Bad Evidence and Shortcuts in Police Investigations Lead to Overcharging and the Prosecutions of Innocent People

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In September 2008, the Detroit Police Crime Lab was closed because an external audit found that errors in the processing of evidence used in the prosecutions of murder charges, assault offenses, weapon (gun) cases and other crimes. Since closing the Crime Lab, the Michigan State Police Forensic Sciences Division has taken over doing the crime lab work formerly done by the Detroit Police Department. Flooded with the new work, the Michigan State Police are taking longer than ever to process evidence.

Recent news that the Michigan State Police are going to open a limited lab with the ability to process fingerprints, ballistics and drug evidence has come under fire by the Detroit Police and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. Apparently the Wayne County Prosecutor, Kym Worthy, believed the Michigan State Police were going to partner with the Detroit Police Department and build a full-service laboratory.

The current backlog in cases is bad news from defendants accused of crimes where forensic evidence is being used in the prosecution. Because of the backlog, officials are encouraging police officers to make “smarter” decisions on what and how much evidence they submit for testing. From a criminal defense attorney’s perspective, this means greater potential for false charges, misleading scientific evidence, and a greater probability of innocent people being wrongfully convicted.

Prosecutor’s frequently complaint about the “CSI Effect.” According to law enforcement, jurors now expect scientific evidence to be introduced at trial when it is not practical to introduce this type of evidence in most cases. The truth of the mater is that it is possible for the prosecution and law enforcement to get scientific and forensic evidence but due to budget constrains, limited resources and lack of man power, they simply fail to adequately investigate many crimes.

If the failure to properly investigate meant that the prosecutors would wait to prosecute until satisfactory scientific analysis could be completed or the prosecution would be forgone if the police did not adequately investigate a crime seen, this wouldn’t be a huge problem; however, the prosecutions continue to move forward and people continue to get convicted in cases where a thorough investigation would lead to proof that the defendant was innocent.

Prosecutor Worthy has acknowledged that real-life cases have turned on scientific evidence and has indicated that she would like to see additional scientific analysis, like fingerprint testing of shell casings. It appears that adequate investigation is going to continue to be sacrificed and innocent or over-charged defendants will continue to be prosecuted even when evidence is not properly analyzed or collected.

Loren M. Dickstein, a Michigan Criminal Defense Lawyer and partner with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C., located in the City of Southfield, Oakland County, Michigan will continue to defend wrongfully accused and over-charged defendants in cases where police investigations are inadequate and a failure of the system. Consider for example a case where he defended a young man on a murder charge in Wayne County in 2008. Essentially the allegation was that Dickstein’s client, a 19-year-old man, another young man and the other man’s girl friend murdered two downriver men, burned their bodies and their home. The defense was a war and the assistant prosecuting attorney was unwilling to consider months of arguments regarding shortcomings in the forensic analysis in the case and lack of police investigation. Analysis of DNA and cell phone tower evidence was delayed and inadequate.

Convinced of their clients’ innocence, the defense attorneys battled the prosecutor and conducted independent investigations. The judge, advised of the problems with the evidence and the arguments regarding the defendants’ innocence, was completely unwilling to help the defendants and simply ignored arguments regarding the hearsay evidence, inadequate investigation and shaky forensic evidence.

Fortunately, the tireless efforts of the defense and much delayed forensic analysis demanded by the defense ultimately proved the defendants were innocent. Ultimately, the real killer was charged and convicted. Civil suits lead by Loren Dickstein and other attorneys on behalf of the defendants and against law enforcement soon followed.

This case and countless others like it demonstrate the importance of an aggressive defense by highly qualified criminal defense attorneys. It is the hope of the defense bar that prosecutors will insist that law enforcement not cut corners and thoroughly investigate evidence before proceeding with prosecutions. Loren Dickstein has indicated, “I understand when prosecutors are upset that a defendant, who they believe is guilty, is acquitted at trial; however, I would hope that they would be incensed and outraged when there is a chance that an innocent person may be wrongfully convicted because of law enforcement shortcuts or, even worse, as a result of bad evidence. Now that is a travesty that I will never stop fighting against.”

An experienced attorney from LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. can offer additional information as well as a ferocious defense for any offenses. Your attorney is waiting to speak to you. Call for a free consultation at 248-263-6800 or complete a Request for Assistance Form and a defense attorney will contact you promptly.

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