Did You Know?

Approaches to Reporting the Results of Investigations into Police Involved Fatalities

June 30, 2016 — Volume 15

There has been great scrutiny of police-involved fatalities and how they are handled by prosecutors. Here are four thoughtful approaches by prosecutors on how they have reported their findings when no criminal charges are brought (in alphabetical order by jurisdiction). Three articles on this subject are also included.

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Recording Interrogations – Support by Prosecutors

June 23, 2016 — Volume 14

Around the country, prosecutors have supported the recording of custodial interrogations and have pushed for the creation of voluntary policies and, in some instances, endorsed legislation. Police have embraced this technology as well. The Colorado Best Practices Committee issued a report providing a national perspective on the progress made in this area. Also included are sample policies and articles from other states that reflect prosecutor’s leadership in promoting the recording of interrogations.  Much of this work was spearheaded by Best Practices Committees.

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National Best Practices Meeting

May 19, 2016 — Volume 12

Boston – July 19 and July 20, 2016

BP Committees around the nation are spearheading exciting initiatives. Come to share ideas, get energized and enjoy each other’s company.

Prosecutors and prosecution coordinators from states with established committees and those considering starting a BP committee are invited to attend the National Best Practices meeting in Boston on Tuesday, July 19th, and half a day on Wednesday, July 20th (following the NDAA Summer Conference). Meetings will be held at the Westin Boston Waterfront, 425 Summer Street, Boston, Massachusetts. Hotel rooms can be reserved through NDAA (www.ndaajustice.org).

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Best Practices for Prosecutors – A Nationwide Movement

May 17, 2016 — Volume 11

“Best Practices for Prosecutors — A Nationwide Movement,” published in the ABA Criminal Justice Journal, highlights of some of the excellent best practices work from committees across the country. These committees support prosecutors in their mission to do justice, to build trust in the communities that they serve and to address emerging issues. Read

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Jury Instructions v. Expert Testimony

New Study: Expanded Eyewitness Jury Instruction Makes Jurors Suspicious of Any Eyewitness — Even in Strong Cases

Defense attorneys are increasingly seeking expanded jury instructions on the reliability of eyewitnesses in lieu of calling a defense expert. A recent study in New Jersey has demonstrated that jurors who received these instructions “indiscriminately discounted ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ testimony in equal measure.”

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‘Making a Murderer’ and the Ethics of a Private Investigative Project

“Making a Murderer” has triggered much discussion about the criminal justice system.  However, it has also raised questions about the ethics of investigative reporting. The recent New Yorker article below makes the point that “a private investigative project, bound by no rules of procedure, is answerable only to ratings and the ethics of its makers.”

Dead Certainty, How ‘Making a Murderer’ Goes Wrong, The New Yorker (1/25/16) Read

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New Evidence in Prosecutions

January 28, 2016 — Volume 6

Secure In Our Convictions:
Using New Evidence To Strengthen Prosecution 
Prosecutors’ Center for Excellence, January 2016.  Click here.

Benefits and Challenges of New Evidence: With the focus on erroneous convictions of the past, there has been little discussion of the improvements in science and technology that are enabling police and prosecutors to get their cases right in the first instance. Time and again this new evidence is being used in jurisdictions of all sizes to verify the guilt of a suspect or to exonerate an innocent suspect. However, with these benefits come serious challenges. Prosecutors must find the manpower, technical knowledge, and funds to keep pace with the changing technologies and the deluge of digital evidence. Pre-existing budget cuts and diminishing labor pools often compound these hurdles.

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Body Worn Cameras – Tips for Prosecutors

January 14, 2016 — Volume 5

Police departments around the country are purchasing body worn cameras (BWC) at an accelerating pace. Prosecutors should get involved in this process as early as possible. Here is a brief overview of some of the issues prosecutors may consider. Also attached is a selection of model policies, articles and reports that provide more detailed information.

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Going Dark

December 15, 2015 – Volume 4

Since 2014, Apple and Google’s new operating systems automatically encrypt their phones. This means that if law enforcement does not have the password, Apple or Google can no longer access the phone, even with a court ordered search warrant. The encryption may apply to some computers and laptops as well. So if a murder victim never divulged his or her passcode to anyone, or if a suspect refuses to disclose his passcode, the potential evidence or clues on the phone may remain permanently inaccessible.

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Shaken Baby Syndrome

May 28, 2015 – Volume 3

Shaken Baby Syndrome and the broader category of Abusive Head Trauma is a well-accepted and evidence-based diagnosis. Physicians who regularly work with pediatric patients and who are on the front lines diagnosing the cause of injuries to children, as well as respected and established medical associations, confirm that violent whiplash shaking of a young child’s head can cause serious and even fatal brain injury. In spite of recent media coverage and claims from some physicians, there have been no new scientific advancements that have undercut the viability of either diagnosis. Needless to say, any shaken baby/abusive head trauma prosecution should be accompanied by evidence that the accused party was the cause of the injury.

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