Knox trial looking more and more farcical

This is a case where it shows how improper DNA evidence can be highly prejudicial.

Quantity of DNA is something that needs to be looked at carefully in any investigation, as greater sensitivity in tests may lead more to confusion than clarity.

Trace DNA is inherently a problem because the smaller the sample, the easier it is for it to be a result of innocent transfer.

In the various media slagging that is going on it is difficult to get at the actual source evidence to assess it, but from what I gather, the bra that allegedly had Sollecito’s DNA on the clasp was found 6 weeks later, nowhere near the crime scene.

There is no indication that I can see that the bra had any blood on it or any evidence about the last time that the victim may have worn it. There is no evidence that I have seen that it was worn by the victim the night of the murder.

Trace evidence can be a problem where, for instance, if the victim touches the clasp herself after, for example, shaking hands with Sollecito or even handling some of his clothing for laundry, it is almost inevitable that there will be a very small amount of transfer.

Then when you consider that the bra itself was dropped all over the place when the police were handling it, one has to wonder how they can be certain from DNA that it was even the victim’s bra.

Given the integrity of the investigation I have doubts that they would have confirmed that it was the same size.

And if they find a bra in some other place, (regrettably unspecified in reports I have seen), how is it that you look at a bra and just know that it is the bra of a homicide victim? A lot about the whole scenario doesn’t make sense.

And then the evidence about the knife is, to put it charitably, ambiguous. There is no consensus that the knife was the one that was used for the murder and the weight of the evidence seems to be that it probably couldn’t have been.

As far as the psychological lines of the case, the prosecution is making less and less sense.

Knox finds out that she won’t be working that evening shortly before the murder. She has been placed at her boyfriend’s place the night of the murder.

So she says to her boyfriend, I’m not needed for my shift tonight, so lets grab a huge knife from your kitchen and go murder my roommate tonight?

One of the case judges couldn’t believe that Knox would take a shower in a bathroom with blood in it.

But, when Knox called the police, they weren’t convinced that they should force open the victim’s locked door. The murder was discovered when a friend impatiently broke the door open.

If the police weren’t convinced that it was a crime scene from the blood on the floor, it can’t have been very serious.

Then there is the issue of inconsistent verdicts.

There isn’t any known scenario where it makes sense that Knox and Sollecito collaborated in the murder with Rudy Guede.

The point has been made that it doesn’t make any sense for someone to help a relatively unknown intruder rape and murder her roommate.

Given that Guede at one time said that he was at the flat and that Knox wasn’t there, it is surprising that his changed story was preferred.

That is not to say that I necessarily think that Guede is guilty either. I find a handprint in blood that is supposedly his less than convincing.

How was it that the pillow with the print gave a clear print? Was it some special, untextured silk that gave a print in the same manner as glass or metal?

Or did the blood itself preserve the patterns of ridges and whirls?

Regrettably, the press has been too animated for or against Knox to dig down to ground and present the specific evidence in detail for all to judge. It is one of the most publicized trials but the reports are largely emotive with few details coming through although the proceedings are open.

There is enough however to see major problems. The greatest of these problems is two verdicts that while not logically inconsistent as a matter of formal logic, are completely inconsistent as a matter of common sense.

You either have to free Guede or you have to free Knox and Sollecito.

It is improper to use some wildly improbably theory of the case to catch everybody who could have been involved in a crime in the same net so that you have twice the chance of getting the killer behind bars.

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Another annoying low in the myth of the overworked stay at home mother

http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/07/07/levs.dads.responsible/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

If you are a daycare worker or run a home daycare with ten kids in your charge that is a full time job. Needing to be physcially present for one or two kids isn’t a full time job unless you have kids from hell.

It is true that women have been subjected to various historical wrongs. It is probably true that when a family has two full time working parents that the mother winds up doing more of the housework.

But this idea that taking care of your own kids is more than a full time job is unscrupulous feminist propaganda. Unless you’re Octomom.

