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Old 9th September 2019, 03:07 PM   #1
Elaedith
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Examples of errors and biases in criminal justice process

I hope it's ok to put this here rather than education because I don't think anyone who might have suggestions will see it there.

I am redesigning a series of lectures which are taught to (mainly) criminal justice students and focus on the theme of explaining errors and biases within the justice system. I already have lectures covering forensic confirmation bias, eyewitness testimony, false confessions, detecting deception, offender profiling, and jury decisions. I would like a couple more topics although I can just split the existing ones across more than one lecture. I was considering biases about public perception of crime (where people think crime rates are always rising when they are not), but it doesn't really fit with the general theme that revolves around criminal justice process.

I was wondering, for example, about police biases that enter the investigative process and not already covered in other topics. So far I have found a bit of material on investigative decision biases that occur at 'tipping points' (such as decision to arrest) but haven't yet found a lot of material that fits together well. There needs to be a clear theme for each lecture or students get confused. This isn't about specific cases although they can be used as illustrations. I need to extract some type of issue that occurs across different investigations, and might be used to explain failures in the process. Is there anything obvious (or not so obvious) that is missing? Something that perhaps occurs across multiple cases of wrongful conviction, that I can look into and make into a clear topic?
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Old 9th September 2019, 04:36 PM   #2
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domain irrelevant information: DNA mixtures and hair comparisons

This is not exactly what you are looking for, but it is in the general area and may be helpful. There is something called "domain irrelevant information" that has the potential to bias a forensic investigator. There is an article in the forensic literature about DNA mixtures by Dror and Hampikian that was later summarized in The Economist magazine. "However, of the 17 examiners Dr Dror and Dr Hampikian approached—who, unlike the original two, knew nothing about the context of the crime—only one thought that the same suspect could not be excluded. Twelve others excluded him, and four abstained."

An example of this problem in the area of hair analysis was addressed in Roger Koppl's 2007 article CSI For Real. "Larry S. Miller demonstrates an excellent example of cognitive bias at play. He asked a group of 14 students trained in hair analysis, all of whom met the basic requirements for expert testimony on human hair identification in courts of law, to examine four cases each. For each student, two cases were presented the usual way: They were given two samples and told that one was from the crime scene and the other from the suspect. The other two cases were presented through a forensic line- up. The known sample from the imaginary crime scene was compared to five suspect-known hair samples. In all 56 cases, there were in reality no true matches. The first group of cases yielded an error rate of 30.8 percent; the second group an error rate of only 3.8 percent.12"

Perhaps more directly related to your interest is Chapter Twelve (on the decision to institute charges in a rape case) in the book Race to Injustice. The book is about the Duke lacrosse case, and this chapter is by Michael Siegel, the editor of this book. Mr. Siegel is especially interested in the question of whether or not the a grand jury could have served as a check on DA Nifong's highly questionable prosecution, as well as the more general question of whether or not grand juries should be reformed. The decision of the grand jury is a clear tipping point in the process.
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Old 9th September 2019, 06:51 PM   #3
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the proximity effect

One thing that crops up in accepted or possible wrongful convictions or accusations is proximity to the victim. The proximity may be because the person accused or convicted is the spouse of the victim (Michael Morton and David Kamm), the father of the victim (Billy Wayne Cope), or the roommate of the victim (Amanda Knox--who along with her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were present when Meredith Kercher's body was found). Again, I am not sure whether or not this is what you are seeking, but it might be that proximity is a biasing influence on the police, and one that might become more acute when there is pressure to solve a case quickly.
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Old 9th September 2019, 10:31 PM   #4
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I was typing a lengthy post and accidentally deleted the lot, but it is about appeal court reasoning and focus in the Mark Lundy case and the Brendan Dassey case, so will redo when I get time.
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Old 9th September 2019, 11:09 PM   #5
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The police are by training proactively biased. A woman is raped and murdered. They go from door to door questioning all men in the neighbourhood.

They've assumed it was a guy who lived nearby.

How else are they supposed to do their job except by:

1. looking at similar historical cases and detecting a pattern (for example, most women are killed by their partner and there is often a pattern of domestic abuse)

2. Obtaining alibi and checking up on them

3. the last known person at the scene of the crime.

Sure, it's irritating to be considered a possible suspect when you are completely innocent but you accept that the police are not to know that, given the lengths a criminal will go to conceal their crime, mostly committed in conditions of privacy and secrecy.


It would be wasteful economically and in terms of time, and make the case unwieldy to suspect absolutely everybody, in the name of 'fairness' and 'lack of bias'.
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Old 10th September 2019, 09:13 AM   #6
Elaedith
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Originally Posted by Chris_Halkides View Post
This is not exactly what you are looking for, but it is in the general area and may be helpful. There is something called "domain irrelevant information" that has the potential to bias a forensic investigator. There is an article in the forensic literature about DNA mixtures by Dror and Hampikian that was later summarized in The Economist magazine. "However, of the 17 examiners Dr Dror and Dr Hampikian approached—who, unlike the original two, knew nothing about the context of the crime—only one thought that the same suspect could not be excluded. Twelve others excluded him, and four abstained."

