Friday, November 11, 2016

Harris County prosecutor gave secret deals in exchange for false testimony

One sees shades of the Orange County snitching scandal out of California in this new story from the Harris County DA's office, reported today by the Houston Press' Meagan Flynn:
A Fort Bend County judge has upheld complaints of prosecutorial misconduct against a Harris County prosecutor who lied to a jury in a capital murder trial about whether she had struck deals with three jailhouse snitches in exchange for their testimony. 
After finding that a prison inmate's false testimony that prosecutor Elizabeth Shipley Exley knowingly allowed on the stand led to the conviction of Edward George McGregor, Judge James Shoemake has recommended McGregor receive habeas corpus relief and a new trial. 
"For a prosecutor to make secret arrangements with witnesses, not disclose them to the defense and the jury, and elicit false testimony where the witnesses deny it, I find that to be just totally deplorable," said Randy Schaffer, McGregor's attorney. "It's basically saying we have the right to present false testimony and there's not a damn thing you can do about it." 
McGregor was charged in the mid- and late-2000s with capital murders dating back to 1990 and 1994 in Fort Bend and Harris counties, respectively. Shipley Exley worked on the case in Fort Bend given it was the first case to go to trial. According to the judge's findings, because DNA evidence wasn't strong enough to convict McGregor, Shipley Exley was in charge of getting three jailhouse witnesses on the stand. They testified that they overheard McGregor confess to the killings. 
Turns out, all three witnesses received some nice perks thanks to prosecutor Shipley Exley's good word. Perhaps the most damning witness was a prison inmate named Delores Gable — because her entire story turned out to be a lie.
Go here for the rest of the story.

21 comments:

Jefe said...

Meagan is the best criminal justice reporter in Houston. When will a major media outlet hire her?

Anonymous said...

Smith county da's are guilty of the same thing. Matt Bingham and his office are corrupt deplorable parisites.

Anonymous said...

As an expert witness, I guess I'll start lying on the stand, so long as I can collect a paycheck. It's great job security, and I'll probably get a promotion and bonus too.

There doesn't seem to be a downside.

Anonymous said...

@4:42 -

As another expert witness, I guess that if you are willing to say that, then you've already done it.

Crosstimbers Okie said...

Judges and prosecutors are out of control with their absolute and qualified immunity. It's time, way overdue, for them to be held accountable.

Maureen Kelleher said...

not a big surprise. prosecutors act illegally all the time to get death convictions.
duhhhh. maureen. i worked kyles exoneration and thompson exoneration. both off death row. both innocent. lots of prosecutorial misconduct. which boils down to illegal activities by prosecutors.

Anonymous said...

@6:05-

In my lab, it already has.

Dr. Jeff Barnard, August 2009...
"Regarding the [absence of] wearing of gloves when handling smears, while on-site, the 2008 ASCLD/LAB inspection team observed SWIFS serologists manipulating slides/smears without gloves. If as the complaint alleges, smears were routinely analyzed for DNA evidence where the possibility of contamination could become an issue, wearing gloves while handling smears would become standard laboratory practice [so analysts don't wear gloves]....Smears [from a Sexual Assault Kit] are not processed in a way that is intended to preserve them for later DNA testing."

Except for the Dallas exonerations of Larry Fuller, James Waller, James Lee Woodard, Rickey Dale Wyatt, and others.

Much like snitches, Expert Witnesses lie all the time. The prosecutors know this, but are they going to charge the crime lab Director (and member of the Texas Forensic Science Commission) with perjury?

If the boss lies, why shouldn't I? Maybe I'll get to be on the Forensic Science Commission someday.

mike bowers said...

Well well, cognitive bias raises it ugly head with this one........

"As another expert witness, I guess that if you are willing to say that, then you've already done it."

Working for a police run crime lab has obvious issues of employment bias. At a minimum, the LEO response to outside oversight (NAS, PCAST) has shown us alot about killing the "messenger" when criminal case law shows numerous 'flaws' and misuse of power. Tho the guy inside the quotes may not agree to any of it.

Anonymous said...

Mike Bowers -

This is the guy inside the quotes.

It is unclear what you mean by "oversight." The NAS and PCAST reports were study reports by groups that do not perform oversight function of any sort whatsoever. In Texas, the state Forensic Science Commission performs what most people would view as oversight functions of laboratories both in Texas and outside of Texas. In Austin, the suspension of DNA testing at APD was the result of the FSC's oversight function.

If this does not constitute "oversight" in your mind, then what would you suggest.

"Working for a police run crime lab has obvious issues of employment bias." So, also, does working for a private laboratory that has a contract with a city to do work for the police department, and wants that contract renewed. The worst case of bias in testing that I have seen came out of just such a private lab.

So, if unacceptable bias exists in both LE labs and private labs, then what would you suggest?

In our legal system, it is the reponsibility of the prosecution to present evidence of guilt, so it is hard to see a simple way of doing this that eliminates the structural bias that you are concerned about.

My own thought, fwiw, is that there needs to be a system that encourages much more retesting of evidence by the defense. Granted, labs doing work for the defense are also potentially biased in favor of the defense, but the defense bias counterbalaces the prosecution bias of the original work. If both labs agree on a result, then it is reasonable to view the result as reliable. If the results differ, then the jury can decide which result it will believe.

