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U.S. Justice Department to Record Custodial Interrogations Under New Policy

Ain’t it better for everyone this way? For years, the resistance to it has rung more and more hollow. Finally, on May 12, the Justice Department established a new policy that favors the electronic recording of all interviews taken with a suspect in custody, and which encourages agents and prosecutors to tape outside that context as well. The policy establishes a presumption that investigating agencies Read More

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A Tangled Web, Indeed

We’ll see how the Stiviano-Sterling fiasco unfolds, but in case you were wondering, it’s a crime in California to record a private conversation without someone’s knowledge or consent. California’s criminal anti-eavesdropping and -wiretapping laws are codified in a chapter of the Penal Code that concerns invasions of privacy, which isn’t suprising. The state constitution sanctifies a right of privacy Read More

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Why We Need Good Lawyers and Investigators on Both Sides

The National Registry of Exonerations is the most comprehensive collection of known exonerations in the country. It was launched in May 2012 as a joint project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. Its first report, which was issued as part of its launch, chronicled 873 known Read More

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The Future of Facial Composites and the Forensic Sketch Artist

This short, two-and-a-half minute video offers an interesting glimpse into the enduring use of sketch artists in modern-day criminal justice. The role of the forensic sketch artist is waning, giving way to computer software programs and the proliferation of surveillance cameras everywhere we go. For many, however, the sketch artist continues to supply a valuable investigative tool. Surveillance videos, after Read More

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SEC Announces Its 2013 Enforcement Results in the Financial Markets

Here is a link to the Securities & Exchange Commission’s press release reporting its enforcement numbers for fiscal year 2013, which ran from October through September. Over that period last year, the agency filed 686 public lawsuits in the name of our capital markets, and it obtained a record $3.4 billion in monetary sanctions, like disgorgement of profits, including $3 billion from 169 people Read More

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Orange County Crime Lab Announces Error that Affects Blood-Alcohol-Test Results in 2,200 Cases

In the real world, crime labs make mistakes, even in Orange County. Earlier this month came word that the Orange County Crime Lab had produced inaccurate blood-alcohol-test results in 2,200 driving-under-the-influence (DUI) cases that were filed this year. In recent days, the District Attorney’s office has issued letters to people whose cases may have been affected, including 900 people whose cases Read More

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Witness (Mis)Identification: Improving Police Lineups, Showups, and Photo Arrays

Witness identification may be the leading cause of wrongful convictions in the United States, accounting for nearly 75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing. Some parts of the error rate we can’t control; others, we can. For example, we can use “double-blind” police lineups, where neither the witness nor the officer knows which person is Read More

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Your Cell Phone Meets Warrantless Border Searches in the Digital Age

The amount of personal papers and effects that we travel around with used to be cabined by the size of our cars or luggage. No more. Today, our phones, tablets, and laptops are veritable supercomputers capable of storing more information than an entire warehouse of documents. What’s more, they often hold confidential, proprietary, or otherwise sensitive information, including the most intimate Read More

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Crime Labs Can Be Good, Bad, Or Downright Ugly

When we think of crime labs, we often think of shows like CSI or NCIS in which flawless technicians rigorously employ scientific methods in pristine labs. We don’t usually think of people faking test results, contaminating samples, or forging signatures. Nor do we think of dirty equipment, faulty techniques, or a lack of standardized procedures. But Read More

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