Laundry? Unless you get a bunch of stuff that has to be washed individually, it’s just another case of having to be physically present to put it in and take it out. Most things can be tossed in a load together and then you can go back to watching your soap operas, with the annoying interruption of having to put them into or take them out of the dryer, which can be done on commercial breaks.

Seriously, you can only con a guy with this nonsense who has never done his own laundry.

As for the anal compulsive psychos that like doing lots of small loads with different settings, well they are making their own work for some reason so obviously they like it.

Being a stay at home mother was probably a lot more work 70 years ago when a lot more had to be done by hand.

Now we can get preprepared foods from Safeway. Machines do washing of clothes and dishes. You can make a meal with two hour preparation if you want to, but you can also have an equally nutritious meal in half an hour if you want to.

Then there is the housecleaning scam. Spending 8 hours a day cleaning your house? Seriously? What is your house, like 100,000 square feet?

Sure you can re-dust everything every day, re-vacuum everything every day, but again that is for anal compulsive psychos who like doing unnecessary busy work because they are OCD. You might notice dust on your bookshelves if you don’t dust them every day for a month. Doing it every day is just nuts, nuts, nuts.

And if you are constantly, obsessively using household cleaners to excess, all those extra chemicals are going to put you and your family at much greater risks for health problems like cancer and asthma.

Chemicals should be treated with respect. We didn’t evolve in a germ free environment and our bodies are designed to deal with run of the mill germs. And they are everywhere. Trying to prevent any exposure to germs is a fool’s errand, and to the extent that it is successful, can impair the normal development of immune systems. Protection from germs should be more about actual threats, like spoiled food, and ensuring immunizations.

We haven’t had similar time to evolve to deal with constant exposure to man-made chemicals.

Being hard working and stupid is not necessarily a good thing. Doing unwork that actually increases hazards is counter-productive and should not be looked at as heroic or some kind of a legitimate full time job, just because you do it all the time. Should you be doing it? Is it necessary?

The house doesn’t have to be sparkling white like a commercial to be sanitary. The real affront to women is commercialization that suggests that everything has to have a brilliant finish every day.

The price of that perfect surface every day is dangerous chemicals everywhere, including in the air. The run of the mill bacteria in most places don’t do anything. Sanitation is about making sure that key areas such as dishes, stoves, sinks etc. are kept sanitary, where there can be health consequences.

As for working mothers, something that feminism has to take a hard look at is what we’ve gotten in return for flooding the work market with women.

It used to be that a family could do reasonably well on one white collar job and have their home with picket fence somewhere in the suburbs.

Now average middle class people are probably pushed to the limit to afford a much smaller condo on two incomes.

The real buying power of the average income is less than half of what it was before Reaganomics.

We have been economically much worse than in the recession of the early 80’s for at least ten years. Defining the health of the economy as the value of the DOW or the GDP is a mistake, which has led to the present financial crisis. 95% of the people out there don’t get any benefit from a high DOW or GDP because they don’t get any money from it.

The real effect of lots more women seeking jobs is an increase in labor supply, and like any other case of supply and demand, the increased competition drops the price.

What do women have to show for putting their labor on the market? Less than nothing. The net effect is the same as paying to work.

Wage equalization is an admirable goal but it misses the point when the real purchasing power of the median male income is less than half of what it was 30 years ago.

All equalization means in that context is that male wages have come further down in purchasing power terms.

The “battle of the sexes” has become a distraction when the real oppressors are businesses that have given no net benefit for the additional labor, commercial products that suggest an impossible standard for women, and the like.

Just because a few white males go around in their own private jets doesn’t make this a man’s world. Both men and women have been the victims of 30 years of class warfare brought by the Republican party. That is the real issue.

Hijacking of homeopathy by morons holds medicine back decades

If you have a lot to drink on one occasion, you get drunk.

If you drink a lot consistently over time, your body will change so that you will become overstimulated if you don’t have alcohol, and can even go into seizures and die.

