Articles Posted in Evidence

There are some interesting articles for military justice practitioners in the Summer 2015, MLR.

Barracks, Dormitories, and Capitol Hill: Finding Justice in the Divergent Politics of Military and College Sexual Assault
3.  By Major Robert E. Murdough.pdf
Rudderless: 15 Years and Still Little Direction on the Boundaries of Military Rule of Evidence 513
4.  By Major Michael Zimmerman.pdf
Open-Ended Pharmaceutical Alibi: The Army’s Quest to Limit the Duration of Controlled Substances for Soldiers
5.  By Major Malcolm Wilkerson.pdf
A Better Understanding of Bullying and Hazing in the Military
7.  By Major Stephen M. Hernandez.pdf

Regardless of the type of case, motive to falsely testify of a primary witness is almost always of some relevance.  The recent case of Nappi v. Yelich, from the Tenth highlights that.

The Sixth Amendment’s confrontation right, which applies equally to defendants in state prosecutions, “means more than being allowed to confront the witness physically.”  Davis v. Alaska, 415 U.S. 308, 315 (1974).  It includes a right of cross-examination, which provides “the principle means by which the believability of a witness and the truth of his [or her] testimony are tested.”  Id. at 316; see also Pennsylvania v. Ritchie, 480 U.S. 39, 52 (1987) . . ..  To be sure, a trial judge has discretion to limit or preclude inquiry into collateral, repetitive, or “unduly harassing” subjects.  Davis, 415 U.S. at 316.  But this discretion has limits and “the exposure of a witness’ motivation in testifying is a proper and important function of the constitutionally protected right of cross‐examination.”  Id. at 316‐17.

The state court’s conclusion that cross‐examination of the state’s main witness’ motive for testifying was a collateral matter was contrary to clearly established Supreme Court precedent.  See Delaware v. Van Arsdall, 475 U.S. 673, 679 (1989) (ruling that preventing cross‐examination on a subject the “jury might reasonably have found furnished the witness a motive for favoring the prosecution in his testimony” violated the defendant’s Confrontation Clause right); Brinson v. Walker, 547 F.3d 387, 392 (2d Cir. 2008) .

And for the sexual assault case:

In Olden v. Kentucky, defendants were prosecuted for, among other things, rape; the defense was consent and that the victim had a motive to lie to conceal her extramarital relationship.  488 U.S. 227, 228‐30 (1988) (per curiam).  The state court prevented defendant from exposing this alleged motive to lie, but the Supreme Court concluded that this ruling “failed to accord proper weight to petitioner’s Sixth Amendment right to be confronted with the witnesses against him.”  Id. at 231 (internal quotation marks omitted).  Here, as in Olden, the testimony of a witness whose motive was at issue was “central, indeed crucial, to the prosecution’s case.”  Id. at 233. “If the purpose of cross‐examination is to explore more than general credibility, the subject of inquiry is not collateral.”  Dunbar v. Harris, 612 F.2d 690, 693 (2d Cir. 1979).

Are you at a base overseas?

Do you have foreign national witnesses or foreign language documents as evidence in your case?

United States v. Aifang Ye, No. 12-10576 (9th Cir. 2015)

may be of interest to you.

The court held that the defendant’s argument that the government’s failure to call certain translators as witnesses at trial violated her rights under the Confrontation Clause is foreclosed by precedent.

Sayeth a headnote.  Factually it appears:

Prior to trial, Ye and Zhenyan objected that it would violate the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to admit statements they had made to DHS unless the USCIS Language Line translators who assisted them were called to testify. After considering testimony and other evidence regarding the nature of USCIS’s translation services, the district court overruled the objection. Ye argues on appeal that the district court erred by subsequently admitting the translated statements at trial.

 

In United States v. Nazemian, 948 F.2d 522, 525–28 (9th Cir. 1991), we held that, as long as a translator acts only as a language conduit, the use of the translator does not implicate the Confrontation Clause. Ye argues that Nazemian is inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s decisions in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), [and its progeny].

As Ye correctly concedes, however, we already have held that Nazemian remains binding circuit precedent because it is not clearly irreconcilable with Crawford and its progeny.

Ye alternatively argues that the district court misapplied Nazemian in admitting the translated statements here.

The “Nazemian [test] requires analyzing four factors:

“(1) which party supplied the interpreter, (2) whether the interpreter had any motive to mislead or distort, (3) the interpreter’s qualifications and language skill, and (4) whether actions taken subsequent to the conversation were consistent with the statements as translated.”