An example of this problem in the area of hair analysis was addressed in Roger Koppl's 2007 article CSI For Real. "Larry S. Miller demonstrates an excellent example of cognitive bias at play. He asked a group of 14 students trained in hair analysis, all of whom met the basic requirements for expert testimony on human hair identification in courts of law, to examine four cases each. For each student, two cases were presented the usual way: They were given two samples and told that one was from the crime scene and the other from the suspect. The other two cases were presented through a forensic line- up. The known sample from the imaginary crime scene was compared to five suspect-known hair samples. In all 56 cases, there were in reality no true matches. The first group of cases yielded an error rate of 30.8 percent; the second group an error rate of only 3.8 percent.12"

Perhaps more directly related to your interest is Chapter Twelve (on the decision to institute charges in a rape case) in the book Race to Injustice. The book is about the Duke lacrosse case, and this chapter is by Michael Siegel, the editor of this book. Mr. Siegel is especially interested in the question of whether or not the a grand jury could have served as a check on DA Nifong's highly questionable prosecution, as well as the more general question of whether or not grand juries should be reformed. The decision of the grand jury is a clear tipping point in the process.
I already have some of this in the forensic confirmation bias lecture; we look at biasing effects on interpretation of fingerprint, DNA admixture and other types of evidence and the Brandon Mayfield case as an example. In fact, it was attending a seminar by Dror that sparked my interest in that area. Thanks for the additional references which I will look at. I also noticed that Dror and others have a lot of new material and it may be that I can extend this topic into two lectures as it's popular. I would just need to find some meaningful way to split the material into two sub-topics.

I should say that these are UK students and one complication is differences in legal procedures when referring to material from the US. This comes up also in the false confessions area where lots of published research is based on the US procedures. We don't have issues with Reid technique and police being allowed to lie to suspects here, but still use this material as a comparison (and because you can never be sure nobody will suggest adopting US approaches here in the future).
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Old 10th September 2019, 11:31 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Chris_Halkides View Post
One thing that crops up in accepted or possible wrongful convictions or accusations is proximity to the victim. The proximity may be because the person accused or convicted is the spouse of the victim (Michael Morton and David Kamm), the father of the victim (Billy Wayne Cope), or the roommate of the victim (Amanda Knox--who along with her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were present when Meredith Kercher's body was found). Again, I am not sure whether or not this is what you are seeking, but it might be that proximity is a biasing influence on the police, and one that might become more acute when there is pressure to solve a case quickly.
Although there is probably not enough material on proximity alone to make that a topic, I could use this type of idea to form a lecture around biases that affect early stages of investigations.

I am thinking of the Claremont murders case which I am familiar with from living in the area at the time. The police narrowed down on the wrong suspect, Lance Williams, and although they could not get any credible evidence for a charge they persisted with him as a suspect for years. They kept him under surveillance and told the victims' families they were not looking for anyone else. Obviously confirmation bias comes into play here but I am interested in any additional factors that might affect why police would narrow down on a suspect so early and refuse to consider alternative hypotheses.
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Old 11th September 2019, 09:00 AM   #8
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That's a very common situation I think, and if you've been reading the Luke Mitchell thread you'll see that was the fundamental problem in that case. I guess it is just a type of confirmation bias but it's such a major issue that I think it does deserve its own topic.

Identifying the wrong suspect at an early stage can bias the investigation beyond repair, as it causes the police to fail to collect evidence that doesn't fit their initial theory, and if that evidence is missed at the time it can be way too late for the defence to get hold of it. (An example of this from the Mitchell case is that the full records from Luke's mobile phone would have shown whether he was telling the truth about the arrangement being to meet at the west side of the path rather than the east, and might have given vital information that would have helped establish whether he actually did go to the east end of the path or not. By the time he was charged and a defence team was gathered together it was too late to get that data.)
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Old 11th September 2019, 09:40 AM   #9
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Actually Sandra Lean has a book out called No Smoke which covers a number of these points. It isn't available as an eBook unfortunately but Amazon have it in hard copy.
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Old 11th September 2019, 09:41 AM   #10
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cajoling or coercing witnesses

One thing that shows up in known and putative wrongful convictions is that the witnesses changed their statements at some point. Sometimes this involves eyewitness testimony. Witnesses who are themselves potentially facing charges can be coerced, but witnesses who are not can be persuaded to do so for the purpose of obtaining a conviction. The Timothy Hennis case has at least one example of the latter. It seems to me that this alteration of might be done by police either consciously or unconsciously.
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Old 11th September 2019, 10:57 AM   #11
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That was a serious issue in the Lockerbie case. An eyewitness who saw one of the terrorists gave about 21 statements to the police and over the course of these - and this developed further in court - his "recollection" got closer and closer to what the police wanted him to say. He even had a copy of an article in a magazine which helpfully detailed the discrepancies between the police case and his story, and the police only took it from him four days before he went to do the identification parade (yes it had a photo of the accused as well!)

