tv The Stream Al Jazeera May 18, 2014 12:30pm-1:01pm EDT
dahona lee is here h when you peek into the justice system in a way that we have and we are going to show our viewers today, it's scary. >> 2.4 million people are incarcerated, torn in any nation on earth. inevtybly some are innocent. some of the tools that law enforcement are using are flawed people. you said false confessions. our community on facebook david has a comment. he said the best interrogators don't bully the people they interrogate but can make an innocent person honestly believe they killed someone. false confessions have played the criminal justice system and are more common than you might think. in 27% of cases overturned by dna evidence, the defendant gave a false statement why would
someone admit to a crime they didn't commit? it's xlimcations. justice is in ney that joe berlingger is tacking in the original series "the system." "most homicide investigators will tell you a good old fashion confession is the gold standard. i have seen it myself. nothing sways a jury more than a defendant who seems to admit to not. >> should an individual's uncorroborated confession trump physical evidence at the scene of a crime? do we need to more closely examine the law enforcement tactics used to elicit confesses? we have a powerful line-up of guests to weigh in. joining us is joe onset, jefrt deskovic for the foundation for justice. geoff was exonerated after spending 16 years in prison for
a rape and murder he did not commit husband daughter, kirstin is serving a 35 year prison sentence for murder but she maintains her innocence. >> welcome everyone to the show. joe, you have done a lot of impressive work as a documentary film maker. much of which has revolved around the justice system and the wrongfully convicted. what drew you to this top ilk? >> i have been fascinated by the criminal justice system and the possibility that it can go awry because 20 years ago, we started making a film, the par dies lost series about the west memphis 3 and we originally went down to make a film about guilty teenagers because we thought these were bad kids who had done horrific murders. as we covered the case, we game convinced that they were inn innocent. yet we saw them be railroaded. that was my wake-up call, that wrongful convictions can happen
t damion he cannels was put on eckels was put onin jail and they were convicted on various circumstantial evidence evidence. no physical evidence linking them to the crime and so that was my wake-up call, the justice item is run by human beings and subject to mistakes you were >> yes. >> i want to get into the specifics of your case later in the show but certainly a forced or false confession was part of your scenario. what is considered a confession? any kind of admission of guilt. even to the point where law enforcement may ask a suspect a hypothetical question or their opinion and that's taken as a confession, also >> is it possible for the suspect to be unaware that that's the direction law enforcement is headed with its line of question?
>> it often is the case. what could be more innocent than being asked to give your opinion? way. >> lorenzo labato, your daughter is imprisoned for 35 years for a murder she says she did not commit. and one of the things she said repeatedly was when i was talking to law en fossa, telling them what happened, i didn't know it was going to be used against me. tell us a little bit about her story and how it got to that point. >> with kirstin, she gave a that she had done, and it was then manipulated into a whole other case the she had protected herself from being attacked in las vegas, and the injuries that the guy received when she got away from him, there were similar injuries on a person who was murdered. they tied the two together. when they asked her, she confessed to having been attacked, but
that occurrence took place' month before the person was murred. evidence. >> you actually talked to kirstin on the phone. i want our viewers to here some of what she said in terms of why she was so initially trustworthy of law enforcement. >> i want them to know that i didn't do it. i didn't know that there was any inconsistencies between what i was telling them and what had happened in their case. i figured if i told them the okay. >> joe, what stands out to you most dramatically about kirstin's case? >> the thing that's so unbelievable is the fact that the timeline is clear that the murder in question took place at a different time and that she was acknowledging that she had -- she had been a victim. she was a victim of an attempted attack and fended off the attacker and that's what she thought she was, you know, she
was talking to the police about and the police kind of manipulated her into talking and now used the statement against her when there is so much evidence to show that this crime could not have happened the way the prosecutor lays out. the thing that i find the most outrageous and it happened in jeffrey's case as well is the refusal post conviction to test the dna that could be the key to getting her out of prison and for years in jeffrey's case, they refused, the westchester county da sfrooud to test the dna which turned out to be ex c cullpatory in jefsh's case and had the westchester county district attorney tested the da district attorney tested the da when she should have, another murder would have been solved. they are not just about the horrible injustice of putting somebody in prison who doesn't belong there thing result in the