As a defense counsel, I’m always looking for ways in which the prosecutor has opened the door to relevant evidence, but which for some reasons has been excluded or can’t be offered.  MRE 412 comes to mind, as happened to me at trial in United States v. Savala, 70 M.J. 70 (C.A.A.F. 2011).

But, BUT, as a defense counsel, I’m equally conscious of how I can do something to open the door.  I might have successfully litigated a motion in limine to exclude evidence.  But now I have the key and have to be careful I don’t give it to the prosecution to use.

There are other ways the defense can open the door to otherwise inadmissible evidence.  United States v. Martin just decided by NMCCA is a case in point.  Although the appellate court ultimately found the proescutions questions plainly wrong, the damage was done and they court found no prejudice.

From legal precedent, we discern several, nonexclusive factors relevant to an assessment of whether “human lie detector” testimony was prejudicial: (1) the role of the Government counsel in initiating or furthering objectionable testimony (Kasper, 58 M.J. at 314); (2) the role of the defense counsel, particularly if it appears the defense initiated the testimony for strategic reasons (United States v. Schlamer, 52 M.J. 80 (C.A.A.F. 1999)); (3) the defense’s failure to object or request cautionary instructions (United States v. Halford, 50 M.J. 402 (C.A.A.F. 1999)); (4) whether the witness has been asked for specific conclusions or their opinion about the truth or falsity of another’s statements or allegations, or about whether a crime occurred (United States v. Anderson, 51 M.J. 145 (C.A.A.F. 1999); United States v. Birdsall, 47 M.J. 404 (C.A.A.F. 1998); United States v. Marrie, 43 M.J. 35 (C.A.A.F. 1995)); (5) whether the testimony in question is on a central or peripheral matter (Kasper, 58 M.J. at 314; United States v. Robbins, 52 M.J. 455 (C.A.A.F. 2000); Birdsall, 47 M.J. at 404); (6) whether the trial was before members or by military judge alone (Robbins, 52 M.J. at 455; United States v. Raya, 45 M.J. 251 (C.A.A.F. 1996)); and (7) the remedial action, if any, taken by the military judge. United States v. Eggen, 51 M.J. 159 (C.A.A.F. 1999). See United States v. Jones, 60 M.J. 964, 969 (A.F.Ct.Crim.App. 2005). While the trial was before members and while Cpl AI was asked specifically whether he believed his wife was lying – the central issue in this case – we are not convinced that the error had an unfair prejudicial impact on the member’s deliberations.

 

The Washington Post has a report today:

The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.

Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.

If the vaunted FBI examiners can make errors, then surely the examiners at USACIL, DCFL, and similar “labs” can have problems.

One of the underlying issues may be that examinations for law enforcement purposes are not “blind.”  What do I mean by that?  Go back and look at a few examinations you’ve seen for your case recently.  When the samples are submitted for testing the field agent normally submits a statement or outline of the case.  Essentially, they are telling examiners the result they want–the evidence matches the suspect.  See comments here.  I know I talk about this frequently–the confirmation bias phenomenum–but here is my evidence Prof’s thoughts on how the manner in which samples are submitted, and tested, can lead to the potential for a flawed result.

Commentators have identified bias as a serious problem in the forensic setting. As one commentator noted: “To the extent that we are aware of our vulnerability to bias, we may be able to control it. In fact, a feature of good scientific practice is the institution of processes—such as blind testing, the use of precise measurements, standardized procedures, statistical analysis—that control for bias.” A 1996 National Academy of Sciences report on DNA testing recommended that laboratory procedures “be designed with safeguards to detect bias and to identify cases of true ambiguity. Potential ambiguities should be documented.

Keep in mind that internal quality assurance reviews do not solve this potential problem.  The incentives for the QA examiner are no different than the initial examiner.  Some of you may remember from quite some years ago the Brooks AF drug lab scandal.  This involved a blind negative sample submitted by AFIP, which was reported by the laboratory as positive for a controlled substance.  I remember a case where the female client’s sample was reported positive for a controlled substance.  It was not until the case reached an adsep board and we got “discovery” that we noticed that the testing data showed the presence of male DNA in the sample.  The government’s expert testified that the result was correct, but that it must have been contaminated somewhere in the collection and testing process.  Despite this the command persisted in going forward to a finding of no misconduct.