Someone actually got his PhD analysing these statements and their discrepancies. https://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?...l.ethos.678640

(I'm surprised they're asking for a scan fee to access this. I discovered a few years ago that my own PhD thesis which dates back to 1985 has been scanned and is free to download. Different university though.)
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Old 11th September 2019, 01:06 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Elaedith View Post
I hope it's ok to put this here rather than education because I don't think anyone who might have suggestions will see it there.

I am redesigning a series of lectures which are taught to (mainly) criminal justice students and focus on the theme of explaining errors and biases within the justice system. I already have lectures covering forensic confirmation bias, eyewitness testimony, false confessions, detecting deception, offender profiling, and jury decisions. I would like a couple more topics although I can just split the existing ones across more than one lecture. I was considering biases about public perception of crime (where people think crime rates are always rising when they are not), but it doesn't really fit with the general theme that revolves around criminal justice process.

I was wondering, for example, about police biases that enter the investigative process and not already covered in other topics. So far I have found a bit of material on investigative decision biases that occur at 'tipping points' (such as decision to arrest) but haven't yet found a lot of material that fits together well. There needs to be a clear theme for each lecture or students get confused. This isn't about specific cases although they can be used as illustrations. I need to extract some type of issue that occurs across different investigations, and might be used to explain failures in the process. Is there anything obvious (or not so obvious) that is missing? Something that perhaps occurs across multiple cases of wrongful conviction, that I can look into and make into a clear topic?
What "institutional" bias, so for example institutional racism. There was an inquiry in the UK that uncovered the institutional racism in the Metropolitan police the report is available as a PDF https://assets.publishing.service.go...77111/4262.pdf

There is also the type of institutional bias that seeks to "protect" the justice system from criticism and scrutiny. A classic example was Lord Denning the Master of the Rolls (senior appeals judge in the English justice system): in summary 6 men "Birmingham 6" were convicted of a terrorist bombing, they were wrongly convicted (took a campaign spanning decades to right that wrong) yet this senior judge went on the record to say
We shouldn't have all these campaigns to get the Birmingham Six released if they'd been hanged. They'd have been forgotten, and the whole community would be satisfied... It is better that some innocent men remain in jail than that the integrity of the English judicial system be impugned.
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Old 12th September 2019, 12:13 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
That's a very common situation I think, and if you've been reading the Luke Mitchell thread you'll see that was the fundamental problem in that case. I guess it is just a type of confirmation bias but it's such a major issue that I think it does deserve its own topic.

Identifying the wrong suspect at an early stage can bias the investigation beyond repair, as it causes the police to fail to collect evidence that doesn't fit their initial theory, and if that evidence is missed at the time it can be way too late for the defence to get hold of it. (An example of this from the Mitchell case is that the full records from Luke's mobile phone would have shown whether he was telling the truth about the arrangement being to meet at the west side of the path rather than the east, and might have given vital information that would have helped establish whether he actually did go to the east end of the path or not. By the time he was charged and a defence team was gathered together it was too late to get that data.)
I agree, although I'm having trouble finding a lot of academic research on this compared to other topics. There is some experimental cognitive research which tries to get at the underlying mechanisms, but is rather removed from actual police procedures. But I will make a topic on confirmation bias in investigation more generally and use this to introduce confirmation bias which comes up throughout the other topics, (forensic examination, interrogation etc).
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Old 12th September 2019, 12:14 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
What "institutional" bias, so for example institutional racism. There was an inquiry in the UK that uncovered the institutional racism in the Metropolitan police the report is available as a PDF https://assets.publishing.service.go...77111/4262.pdf

There is also the type of institutional bias that seeks to "protect" the justice system from criticism and scrutiny. A classic example was Lord Denning the Master of the Rolls (senior appeals judge in the English justice system): in summary 6 men "Birmingham 6" were convicted of a terrorist bombing, they were wrongly convicted (took a campaign spanning decades to right that wrong) yet this senior judge went on the record to say
We shouldn't have all these campaigns to get the Birmingham Six released if they'd been hanged. They'd have been forgotten, and the whole community would be satisfied... It is better that some innocent men remain in jail than that the integrity of the English judicial system be impugned.
We look at the Birmingham Six under false confessions, but I wasn't aware of that quote. I will add it in, should provoke some reaction.
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Old 12th September 2019, 12:37 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Elaedith View Post
Although there is probably not enough material on proximity alone to make that a topic, I could use this type of idea to form a lecture around biases that affect early stages of investigations.