real killer going free and able to kill again itdz a confession that wasn't a confession. the state refuses to test the dna. >> a case, you were 16 years old, your class mate was murdered. you say you were intimidated into giving a false confession. why did law enforcement force you into it? >> why or how? >> why and how? >> they drove me to putnam, it was a investigator pretending not to be a cop. they played good cop/bad cop. they attached me to a polygraph machine in a small room. yes have a be attorney present. my parents didn't know where i was. this polygraphist gave me the
third degree for 7 and a half hours. toward the end, he made a polygraph. he said what do you mean you didn't do it? you told me in the test result you did. it. >> shot my fear through the roof. it was at that point, the cop friend. he informed me the other officers were going to harm me but he had been holding them off but couldn't do so indefinitely. i became afraid for my life. when he added he threw me a false life preserver by telling me, look. tell them what they want to here and they will stop what they are doing. you are not going to be arrested. being young, naive, frightened, 16, i wasn't thinking about the long-term ramifications. safety. >> you were lied to? >> i was lied to. >> we will hear more about your story in just a moment. loren lorenzo, i want to thank you so much for being here and sharing your daughter's story with us. still ahead -- >> thank you for having me. >> still ahead, while isn'tific evidence has been used to exonerate some, it's been a central tool used to lock up others next, this former fbi agent joins us.
he lost his job after blowing the whistle on faulty forensic. hear how he exposed thousands of cases whic mishandled evidence including 27 on death row. >> can be can take you away from whatever your family is having done something you never did, that you were never close toanding put you in a cage and a death chamber. it's not a joke. >> a bit later, we reveal one of the most controversial methods used by some in law enforcement during eyewitness interviews that could make or break a guilty verdict. back in two minutes. >> investigating a dark side of the law >> they don't have the money to puchace their freedom... >> for some...crime does pay... >> the bail bond industry has been good to me.... i'll make a chunk of change off the crime... fault lines...
enterprise. >> what do you mean by that? human enterprise? >> a human enterprise fails. >> the problem that the bureau has got is if they fail and you find out about it, the world finds out about it, it's a big, big deal because they hold themselves out above that. we are not human. we are almost godlike. >> welcome back. we are discussing controversial aspects of our justice stem with the film maker of the original series, "the system. as you saw on that clip, question a.m. law enforcement procedures rise all the way to the federal level. joining us out of greenville north carolina is fred white
herself a chemist who blew the whistle on fbi crime lab practices he believed were producing flawed forensiceds. you said what was going on in the fbi crime lab was not science but rather a subjective nightmare. what did you witness that led you to that conclusion? >> well, i saw evidence, i saw data, i saw analyses that, you know, you could be interpreted a number of different ways. the way that white often, what would happen would be the interpretation would be that which supported or proved the prosecu prosecutor'shypothesis. i saw folks testifying outside their expertise. i saw sessions where evidence was being alterred. my own reports were all theerred for, in one instance or five years without my knowledge or i had i had no idea something i had
apparently signed off as far as the f.b.i. was concerned, i hadn't said at all. >> so, fred, i am having a hard time understanding the motivation here what does the f.b.i. or a da or a local law enforcement gain from falsifying or manipulating evidence to put potentially the wrong person in prison? what's the upside to that? >> i think there is a whole spectrum of human experience there. focus want to be part of the good ol' boy system somebody is sure there is guilt. if you test it scientifically and if the science doesn't support that hypothesis, you are pushed to the side. frankly people have got mortgages, car payments, kids to put through school, all of the normal human frailties that we've got, we go through life with, that lead to, to saw, he