Here is a piece from Marc Green, about how these human factors mentioned above can affect the reliability of a forensic test result.  Whereas the FBI describes the handwriting methodology.  They have this interesting statement.

The FBI Laboratory has not established a specific number of “points” or characteristics needed to identify a questioned writing as having been prepared by a particular individual. In order for a forensic document examiner to identify an individual as having prepared a questioned writing, agreement must exist between significant characteristics in the questioned and known writing with no significant differences. The examiner must explain any exceptions.

Yes, there is a wide degree of subjectivity.  See here for a discussion of the points issue.  Prof. Jennifer Mnoonkin writes here on fingerprints.

The point here is that you yourself should not engage in your own blind confirmation bias–which is to accept without examination the findings of a forensic examination.  As several writers point out, there may be quite a bit of other evidence in your case which goes to prove the accused’s guilt, and that the forensic examination is merely icing on the cake.  But in close cases it’s worth a read to peel the onion on forensic tests and reports.  Certainly the research and questions about the reliability of forensic testing may well help lay a foundation for expert assistance.  There may be support for what it is the expert is going to do for the defense.

The Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals recently, in United States v. D.W.B., __ M.J. ___ (N-M Ct. Crim. App. 2015), had to decide “a complex and controversial topic: the admissibility of a witness’s testimony regarding memories recovered through a psychotherapeutic approach known as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).”  Slip op. at 2.

BLUF:  the military judge did not abuse his discretion in concluding that KB’s testimony was the product of a tainted and highly suggestive psychological process, and therefore inadmissible.

In Coker v. Georgia, 433 U. S. 584 (1977), the Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment bars the use of the death penalty as punishment for the rape of an adult woman, where there is no homicide.  The question was left open about a non-homicide rape of a child.

In Kennedy v. Louisiana the court had the opportunity to address the issue of a non-homicide child-rape.  The court held, that like the rape of an adult, a rape of a child cannot be punished by death.  While doing so, the court had this to say about child witnesses.

 There are, moreover, serious systemic concerns in prosecuting the crime of child rape that are relevant to the constitutionality of making it a capital offense. The problem of unreliable, induced, and even imagined child testimony means there is a “special risk of wrongful execution” in some child rape cases. Atkins [Atkins v. Virginia536 U. S. 304 (2002)] at 321. See also Brief for National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers et al.as Amici Curiae 5–17.  Studies conclude that children are highly susceptible to suggestive questioning techniques like repetition, guided imagery, and selective reinforcement. See Ceci & Friedman, The Suggestibility of Children: Scientific Research and Legal Implications, 86 Cornell L. Rev. 33, 47 (2000) (there is “strong evidence that children, especially young children, are suggestible to a significant degree—even on abuse-related questions”); Gross, Jacoby, Matheson, Montgomery, & Patil, Exonerations in the United States 1989 Through 2003, 95J. Crim. L. & C. 523, 539 (2005) (discussing allegations of abuse at the Little Rascals Day Care Center); see also Quas, Davis, Goodman, & Myers, Repeated Questions, Deception, and Children’s True and False Reports of Body Touch, 12 Child Maltreatment 60, 61–66 (2007) (finding that 4- to 7-year-olds “were able to maintain [a] lie about body touch fairly effectively when asked repeated, direct questions during a mock forensic interview”).

Kennedy v. Louisiana, 554 U.S. 407 (2008).

The issue of false memory and false memory syndrome has been raised in connection with Russell Strand’s “new” approach to interviewing sexual assault complainants.  He calls it the Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview (FETI).

Here are some helpful links to professional policies relevant to recovered memory.

The version of the facts contained in the majority opinion is far more convincing than are the facts contained in the record of trial.

It is not unusual for an appellate opinion to be selective in reciting the facts of a case relevant to the decision.  This can be attributed to several factors, most of the factors are benign and unintended, sometimes a cynic might argue the facts cited are deliberately selective.  But here is the relevant part of the dissent for counsel’s takeaway in alcohol related sexual assault cases.  The noted confusion must be addressed with the fact-finder through evidence perhaps, and certainly through argument.

It appears to me that the parties at trial misunderstood the relationships between volitional behavior, consent, mistake of fact as to consent, intoxication, and lack of memory. The question is not whether the alleged victim remembers what happened, but whether she participated in the sexual activity of her own volition at a time when she had too much to drink. Chief Judge Everett‘s concurring comments United States v. Baran, 22 M.J. 265, 270 (C.M.A. 1986), are directly applicable to this case:

The victim’s] inability to recall what happened does not signify that at the time of intercourse she was unable to give consent. As this Court recognized long ago, alcohol may affect a person’s memory and inhibitions without depriving him of volition; and proof of amnesia does not conclusively establish that someone was unconscious or lacked mental responsibility at the time of the events they have forgotten.