I am thinking of the Claremont murders case which I am familiar with from living in the area at the time. The police narrowed down on the wrong suspect, Lance Williams, and although they could not get any credible evidence for a charge they persisted with him as a suspect for years. They kept him under surveillance and told the victims' families they were not looking for anyone else. Obviously confirmation bias comes into play here but I am interested in any additional factors that might affect why police would narrow down on a suspect so early and refuse to consider alternative hypotheses.
I would suggest the Shirley McKie fingerprint case in Scotland, as an example of how the police decide on a suspect and then work the evidence to fit. She was a police officer, but that did not stop other police officers from deciding she was guilty and then working the evidence. Another is the murder of Joanna Yeates and how her landlord Christopher Jefferies became the prime suspect.

I would suggest the reasons why police will narrow in on a suspect as quickly as possible are;

- pressure from senior management to get cases solved as quickly as possible. Murder enquiries are expensive.

- pressure from the media. The media move fast and hate a slow story.

- pressure from the public. People get scared by serious crimes in their neighbourhood and want fast resolutions.

Then there are issues within the police itself from;

- arrogant cops who think they have a sense for who did it, the detective's hunch. If a senior and/or charismatic detective decides that so and so is the criminal, then the team follow and start to work the evidence to back that up. The idea that detective is wrong is hard to take and exculpatory tends to be ignored or buried.

- career cops who are after a detection for their next promotion. A detection is a detection and a good detection can lead to promotion. It does not matter if it turns out to be wrong, especially since that could take years and by then the cop has been promoted. They can always find reasons to say the jury was wrong and continue to believe the suspect was guilty.

- thick cops who just do not understand evidencing, beyond reasonable doubt, innocent until proven guilty, exculpatory evidence, rules of disclosure and the details of the law.

- lazy cops, who just want an easy life, so the first person to make a complaint is believed and the minimum of evidence is gathered.

- corrupt cops, who have been planted or been bribed to disrupt major enquiries or any enquiry into certain organised crime groups or crime lords.
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Old 12th September 2019, 02:44 PM   #16
Elaedith
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
That was a serious issue in the Lockerbie case. An eyewitness who saw one of the terrorists gave about 21 statements to the police and over the course of these - and this developed further in court - his "recollection" got closer and closer to what the police wanted him to say. He even had a copy of an article in a magazine which helpfully detailed the discrepancies between the police case and his story, and the police only took it from him four days before he went to do the identification parade (yes it had a photo of the accused as well!)

Someone actually got his PhD analysing these statements and their discrepancies. https://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?...l.ethos.678640

(I'm surprised they're asking for a scan fee to access this. I discovered a few years ago that my own PhD thesis which dates back to 1985 has been scanned and is free to download. Different university though.)
The Lockerbie eyewitness evidence would be an ideal example as it illustrates everything not to do when collecting eyewitness testimony. There is a very simple article by Loftus which shows how most of the issues that we look at apply in the case. It's just a matter of squeezing it in as eyewitness evidence is already a huge topic.

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Old 12th September 2019, 04:56 PM   #17
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Biases.

In the book "The Psychology and Sociology of Wrongful Convictions" edited by W. Koen and C. M. Bowers (Academic Press, 2018) chapter 7 by Koen is titled "Confirmation Bias in Forensic Science." It's an excellent chapter in an excellent book.
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Old 13th September 2019, 03:06 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by thines View Post
In the book "The Psychology and Sociology of Wrongful Convictions" edited by W. Koen and C. M. Bowers (Academic Press, 2018) chapter 7 by Koen is titled "Confirmation Bias in Forensic Science." It's an excellent chapter in an excellent book.
Thanks, I will put it on the reading list.
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Old 14th September 2019, 08:21 AM   #19
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Forensic Science Reform

The book Forensic Science Reform Protecting the Innocent was also edited by Wendy Koen and C. Michael Bowers. Each chapter focuses on a different discipline and has a case study. Link
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Old 15th September 2019, 01:59 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Nessie View Post
I would suggest the Shirley McKie fingerprint case in Scotland, as an example of how the police decide on a suspect and then work the evidence to fit. She was a police officer, but that did not stop other police officers from deciding she was guilty and then working the evidence. Another is the murder of Joanna Yeates and how her landlord Christopher Jefferies became the prime suspect.

I would suggest the reasons why police will narrow in on a suspect as quickly as possible are;

- pressure from senior management to get cases solved as quickly as possible. Murder enquiries are expensive.

- pressure from the media. The media move fast and hate a slow story.

- pressure from the public. People get scared by serious crimes in their neighbourhood and want fast resolutions.

Then there are issues within the police itself from;

- arrogant cops who think they have a sense for who did it, the detective's hunch. If a senior and/or charismatic detective decides that so and so is the criminal, then the team follow and start to work the evidence to back that up. The idea that detective is wrong is hard to take and exculpatory tends to be ignored or buried.

- career cops who are after a detection for their next promotion. A detection is a detection and a good detection can lead to promotion. It does not matter if it turns out to be wrong, especially since that could take years and by then the cop has been promoted. They can always find reasons to say the jury was wrong and continue to believe the suspect was guilty.

- thick cops who just do not understand evidencing, beyond reasonable doubt, innocent until proven guilty, exculpatory evidence, rules of disclosure and the details of the law.