If you use a stimulant you become more energized. Use stimulants over a long period of time and you will become sluggish without the stimulant, and eventually can require the stimulant just to feel like you used to feel without it.

Nobody can seriously dispute these facts, and the effects work on the same basis as true homeopathy.

The body adjusts to keep itself in equilibrium and if a stress is put on it, it usually reacts in the opposite direction with negative feedback.

What that means is that for a lot of drugs and drug like substances, the acute effects are often the opposite of the chronic effects.

What stimulates you will with prolonged use have a calming effect. What relaxes or sedates you with prolonged use will lead to greater stimulation in the absence of the relaxant or sedative as the body is trained to compensate for its constant presence.

These are really, really trite principles. They usually come up in the context of destructive activity such as drug abuse.

But addictive and dependency forming effects are the flip side of beneficial homeopathic effects.

The idea of homeopathy, the original idea, is that if you use constant small doses of a drug you can avoid any undesirable acute effects while over time shifting the body’s internal set points in the direction you want.

If somebody is already overstimulated and you give them something that causes immediate gratification of relaxation or sedation, the price of that immediate gratification is that the body’s natural set points will over time shift more and more towards overstimulation, exactly the opposite of what you want. That leads to increased dosages and a spiral. Instead of moving the body to more healthy natural set points, you move further and further away from the target.

If a person is overstimulated and they are given small doses of stimulant consistently over time, his body will naturally train to relax itself. It may not offer instant gratification but ultimately gives victory instead of a death spiral into an abyss of worsening symptoms and dependency.

Whether the body will react with negative feedback to a given substance and in what degree, are questions of fact and may vary from substance to substance.

These principles are the real homeopathy. It is nothing more than a word for the beneficial aspects of the body’s negative feedback systems, which exist as a well established medical fact.

That is the meaning of the word “homeopathy” itself- “homeo” meaning “same”- you cure overstimulation by using a stimulant, you cure sluggishness by using a relaxant.

Unfortunately quacks who have no understanding of the principles have deviated from these principles and made nonsense of them.

In what might be called “modern homeopathy”, bizarre new age ideas that have nothing to do with homeopathy in the original sense are being marketed as homeopathy.

For instance, there is this idea that the less ingredient that is in the homeopathic pill, the more powerful the effect will be.

That shows a lack of even a superficial understanding of the reason for the low dosage. The low dosage is not because a lower dose is more powerful, but because you do not want to induce the effects of an acute high dose.

The new homeopathy is the same as stating that you will become more drunk on one drink than on ten. It is absolute horseshit.

And the more that you drink, the more your body’s set points will move towards being more stimulated over time. You can have a greater homeopathic effect by taking more of the remedy- the price being that you will have greater acute effects at a higher dose.

The new homeopathy is also actually, frequently, heteropathy. Substances that are acute relaxants or sedatives are sold as relaxants or sedatives for instance. In some cases they may have the intended effect when used in the short term only, however it is not homeopathy.

Lastly, the new age “homeopaths” have digressed into areas that have nothing to do with the original principles, such as speculating on the “frequencies” of various substances, and other unscientific hokum.

Skeptics and debunkers have a field day with the new homeopathy because the absence of reasoning there makes critique of it much like shooting fish in a barrel.

Especially at the lower dosages the little pellets are just little sugar pills. It likely has a decent placebo effects and lets hypochondriacs self-medicate without getting into too much trouble.

The biggest price though is what the general view of homeopathy has done to mainstream medicine.

Many medications on the market violate true homeopathic principles. Prescribing Effexor or similar poisons to people that are depressed leads to an ever worsening spiral into depression and dependency. It is about as responsible as prescribing an anxious or depressed person heroin or alcohol. The negative feedback makes the patients/victims get worse and worse.

Why do all SSRI antidepressants triple suicide rates, not just in children in teens as is misleadingly put on the packages, but in all users? It is because it is like a person drinking alcohol to calm his nerves, every day. The person will require more and more, and become more and more unstable.