United States v. Grier, ARMY 9700651, 1998 CCA LEXIS 589, 19-20 (A.C.C.A. Dec. 11, 1998)(Johnston, J., dissenting).

It has been some time since I’ve had a case where it was necessary to have “cell tower” evidence to “locate” the client.

Here is an interesting piece in The New Yorker.

On May 28th, Lisa Marie Roberts, of Portland, Oregon, was released from prison after serving nine and a half years for a murder she didn’t commit. A key piece of overturned evidence was cell-phone records that allegedly put her at the scene.

In What Your Cell Phone Can’t Tell the Police, June 2014.

 

“[W]e recognize that electronic communications are susceptible to fabrication and manipulation.”

Campbell v. State, 382 S.W.3d 545, 550 (Tex. App. 2012).  Campbell and a number of other state and federal cases were support for my objection to text messages in a case this week.  I had a 120 which as usual had text messages as evidence by the prosecution – and I objected to authenticity.  Without going in to all of the facts, here are a few I thought relevant.

The CW had dropped her phone in the bath tub and it was no longer available for forensic examination.  In my last seven 120 cases this is the second bathtub-drop, along with two drop-and-breaks and one turn it in.  I’m beginning to get suspicious of what CW’s are being told once the photo of the text is cherry-picked and turned in.

  • As usual CID never took a forensic copy of the cellphone.
  • There were some discrepancies with other information.

The nature of my approach was initiated from a number of worth-the-read pieces.

“Because social media is often stored on remote servers, is accessed through unique interfaces, can be dynamic and collaborative in nature, and is uniquely susceptible to alteration and fabrication, evidentiary standards developed for other types of electronically stored information [ESI] may not be adequate.”

H. Christopher Boehning & Daniel J. Toal, Authenticating Social Media Evidence, N.Y.L.J., Oct. 2, 2012, at para. 4.

See also, Colin Miller & Charles White, The Social Medium: Why the Authentication Bar Should be Raised For Social Media Evidence. 87 TEMPLE L. REV. (ONLINE) 1 (2014).

Laird C. Kirkpatrick, § 9:9 Authenticating email, social media, web pages, text messages, instant messaging, electronic signatures.  GW Law School Public Law and Legal Theory Paper No. 2014-60.

In addition to the case law and the facts, I also introduced into evidence four (of about nine) applications that can be downloaded to a cellphone or tablet and from which you can fake or alter a text message are stream of texts.  In another case I had also presented evidence of similar apps to create fake emails from you.  Here is just one – iphonefaketext

The need for authentication arises in this context because an electronic communication, such as a Facebook message, an e-mail or a cell phone text message, could be generated by someone other than the named sender. This is true even with respect to accounts requiring a unique user name and password, given that account holders frequently remain logged in to their accounts while leaving their computers and cell phones unattended. Additionally, passwords and website security are subject to compromise by hackers. Consequently, proving only that a message came from a particular account, without further authenticating evidence, has been held to be inadequate proof of authorship. See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Williams, 456 Mass. 857, 869, 926 N.E.2d 1162 (2010).

State v. Eleck, 23 A.3d 818 (Conn. App. Ct. 2011).

Professor Colin Miller has  published two timely and important  essays related to the introduction of social media evidence for its truth.

Contents May Have Shifted: Disentangling the Best Evidence Rule from the Rule Against Hearsay,  71 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. Online 180 (2014). Here is the abstract:

The rule against hearsay covers a statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted but does not cover a statement offered for another purpose. Meanwhile, the Best Evidence Rule states that a party seeking to prove the content of a writing, recording, or photograph must produce the original or account for its nonproduction. Does this mean that the Rule is inapplicable when a party seeks to prove something other than the truth of the matter asserted in a writing, recording or photograph? Most courts have answered this question in the affirmative. This essay argues these courts are wrong.

The Social Medium: Why the Authentication Bar Should Be Raised For Social Media Evidence, Temple Law Review Online (2014) (with Charles White). Here is the abstract:

Professor Miller uses recent examples of “social media evidence” to argue that, given the current technological and social climate, a more stringent authentication standard must be developed and used.