- lazy cops, who just want an easy life, so the first person to make a complaint is believed and the minimum of evidence is gathered.

- corrupt cops, who have been planted or been bribed to disrupt major enquiries or any enquiry into certain organised crime groups or crime lords.
That explains the real problem here. It is not about biases so much as pressure.

It is easier to build a case against somebody (anybody) than to track down the real culprit.
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Old 16th September 2019, 02:29 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by psionl0 View Post
That explains the real problem here. It is not about biases so much as pressure.

It is easier to build a case against somebody (anybody) than to track down the real culprit.
Dear psion10,
This is not a sensible proposition.
It is not easy at all to build a case against an innocent person.
It requires lies lies and more lies. Please think about this and return with evidence that it is easy.
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Old 16th September 2019, 06:00 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Chris_Halkides View Post
One thing that crops up in accepted or possible wrongful convictions or accusations is proximity to the victim. The proximity may be because the person accused or convicted is the spouse of the victim (Michael Morton and David Kamm), the father of the victim (Billy Wayne Cope), or the roommate of the victim (Amanda Knox--who along with her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were present when Meredith Kercher's body was found). Again, I am not sure whether or not this is what you are seeking, but it might be that proximity is a biasing influence on the police, and one that might become more acute when there is pressure to solve a case quickly.
Looking into those closely connected to the victim or the crime scene is reasonable. What makes it a problem is investigator tunnel vision. A possible suspect becomes the only suspect and confirmation bias drives the investigation.

The Peggy Hettrick murder caseWP is another interesting example. Investigators focused on a teenager who lived close to where her body was found. They tried to browbeat him into a confession and eventually got a conviction based on proximity and the testimony of a psychiatrist about his knife collection and drawings.
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Old 16th September 2019, 06:32 AM   #23
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In An Unbelievable Story of Rape , investigators decided they didn’t believe the victim’s story based on her troubled history. They pressured her into saying that she had made up the story and later prosecuted and convicted her for false reporting.

What happened to this victim is horrifying. The way the case was eventually solved is a lesson in how an investigation should be done.

The Netflix miniseries Unbelievable is based on this case.

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Old 16th September 2019, 10:18 AM   #24
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As easy as ABC

Originally Posted by Kestrel View Post
In An Unbelievable Story of Rape , investigators decided they didn’t believe the victim’s story based on her troubled history. They pressured her into saying that she had made up the story and later prosecuted and convicted her for false reporting.

What happened to this victim is horrifying. The way the case was eventually solved is a lesson in how an investigation should be done.

The Netflix miniseries Unbelievable is based on this case.
Hi Kestrel,

Good to see you again. When I first heard about that case, I was very surprised. However upon further thought I realized that
a) police sometimes get witnesses to change their statement
b) police sometimes get a suspect to wrongly confess

therefore, I should not have been terribly surprised to learn that
c) police sometimes get a victim to wrongly withdraw an accusation.

Hmm...I wonder what the moral of this story is.
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Old 16th September 2019, 10:47 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Samson View Post
Please think about this and return with evidence that it is easy.
I think that Chris_Halkides is doing a better job on this than I ever could.
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Old 16th September 2019, 12:14 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Chris_Halkides View Post
The book Forensic Science Reform Protecting the Innocent was also edited by Wendy Koen and C. Michael Bowers. Each chapter focuses on a different discipline and has a case study. Link
Thanks, that will be good further reading.

I've found most people are shocked when they hear about problems with forensic practice; even criminologists I have spoken with often seem to assume that evidence such as fingerprints and DNA is virtually infallible.
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Old 16th September 2019, 12:37 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by psionl0 View Post
That explains the real problem here. It is not about biases so much as pressure.

It is easier to build a case against somebody (anybody) than to track down the real culprit.
I have a bias towards biases because my background is cognitive science. Obviously this topic needs to consider the context in which investigation occurs, including the organizational structure (which is tricky because it is going to differ across time and place). But I doubt the majority of this issue involves intentionally setting out to get the wrong person (aside from some police who are simply corrupt).
Time pressure reduces hypothesis generation, although the decision-maker may not be aware of this as most biases are unconscious. Confirmation bias makes it easier to continue to build that case because looking for contrary evidence goes against the way the mind tends to work. Motivational issues such as pressure to close the case, career success and so forth can increase confirmation bias and dissonance when exposed to contradictory evidence. But confirmation bias affects even very basic cognitive processes such as perception - people literally just don't see things that don't fit the pattern.
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Old 17th September 2019, 03:57 AM   #28
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On Evidentiary Independence

Hasel and Kassin wrote, "In the study reported here, we tested the provocative hypothesis that a confession will lead eyewitnesses to change their identification decisions and their confidence in those decisions." Link. Besides the study itself, the authors give some anecdotal evidence suggesting how false confessions color the judgment of forensic workers or juries. IMO their work has implications beyond eyewitnesses and false confessions.
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Old 17th September 2019, 04:48 AM   #29
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Chris, I saw this and thought of you. Is it a major breakthrough and reliable?
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/16/s...na-murder.html
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Old 17th September 2019, 05:24 AM   #30
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worth keeping a close eye on this technique