Everybody that I have seen use these medications goes the same way, from feeling down to being more and more out of control.

You cannot get at what they are doing wrong without going into homeopathy, which is now associated with pseudoscience, because most “homeopaths” these days, if not all, are not practicing homeopathy, just some shamanistic voodoo nonsense.

But the original homeopathic principles have never been refuted, in fact we see the evidence of the dark side of negative feedback systems every day with drug and alcohol addiction.

Drugs like Effexor will eventually be banned, just like cocaine and heroin, which were also prescribed by doctors in days past for essentially the same reason, and the banning will be for the same reason.

Of course, the idea of homeopathy is not to create a spiral where a person will become an addict and have to use more and more expensive drugs.

Any attempt to base medicine on science will meet ferocious opposition from the drug companies.

One class of drugs that aren’t used nearly enough though- ADD medications. They are what should be prescribed for anxiety and depression. The long term muting of the nervous system makes anxiety and depression go away.

On Baez, the formerly alleged bozo

Casey Anthony’s lawyer has been subjected to a number of disparaging comments. However, his focus on basics seems to have worked quite adequately.

It brings to mind one of my favorite legal quotations, from Wellman’s book on cross examination, concerning a certain famous cross examiner by the name of Mr. Scarlett.

A judge and a juror were leaving the courthouse, and in those less formal times they struck up a conversation.

The judge asked the juror what he thought of the prosecutor. The juror thought the prosecutor was extremely good.

Then he asked him what he thought of Mr. Scarlett, with approximately the following exchange:

Juror: I think naught of Mr. Scarlett
Judge (in amazement): But you have given him every verdict!
Juror: That’s because he was on the right side every time.

That is the real trick of being top counsel, in effect becoming invisible. Instead of the jury being convinced that you are rescuing your case through some incredible heroic gymnastics, it is better to convince the jury that it is obvious, even pedestrian, that your client’s case is correct.

Anthony, Morin, Memphis Three- need to review rules on circumstantial evidence

A judge should never direct a conviction in a jury trial.  But there is no injustice in encouraging justices to direct acquitals.

Many cases that are far too weak to leave to a jury are allowed to go by on the premise that findings of fact are the province of the jury.   But the accused is hardly going to object if he is acquitted by direction of a judge that he didn’t receive due process.

Either there needs to be a lot more scope for judicial interference on behalf of an accused, or there needs to be a constitutional right to be tried by judge alone.

In the Anthony case, the jury did its’ duty.  All too frequently they do not.

That is where a lot, possibly most, wrongful convictions come from.  The prosecution tries to spook the jury with innuendo and hopes that slight of hand will distract the jury from the lack of evidence.

The various law societies are unwilling or unable to police this type of conduct and so something needs to be done about it from another angle.

The law around circumstancial evidence has become too loose.  In a key early case on circumstancial evidence of murder, two men went into a room with an incinerator in it and only one came out, with no sign of the other, after being locked in for a very lengthy period.

The lack of a body or other physical proof of a murder was not fatal to the prosecution of that case, in essence because there was no other coherent explanation of what had happened.

The evidence was circumstancial in that there was no direct evidence, but it was tight.

Now prosecutions in murder cases have been extending circumstancial “evidence” as if circumstancial evidence were some kind of fuzzy, intuitive, psychic evidence, as opposed to the old idea that it is evidence that, while indirect, is LOGICALLY compelling enough that it would be preposterous to consider an alternative explanation.

Logical circumstancial evidence has been replaced by poetic licence.  Perhaps failed novelists and screenwriters are flocking to prosecution departments?

Defence counsel do have to think like screenwriters.  If there is even one plausible explanation of innocence consistent with all the facts that the jury takes as proven then the jury must acquit.

