Monthly Archives: July 2018

Eyewitness Evidence in the Courts CLE

Tuesday, August 21, 12:30-1:30 p.m.
Duke Law School, Room 3043

Eyewitness testimony can be incredibly powerful in court. “There is almost nothing more convincing,” Justice William J. Brennan Jr. wrote in a 1981 dissent, “than a live human being who takes the stand, points a finger at the defendant, and says, ‘That’s the one!’” However, we now know that eyewitness memory is fragile and malleable. This panel, with leading scientists, lawyers, and judges, moderated by Professor Brandon Garrett, will first explore how eyewitness misidentifications can cause wrongful convictions. Second, the panelists will discuss scientific research on ways in which reliability of eyewitness identification might be improved. Third, the panelists will discuss how to address these questions in the courtroom, including through jury instructions.

Panelists will include:

  • Judge Theodore McKee, U.S. Circuit Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and chair of a task force on jury instructions on eyewitness identification evidence.
  • Karen Newirth, Senior staff attorney of the Innocence Project, litigates eyewitness memory issues nationwide.
  • Tom Albright, Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Co-chaired National Academy of Sciences report on eyewitness memory and law
  • Benjamin David, District Attorney, Fifth District (New Hanover and Pender Counties), North Carolina, and past president of the NC Conference of District Attorneys.
  • Jennifer Thompson, founder of Healing Justice, co-author, Picking Cotton, and national advocate for eyewitness identification reform

The event is sponsored by the Duke Law Center for Criminal Justice & Professional Responsibility and Wrongful Convictions Clinic. Lunch will be provided.

The event has been approved for 1.00 hours of CLE credit by the North Carolina Board of Continuing Legal Education. There is no need to register. Please contact Sarah Holsapple (sarah.holsapple@law.duke.edu) with any questions.

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Accessing NC State Crime Laboratory Procedures

The North Carolina State Crime Laboratory has shared its current and archived/historical procedures with IDS, which will facilitate attorney access to these procedures and improves transparency in how evidence is tested and processed in the Lab. Attorneys who need access to the lab procedures in their cases now have several options to locate these procedures.

Current lab procedures are available from the Crime Lab at http://www.ncdoj.gov/About-DOJ/Crime-Lab/ISO-Procedures.aspx.

IDS previously placed many of the archived procedures online at http://www.ncids.com/forensic/labs/labs.asp. However, this IDS online library of archived procedures may have gaps as there are now over 4,000 archived procedures. If you need an archived lab procedure that you cannot find on the IDS website, you can email Sarah Olson at Sarah.R.Olson@nccourts.org for access to the procedures that the Crime Lab shared recently.

Finally, lab procedures may be requested through discovery.

When reading lab procedures in order to better understand how evidence was tested in a case, attorneys should be mindful to refer to the procedures that were in place at the time that the lab tested case evidence.

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NC State Crime Laboratory welcomes new Ombudsman

Sarah Jessica Farber is the new Ombudsman to the NC State Crime Laboratory. As Ombudsman, her job responsibilities include addressing public concerns about the Crime Lab and making recommendations to the Attorney General about any changes needed at the Crime Lab. The Ombudsman serves as a liaison with all criminal justice system actors and is available to defense attorneys who have questions or feedback about the lab. More information about the role of the Ombudsman is available here.

Prior to joining the Crime Lab, Farber served as a magistrate in Wake County. Earlier in her career, she worked as a criminal defense attorney, both with North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services and with her own private practice. She can be reached at sfarber@ncdoj.gov.

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