Originally Posted by RoseMontague View Post
Chris, I saw this and thought of you. Is it a major breakthrough and reliable?
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/16/s...na-murder.html
Thank you very much. There is not much scientific detail in this article, but that is entirely understandable. If it is shown to be reliable, then it will be a breakthrough, and costs may come down. From the article to which you linked, "Dr. Green recently submitted a paper to a scientific journal." If it is accepted in a peer-reviewed publication, that is a strong indication that the technique is sound.
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Old 17th September 2019, 05:42 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by Elaedith View Post
I have a bias towards biases because my background is cognitive science. Obviously this topic needs to consider the context in which investigation occurs, including the organizational structure (which is tricky because it is going to differ across time and place). But I doubt the majority of this issue involves intentionally setting out to get the wrong person (aside from some police who are simply corrupt).
Time pressure reduces hypothesis generation, although the decision-maker may not be aware of this as most biases are unconscious. Confirmation bias makes it easier to continue to build that case because looking for contrary evidence goes against the way the mind tends to work. Motivational issues such as pressure to close the case, career success and so forth can increase confirmation bias and dissonance when exposed to contradictory evidence. But confirmation bias affects even very basic cognitive processes such as perception - people literally just don't see things that don't fit the pattern.
What you brilliantly describe, I have seen happen in the police in major and minor enquiries.
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Old 17th September 2019, 05:48 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by psionl0 View Post
I think that Chris_Halkides is doing a better job on this than I ever could.
My point is it is not easy, it requires a lot of bad faith by investigators, and then bad faith by prosecutors until the perfect storm locks 'em up.
In New Zealand murder cases I consider just 8 victims of this have emerged, Walter Bolton, Arthur Thomas, David Tamihere, Teina Pora, David Bain, Rex Haig, Mark Lundy and Ewan MacDonald (acquitted).
Then there are another 3 or so I think are false prosecutions.
This is 11 of maybe 5,000 homicides in this time. One of the most classic symptoms of a miscarriage is a claim of innocence, this seems poorly understood, but Damien Echolls was exonerated and said he was the only deathrower to claim innocence, watching 20 or so fellow inmates executed.
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Old 17th September 2019, 10:29 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by Elaedith View Post
I doubt the majority of this issue involves intentionally setting out to get the wrong person (aside from some police who are simply corrupt).
I'm not saying that police intentionally pin a crime on somebody that they know is innocent. However, the reasons for their initial choice of suspect are often spurious (policeman's "hunch", relative etc) and they typically then focus on building a case against this suspect and ignore any evidence that might point elsewhere.

A classic case is that of Corryn Rayney who's body was found buried in King's Park in Perth. The police immediately decided that her husband Lloyd was the culprit. Why? Because their marriage was on the rocks (and husbands always do it, don't they?). They couldn't come up with a reasonable theory as to how Lloyd Rayney killed his wife but that didn't stop them taking the case to trial.

During the trial it was made aware that improper chain of custody issues meant that it couldn't be ruled out that some of the evidence may have been planted. Nevertheless, none of that stopped the police appealing the judge's "not guilty" verdict (a verdict which was upheld on appeal).
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Old 19th September 2019, 09:45 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by psionl0 View Post
I'm not saying that police intentionally pin a crime on somebody that they know is innocent. However, the reasons for their initial choice of suspect are often spurious (policeman's "hunch", relative etc) and they typically then focus on building a case against this suspect and ignore any evidence that might point elsewhere.
This is what I want to focus on for the first topic (on early stages of investigation), but I explain this in terms of confirmation bias and other related cognitive factors. Obviously there are wider background issues which you and Nessie and others point out (time pressure, organisational structure, career success, public approval etc). However, if the police are not setting out to intentionally frame the wrong person, then they are not fully aware of how these factors impact their evidence-gathering and decision-making processes.

In the case of forensic examiners the biases affect perceptual processes, which is a bit easier to get a handle on as there is a nice body of research on the topic.


If you look at Itiel Dror's presentation to the NCFS on the link below, about 13.10 he refers to an example where a fingerprint examiner is apparently exhorted to return the 'correct' result in a case involving a black suspect and white victim. This could be interpreted I think as either outright dishonesty (just say it's the guy) or simply urging the examiner to make every effort to correctly detect a match which is assumed to exist. Some might think that if the examiner adopts the latter interpretation then the irrelevant information doesn't affect judgment, because they see bias as an issue of integrity (bias involves bad intentions). But what the literature on contextual bias shows is that if the task involves any component of subjective judgment (even at a very basic level of perceptual judgment) then the examiner can't simply choose to disregard the contextual information. They will actually see the stimulus differently.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNaljIMK_hY

In the case of fingerprints I have found that people can actually see this as a case of pattern recognition, because you can break down the fingerprint pattern and show it as a case of perceptual matching (where there is already a large literature on context effects). With the DNA studies people tend to be more shocked because they didn't realise that some types of DNA examination involve subjective judgement. That belief then obviously feeds back into the jury decision topic and the impact of different types of evidence on decisions.



