Did You Know?

‘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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New Apple and Android OS Blocks Law Enforcement

October 25, 2014 – Volume 2

In September 2014, Apple issued an update to its operating system for iPhones and iPads, known as iOS 8. In the coming weeks, Google is also expected to unveil an updated operating system -­‐ known as Android “L” -­‐ for most Android cellphones and tablets. Both new software packages will significantly curtail law enforcement’s ability to look for data on smartphones and tablet devices, even with properly obtained search warrants or other judicial process. The following are some points for law enforcement to consider:

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