Prosecutors should not be thinking like screenwriters.  If there is one explanation consistent with the facts that is consistent with guilt, that is irrelevant.  If there are ten separate explanations consistent with the facts that are also consistent with guilt, that is irrelevant.   The prosecution is supposed to be showing that it is impossible that the accused is innocent.

Coming up with one hypothesis that is consistent with the known facts but also makes a number of leaps to fill in gaps is dangerous.  The jury should not be asked to hypothesize that the accused is guilty.  “Beyond a reasonable doubt” is a far stronger test than plausibility.

In a lot of cases of wrongful conviction, one has to wonder how the jury was ever duped because the storyline produced by the prosecution lacks even a veneer of plausibility.  Less educated juries may be duped by a story that sounds cool even if it is unsupported and they wouldn’t believe it if they saw it in a movie.

On the topic of the “dancing Casey” posturing of the prosecution in the Casey Anthony trial, something similar was done in a wrongful conviction case in California five or ten years ago.

A woman’s husband had died.  For reasons that are not entirely clear, suspicions were aroused.  The woman was seeing other men and partying not long after.

The woman was convicted, essentially for being off dancing and having sex with other men.

Subsequent review of the lab analysis determined that there was a lab error and the man had in fact died of natural causes.   He had not been killed by anybody, let alone his widow.

People grieve in different ways and react differently to stress.  Some go out and party.  Some stay home and grieve.  My guess is the partiers probably recover faster, so I’m not going to say that’s an unhealthy response, although it may be avoidant and may also be a sign of a manic personality.

I have to wonder if the prosecutors in the Anthony case were aware of that California case.  It seems to be a tried and true way of getting murder convictions to show that the accused goes against social norms, in the absence of real evidence that may be compelling, say of a murder for instance.

There was an embarassing case in Australia a couple of years ago where the prosecution added a murder charge to a serial killer case for the murder of a young woman who was in fact alive and had run away with her boyfriend.

That’s just slop.   “You were in the area” isn’t circumstancial evidence of anything unless there is e.g. exclusive opportunity or a strong MO connection.   There is also a world of difference between disappearing in a locked room with an incinerator and one other person and simply disappearing without any evidence of anything.

A disappearance, even one where it is wildly unlikely somebody ran away, isn’t necessarily evidence of murder.  Maybe the GPS on a person’s car leads them into the mud somewhere in the boonies like what happened to a couple in April.  Maybe the person fell into a ravine.  Maybe they were bitten by a poisonous snake.  Maybe they had a heart attack.

At the very least, stronger jury directions should be made in the case of circumstancial evidence of murder.  The reason why indirect evidence is used is that it is supposed to be so strong that it doesn’t really make sense to give an alternative explanation.

That can go too far too, although it is more rare.  In one famous Supreme Court of Canada case, with Sopinka giving the majority verdict, a murder conviction was thrown out because the police supposedly did not have grounds of “exigent circumstances” to enter the trailer owned by a murderer, although in hot pursuit.  In Canadian law there are some circumstances in which a warrant is not necessary.

I think that was R. v. Feeney, although I’m not certain of that.

The accused had murdered somebody and stolen his truck.   He abandoned the truck and went home.  The police lifted his finger print from the truck, got an immediate ID and went straight to his trailer, where he was still in his blood soaked clothing.

The court found that deterimining that he had stolen the truck was not evidence that he was the killer.

Nine times out of ten I agree with Sopinka, a far higher rate than any other justice in any court, but on this he was just plain wrong.   What are the odds that one man murdered the victim and a different man stole his truck, at approximately the same time and location? That has to be a million to one.

As far as pursuing somebody to prevent destruction of evidence and going in without a warrant, I would not have had the slightest qualm, even as a libertarian, in saying that what the police did was wholely justified.  It was so soon after the act that the killer had not even changed out of his bloody clothing.  It was ace police work.   I don’t see what they did as being a threat to anybody’s freedom.  If it is a fresh crime they ought to be able to search the block without a warrant, obviously subject to local statutory restrictions.