Quote:
A classic case is that of Corryn Rayney who's body was found buried in King's Park in Perth. The police immediately decided that her husband Lloyd was the culprit. Why? Because their marriage was on the rocks (and husbands always do it, don't they?). They couldn't come up with a reasonable theory as to how Lloyd Rayney killed his wife but that didn't stop them taking the case to trial.

During the trial it was made aware that improper chain of custody issues meant that it couldn't be ruled out that some of the evidence may have been planted. Nevertheless, none of that stopped the police appealing the judge's "not guilty" verdict (a verdict which was upheld on appeal).
I mentioned the Claremont murders and wrongful identification of Lance Williams as a key suspect, which lead to his being placed under intense surveillance for years. What really struck me is that there was no justification for that level of suspicion in the first place; although at the time like most people I just assumed the police must have some good reasons. He was socially awkward and had some odd personality characteristics causing his behaviour to be perceived as 'creepy'. He offered a lift to an undercover policewoman and although he dropped her off where she wanted to go and didn't assault her, this was apparently sufficient to immediately suspect him of a string of serial abductions, rapes and murders.
When he was placed under surveillance the crime stopped, which of course confirmed suspicions. There were several interesting features, including dubious personality profiling, and apparent failure of a polygraph (which of course was not admissible as evidence in Australia but nevertheless probably contributed to the tunnel vision). Even the fact that he stated in an interview that he wasn't angry because he knew the police were just doing their job was used against him, because an innocent person would have been angry! Although it didn't actually lead to wrongful conviction I might try to use it as an example because it illustrates relationships between confirmation bias, initial suspicions and dubious evidence. I'll have a look at the Rayney case you mentioned too.
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Old 19th September 2019, 10:05 AM   #35
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I don't know how accurate this is, but:

The role of public prosecutor, such as a district attorney, seems to be held in much higher esteem than the role of public defender. My impression is that the prosecutor's office generally gets more funding, and more prestige. It's seen as a valuable stepping-stone for a political career, and thus tends to attract more aggressive, ambitious, and talented lawyers, than the public defender's office.

So it seems to me that if you cannot afford an attorney, and the state has to provide one for you, there's going to be a huge bias working against you in court. The state will be sending one of its best to prosecute you, without making any commensurate effort to ensure one of its best to defend you.

This is probably my biggest concern with the American justice system. Only, it's not so much about the justice system itself, but about the society that produces it. As individuals, we're all pretty biased in favor of the best legal defense we can get. But as a society, we seem to be heavily biased in favor of the public prosecutor and dismissive of the public defender. This sucks, and should be changed.
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Old 20th September 2019, 02:01 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by Chris_Halkides View Post
Hasel and Kassin wrote, "In the study reported here, we tested the provocative hypothesis that a confession will lead eyewitnesses to change their identification decisions and their confidence in those decisions." Link. Besides the study itself, the authors give some anecdotal evidence suggesting how false confessions color the judgment of forensic workers or juries. IMO their work has implications beyond eyewitnesses and false confessions.
I do have some points in the false confessions topic about confessions affecting other evidence, but could develop that further. For example, one issue we look at in relation to jury decisions is whether or not experts should be allowed to address juries on issues such as the reliability of confessions or eyewitness evidence. We also look at ways of presenting confession evidence that might affect how much weight a jury places on a disputed confession, such as including full context. But even if there are ways of overcoming the tendency to see confessions as conclusive evidence of guilt, this doesn't address the issue of confessions causing exculpatory evidence to be overlooked, tainted etc. I probably need to rewrite the confession and jury lectures to convey these issues more clearly.
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Old 20th September 2019, 02:14 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by psionl0 View Post
I'm not saying that police intentionally pin a crime on somebody that they know is innocent. However, the reasons for their initial choice of suspect are often spurious (policeman's "hunch", relative etc) and they typically then focus on building a case against this suspect and ignore any evidence that might point elsewhere.

...
Hanlon's Razor applies. Along with a healthy dose of Dunning-Kruger.

I think the biggest problem with many senior and detective police officers is that they are just not as clever as they think they are. Many take price in their lack of academic qualifications and despite having joined the police at 18 years old, they claim to have graduated from the university of life.

They mean well, but just do not understand their "hunches" are not a substitute for actual evidence. They then find it very hard to admit to mistakes, due to their mistaken belief in their own brilliance.

The closest to pinning a crime on an innocent was pinning a crime on a known criminal, because he had got away with lots of other crimes. I am thinking of habitual shoplifters, housebreakers, car thieves, domestic abusers etc
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Old 20th September 2019, 02:51 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by Nessie View Post
Hanlon's Razor applies. Along with a healthy dose of Dunning-Kruger.