Of course, the problem with this idea is that the defense has no obligation to present evidence, and if lab work is done for the defense it is the confidential work product of the defense. So, if the defense lab work confirms the prosecution lab work, it will not be presented and the jury's decision does not benefit from the knowledge that the original lab work was confirmed by a second lab.

So, if you have specific ideas about how to improve the system, I for one would like to hear them.

Anonymous said...

@1:13 -

You need to get out of the laboratory profession. You are a danger to yourself and everyone else.

Anonymous said...

@6:47-

"In Texas, the state Forensic Science Commission performs what most people would view as oversight functions of laboratories both in Texas and outside of Texas. In Austin, the suspension of DNA testing at APD was the result of the FSC's oversight function."

And yet, the TFSC did not investigate the allegations stated by anony 1:13. Why is that? Incompetence, or was it because Dr. Barnard is one of their own?

And as a reminder, the APD blunder was reported in 2010 by a lab analyst. And again,the TFSC did not investigate...until 6 years later. So I'd hardly call what the TFSC does as "oversight".

@8:48-
Did you make the same statement to the Prosecutor who withheld Brady material? Given that over 95% of cases are plea bargained, the lab analyst participates in a very small fraction of cases compared to the Prosecutor.

Anonymous said...

@11:37 -

If a laboratory analyst states that he feels justified to commit perjury for any reason, then he doesn't belong in the field. There is no justification that would make that an acceptable standard of behavior.

If you find that an objectionable statement, then you don't belong in a the field.

Anonymous said...

@12:41-

Does the same go for the SWIFS Director Jeff Barnard? He made the false statement. And he has trained others to repeat the lie (if they want to keep their jobs).

How about Prosecutors?

The quote from above (1:13) was made in 2009. Did the Dallas County DAs Office do anything about it? Craig Watkins' Conviction Integrity Unit knew it was a lie, yet did nothing.

The State of Texas already has plenty of employed do-nothings. What are you willing to do??

Anonymous said...

@4:58 -

I am not an idiot, so I won't be doing anything based on some anonymous assertion made by someone of unknown credibility in the comments section of a blog.

You probably need to communicate your "knowledge" of lies to the appropriate officials, rather than rant about them here. However, you will probably need to drop the anonymous bit.

Anonymous said...

@7:31,

I guessing you ARE an idiot given that the previous commenters stated that the Texas Forensic Science Commission was aware of the statements by Dr. Jeff Barnard. Apparently, they have the documents.

You were told where to look and what to look for.

A concerned non-idiot would ask for an Open Records Request from the TFSC.
Here, I'll help you out....http://www.fsc.texas.gov/pia-requests

Next, you might ask the Dallas County DAs Office, Texas Department of Public Safety, or the SWIFS Crime Lab itself. They also should have the documents.

Outside of holding your hand, there's not much more we can do for you.

You are a prime example of the willfully blind and a major deterrent to solving the problems that this blog post was addressing.

Anonymous said...

7:31-

You won't trust an anonymous commentor who has provided a source of valuable information from a reliable source, all without asking for any kind of compensation. But you would trust statements from convicted criminals who would do anything and say anything in a courtroom in return for a reduced sentence or other favors from the prosecutors as "credible"?

Your definition of "credibility" is not what you think it is. Or your definition of "zealous representation" is not what you think it is, sadly.

Anonymous said...

@1:06 -

What I find not-credible is this effort to equate back door deals with jailhouse snitches with the compensation paid to employees hired to perform work and then to testify about that work. It is not just a patently false equivalency; it crosses the line into a delusional false equivalency. The point of view is so obviously not-credible that the person trying to make the point also becomes not-credible.

Anonymous said...

@6:38-

So the 2009 NAS Report stating that crime labs should be moved away from Law Enforcement Agencies because of undo influence onto lab analysts was just garbage. It would be incredulous for lab analysts to accept extra compensation for skewing results that benefit the prosecution, in your mind.

Do the names Annie Dookhan, Joyce Gilchrist, or Fred Zain mean anything to you? Just because these people weren't behind bars doesn't mean they won't falsify results or provide perjury for their own gain.

And you've looked for the information mentioned above and found it to be non-credible? Or are you content with not doing a little extra work because you don't know who gave you the information (much like, say, an eye witness to a crime.) And of course you've told the defendant that you didn't pursue this possible lead so that he/she has reason to appeal on grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel.

Anonymous said...

@7:25 -

Equating the exception with the norm is also severely delusional.

Cheers.

Anonymous said...

@8:13-

Reading comprehension is evidently not your forte. Let me guess, you're a Prosecutor without accountability.

I was not equating these examples as the norm, but merely providing examples that even you could understand. I stand corrected.

But dismissing entirely the possibility of corrupt forensic analyst providing false information to the benefit of the prosecution IS delusional.

Need more examples?
http://www.corpus-delicti.com/forensic_fraud.html

"...expert witnesses testify the way they are paid to testify, and it is almost always the prosecution that has all the money. Some paid experts testify exclusively for the prosecution side, knowing that if they ever testify for
the defense, they will be blackballed."
- Paul Carpenter, "Expert illuminates perjury problem involving experts; There is virtually no accountability", Allentown Morning Call , March 31, 2002

Anonymous said...

@10:04, Forget about 8:13. He's simply trolling because he has no valid argument for being lazy. His ignorance serves as plausible deniability.
He'll be charged with IAC soon enough.