead from multiple stab wounds. The word "pig" had been written in blood on the headboard of a bed. Jeffrey, who had a few stab wounds himself, told the officers that four hippies had attacked the family.
On July 15, 1953, John Christie, one of England's most notorious killers, is executed. Four months earlier, on March 25th, police discovered the bodies of four women in a West London apartment. Christie, who used to live at the house, was apprehended a week later and confessed to the murders. One of the dead women had been identified as Christie's wife, Ethel.
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With the purpose of writing about true crime in an authoritative, fact-based manner, veteran journalists J. J. Maloney and J. Patrick O’Connor launched Crime Magazine in November of 1998.
Their goal was to cover all aspects of true crime: from organized crime to serial killers, from capital punishment to prisons, from historical crimes to celebrity crime, from assassinations to government corruption, from justice issues to innocent cases, from crime films to books about crime. Read More