I think the biggest problem with many senior and detective police officers is that they are just not as clever as they think they are. Many take price in their lack of academic qualifications and despite having joined the police at 18 years old, they claim to have graduated from the university of life.

They mean well, but just do not understand their "hunches" are not a substitute for actual evidence. They then find it very hard to admit to mistakes, due to their mistaken belief in their own brilliance.

The closest to pinning a crime on an innocent was pinning a crime on a known criminal, because he had got away with lots of other crimes. I am thinking of habitual shoplifters, housebreakers, car thieves, domestic abusers etc
This relates to another recurring theme; whether expertise is acquired simply through experience. We look at some research which suggests that highly experienced investigators sometimes perform no better than untrained novices on certain tasks (e.g. recognising deception or identifying false confessions). There is human factors literature supporting the fact that people don't become experts simply through experience and practice; improvement requires reliable and consistent feedback on performance (which also implies independent criteria for evaluating performance). In the case of decisions, this requires that there are criteria for evaluating decisions, identifying mistakes, and feedback. Not only does experience not automatically make performance better, expertise can actually lead to errors in some cases. Experts rely more on expectations developed from prior experience, meaning they engage in less data-analysis (i.e. they may be more prone to certain types of confirmation bias than novices). Experience can also lead to overconfidence where experts are not routinely held to account or subjected to consistent feedback.


In applied settings such as police work, I would imagine that many procedures are classified as correct because they are consistent with standard practice, which is obviously unsatisfactory. For example, some police officers in the US are trained to detect deception using outside agencies which teach methods inconsistent with actual research on reliable ways to detect it. Yet these methods would be seen as correct because that's how things have always been done (and absence of reliable feedback about negative consequences). To change procedures is to admit that past procedures were inadequate, and accept implications of that. Admitting mistakes is not/should not be a problem in science or academia but frequently is in applied fields.

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Old 20th September 2019, 03:41 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by Elaedith View Post
This relates to another recurring theme; whether expertise is acquired simply through experience. ...
Initial training to be a police officer (my knowledge is with Scotland) involves rote learning of the law, without testing to see if the law is understood and then learning, initially through the experience of a tutor cop and then being put to various departments for short secondments.

More advanced training, such as detective training, is not much more than the initial training. Trainee detectives do a basic course, which concentrates on interview techniques and then learn from the experience of more senior detectives. Once accepted as a detective and the DCs course, learning of the law goes into more detail and there is some testing of understand through case law.

A lot of policy and procedure training is by completing online modules and there is rampant cheating, whereby officers who have completed the training sit with others who then go through the module being told the answers. I have seen brighter officers being tasked with completing a module to then take a shift through the course.

To assist officers, there are what we called toolkits, which are checklists as to what needs to be done in an enquiry. They do get updated as policies and procedures change and "best practice" is identified. But that is rather ad hoc and my experience (in particular with frauds) was that the toolkit was often out of date.

Experience, the so called "university of life" is valued far more in the police than academic training. There is presently a lot of resistance to the Police College (for E&W) to make police training degree level, so all police either have a degree on joining or have to work to obtaining a degree level qualification). The cry is that many supposedly excellent police officers do not have degrees and they think that they do not need one. They say that policing comes from experience.
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Old 20th September 2019, 07:14 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by Nessie View Post
Initial training to be a police officer (my knowledge is with Scotland) involves rote learning of the law, without testing to see if the law is understood and then learning, initially through the experience of a tutor cop and then being put to various departments for short secondments.

More advanced training, such as detective training, is not much more than the initial training. Trainee detectives do a basic course, which concentrates on interview techniques and then learn from the experience of more senior detectives. Once accepted as a detective and the DCs course, learning of the law goes into more detail and there is some testing of understand through case law.

A lot of policy and procedure training is by completing online modules and there is rampant cheating, whereby officers who have completed the training sit with others who then go through the module being told the answers. I have seen brighter officers being tasked with completing a module to then take a shift through the course.

To assist officers, there are what we called toolkits, which are checklists as to what needs to be done in an enquiry. They do get updated as policies and procedures change and "best practice" is identified. But that is rather ad hoc and my experience (in particular with frauds) was that the toolkit was often out of date.

Experience, the so called "university of life" is valued far more in the police than academic training. There is presently a lot of resistance to the Police College (for E&W) to make police training degree level, so all police either have a degree on joining or have to work to obtaining a degree level qualification). The cry is that many supposedly excellent police officers do not have degrees and they think that they do not need one. They say that policing comes from experience.

It's interesting to hear this perspective. Lots of the students want to join the police when they graduate, so I need to be careful how to present the material that relates to police investigation. If it comes across as 'Let's have a look at some stupid things police can do/have done' it won't go down too well.


Your point about valuing on-the-job experience come back to the issue of whether experience leads to improvement. People assume it does, but it can lead to improvement, no improvement, or worse performance depending on availability of valid and consistent feedback.
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