Now if had been business as usual police work and they came around a week later that would be a different story.

Obviously, if the situation was that one in a million cases where the murderer and the thief were two different people, nothing incriminating would have been found on the search and that defence would be available.  A search is not the same as a conviction.  In such a case the immediate search might well assist the defence by diminishing the argument “well, he had time to destroy the evidence”.

 

 

 

Anthony jury did its’ duty

Prosecutors often hope that they can get a verdict with smoke and mirrors and mudslinging instead of evidence.

The Casey Anthony case is one where there was no evidence of a murder.

The duty of the jury in that case is to acquit- of the murder charge.

Prosecutors are often leery of presenting additional charges, including ones that are psychologically inconsistent, for fear that the jury may take a safer way out.

Proceeding in that way is incorrect, and the Anthony case shows why. There is almost always something that could be a successful charge in a case like this. They did get her on four misdemeanors. If they had changed their approach they would have probably got more. But they put too many eggs in one basket and the gymnastics they had to engage in to bring a first degree murder charge wound up prejudicing the chances of getting anything else. The only story line offered by the prosecution was for first degree murder.

The thing that comes right to mind is negligence. If a mother duct tapes her child’s mouth shut and it has a nasal obstruction, such as from allergies, it may suffocate. Never duct tape anybody’s mouth. Never.

That would be my best guess about what happened given the evidence.

The shocking thing about American culture is that everybody is shocked that the jury did its’ duty.

The jury system so often has turned into this wink-wink, nudge-nudge thing where the prosecutor convinces the jury that the defendant is an awful person instead of producing evidence.

A person who may have just screwed up is there facing the death penalty. A jurer who does not acquit in a capital case in which no evidence is produced on the capital offence is at least morally and ethically a murderer.

I have to say there is every indication that Casey Anthony is an awful person, but that isn’t a felony.

My guess is that the prosecutors could have pled her out at involuntary manslaughter, indeed that was not far from the defence. But they got greedy and maybe wanted to appear on TV.

It was something of an “Amanda Knox” offence, inflammatory without much consistency and the lack of an even believable storyline for the prosecution combined with a lack of evidence is a combination that one would hope would be fatal to their case.

So, if she goes to all the trouble of premeditating a murder and doing it sadistically, why does she drive around aimlessly with a body in the trunk in a state which is probably 3/4 convenient body disposal area?

Like the Amanda Knox case, I can’t say what happened but I can say that the prosecutors version of it didn’t happen, beyond a reasonable doubt.

If they had an intern profiler look at the mix of characteristics that they were talking about in one person they would have been told in about 15 seconds that it didn’t make any sense.

There is also a lack of information about historic abuse of the child. If she’s a sadist, one would have expected the child to have had noticable injuries in the past, and as likely as not, broken bones which would show up on x-ray even long after healing and after decomposition.

I would also agree with criticisms of the psychology of the prosecution in this article: http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/07/05/farley.anthony.trial/index.html?iref=obnetwork

The whole idea sounds more like something from a made for TV movie plot than a real life murder case, but even in a TV movie there would be some kind of foreshadowing. You wouldn’t just have somebody up and kill somebody else without any kind of lead in or lead up.

And last but not least, the MO doesn’t make any sense either. You chloroform a 2 year old to make it helpless? A 2 year old is already helpless.

My guess is that the chloroform was probably from decomposition and really, that is something that the prosecution witnesses ought to have raised on their own.

The rallying cry from the media should have been something to the effect of, why is Casey Anthony on trial for first degree murder? A prosecution isn’t an exercise in screenwriting.

At least the prosecutor handled the outcome with class.

Anthony trial a test of jury

Basic problem with the Casey Anthony prosecution: there is no evidence that anybody committed a murder. There is evidence of improper body disposal but that would be equally consistent with negligence causing death and a number of other things.

I am somewhat surprised that there wasn’t a no-evidence motion on that while reserving the right to call evidence. Suspicion isn’t evidence.