must have done something. let's not rock the boat. >> geoff, go ahead. >> what i would like to add, also, is the desire to just rack up another conviction. wanting to move up within the prosecuteo's office on the level of the elected official that will either run for re-election or higher office if you acknowledge the error, there is the political concern that may be used against you in the political race. so the lives and freedom of people as well as public safety get sacrificed on the pyre of individual careers. >> what did the evidence show in your case prior to trial. >> that i was innocent. there was semen found in the victim which didn't match me. i roncally, in the fbi lab that tested the dna. rather than acknowledge that they made a mistake and stop the kay, the prosecution not wanting to admit it made a mistake elicited fraud on the part of the medical examiner and wrongfully convicted me. >> some people might look at you
and say this is the exception, a rare case, this doesn't happen all the time. are you the outlier? >> absolutely not. my evidence for that is there has been 314 dna proven wrongful convictions when you factor in non-dna, they start to get into the thousands. last year, 87 people were exonerated in the u.s. and were already on pace this year to en beat that. so, no, it's not an aberration. >> we asked our community, there is all of these flaws in the prison system. how do we fix it? strange bed fellow tweets better funding for crime labs, improved training for, forensic scientists, so fred, you are the whistleblower. you had to pay the price for telling the truth. you have heard some of these suggestions for improvements from strange bed fellow. how can we improve the existing system right now? >> well, i think, you know, there was some good suggestions there. forensaching crime laboratories are completely overwhelmed, underfunded.
foebz don't get the training they need. they are overworked. i think that outside awudit is very important. the f.b.i. is part of the system, part of the american society of crime lat tory directors group, a trade group essentially, but they are going to support each other. talking about forensic laboratory audits that go deeply into the crime lab work product the same way the internal revenue service would go into your financial records to determine if you are doing the job right. i think one of the problems that we also see is there is an error rate to a crime lab, but if a crime lab technician makes a mistake, they lose their job. we need to get over that. we need to recognize that i made mistakes when i was at the fbi
lat tory. we are all making mistakes. all of us do every day. it's the way we learn. we don't get it right every time. mistake. >> the trick is admitting it. i think that's the bell curve here that we need to get over. >> in terms of the -- i want to say, i think the biggest series covers lots of reasons why people get wrongfully convicted, including flawed forensics and the common denominator for me in these situations is we need to eliminate the idea of proscue torial immunity. prosecutors do not get reprimanded when they ruin somebody's life, when they send jeffrey deskovic away for 16 years, nobody gets punished for that. prosecutors will tell you especially, you know, state attorneys will tell you, it's hard enough doing the job, hard enough to attract good people, you know,
if we eliminate' immunity, you will never get somebody to do the job. >> that's bunk. responsible. >> geoff, about 45 seconds left. you got out of prison. you sued pretty much everybody that you could for your wrongful incarceration. the courts awarded you enough money to live out your life very comfortably. yet you chose to open a foundation and almost remain in the hell from which you escaped. why did you do that? >> i can't forget about the men and women who i metaphorically left behind. most organizations in the field will only take on dna cases where it's only available for 5 to 12% of all serious felon cases. my foundation handles dna and non-dna cases. >> you are helping people who you feel are in the but don't have the dna to prove it. >> exactly but we will use dna in order to prove innocence. >> thanks to our guests for this segment. joe berlinger. sometimes bystanders are at the right place at the right time, providing vital accounts for law
enforcement to identify perpetrators, but could some eyewitness information be too subjective to trust? >> low haircut, dark complected, middle age. how many are you describing when you describe that? you describe most of the majority of the men in american. >> plus i hit the streets of d.c. to demonstrate the effectiveness of one iding procedure with a penny.
urgency? only on al jazeera america ♪ in fact, in all of the dna exonerations that have happened to date, sent % have involved identification. >> welcome back. al jazeera america is getting ready to debut a powerful new documentary series called "the system" we are taking a look at the dark corners of the u.s. criminal justice system. joining us on skype out of new orleans is emily mau, director of the innocence project dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals. from atlanta, georgia, jonathan rapping, founder of gideon's promise which provides public defense for low-income citizenship. thanks for being here. one of the issues exposed in our series is how unstable eyewitness testimony can be. why is it unreliable?
>> well, i mean there are lots of reasons. there are, i would say, many issues now been identified through the study of the proven wrongful convictions that have been proven through dna evidence. there are numerous methods for law enforcement used that can leave an eyewitness identification to be much less reliable than it could be if better practices were used which i realize is a sort of generality, but there are protocols and procedures like not showing a witness a bunch of suspects all together, which is called simultaneous presentation instead of doing a sequential presentation. there are a lot of things that the research has now shown can really influence a witness. not deliberately but through the psychological processes involved in an investigation. >> you know, emily, it's funny you bring that up because i went out into d.c. to demonstrate
that very tactic? >> right. >> i show folks how difficult it is to identify somebody you have seen thousands of times. take a listen. >> yeah. >> unless you are older than 105, you have been looking at life. >> how many times do you think you have seen a penny? >> oh, maybe a million. >> okay. so for a guy you have seep a million times, honest abe, can me? >> i am just going to go with that. yeah. >> the actual penny is i. i is the correct one. >> okay. facing the other direction. >> just shows you how much you don't pay attention. >> and therein lies the problem. for 90 minutes, we asked folks to identify something they have seen thousands of times. >> i am going to get that one. >> do you want to try >>. >> nobody got it right. >> spruzing. >> yeah. >> then i used a tactic employed by some in the justice system.
i asked people to choose the abe lincoln they have seen but didn't tell them that all of the choices could be wrong. >> that's actually really eye opening. so could you assume by your wording and then just laying it out that, oh, it would be one of the options? >> i am going to go for b. >> none of them. >> it's none of them? ? >> the fact that i got it wrong and now that you tell me that the person wasn't even -- i mean, the penny wasn't even there, yeah, it makes me tremendously. >> scary. >> that's actually scary. isn't it? >> jonathan, one of the things that joe berlinger mentions in the documentary is that often eyewitness testimony is the gold standard in a criminal case. how much weight is really put on that of an eyewitness? >> you know, i think for any defense lawyer, there is no moment that makes your heart beat faster than when the witness points to your client and says, "that's the person who did it" because we understand
that the jurors believe that people don't get identifications wrong. i think what we learned from the science, however, is that the memory can be contaminated just like any crime scene and that, in fact, eyewitness identification is really not reliable. and what i thought was so interesting in watching some of the series from this -- from this program, eyewitness identification and false confessions and forensic evidence, is that it really is a great example of what the supreme court told us 51 years ago in a cases called gideon versus wainwright. it said that really, the engine to ensure that we have justice is a lawyer. if we don't have a lawyer who has the time and the resources and the expertise to put the state to the test, to make sure that the evidence really is reliable if we don't have that, tragic mistakes happen.
>> the indigent defense system. 80% rely on public defense. i want you to briefly answer something for me. we are running out of time. agent of people think of indigent defendants are the scourge of society. >> most people that you see every day. most of us are a paycheck away from not being able to afford $20,000 for a lawyer. what we are really talking about, people that i represented as a public defender and the public defenders i represent every day are the person who fixes your coffee at the coffee shop you go to every morning, who bags your groceries at the groeb store. the people who you pass on the street every day. there are people like you and me until we see the same people we -- the same way the people we love and care about, we will not have the ability to reform.
>> there is some cynicism. eric says our criminal system is a joke. people servedel decades for non-violent crimes and probation for serious ones but mike sees a systemic problem. you have to look at the root of the problem, bad economic equation. >> any way you look at it, there is a lot of work to be done. >> thank you, emily, maw, and to all of our guests. eastern 6 specific are. it kicks off with false confessions. for more details, head to our website at america.sars. until next time, thanks for joining us. waj and i will see you online.
[afternoon and welcome to al jazeera america life from new york city. i am morgan radford. here are the top stories. the searching for the missing nigerian school girls prompting an international response waging war against boko haram. china evacwaits citizens while tension boildz over drilling in the south china sea. the death toll in saudi arabia closing in on 170 people, now a third case of the deadly mers virus diagnosed right here on