Archive for February 19, 2009

Justice Louisiana Style

February 19, 2009

Stunning work by Radley Balko:

Several months ago, I was able to obtain a pretty shocking video of one of Dr. Michael West’s infamous post-mortem “bite mark examinations.” This particular exam was performed on a 23-month-old Louisiana girl named Haley Oliveaux. As with most cases, Dr. Steven Hayne performed the initial examination on Oliveaux, claimed to have seen bite marks no other doctors saw, then called in West to perform his quackery bite mark analysis. West claimed to have traced the bite marks to Jimmie Duncan, the boyfriend of Oliveaux’s mother, and the man police suspected of murdering the girl. Duncan was convicted of capital murder, and has spent the last 10 years on death row.

The smoking gun video damns West and Hayne in two ways. First, as it opens, West is performing his initial examination. The video clearly shows that when the body of Haley Oliveaux was handed over to West and Hayne, her face was free of any abrasions or bite marks. Her cheek is clean.

The second portion of the video, taken the following day, then shows a striking abrasion. That abrasion could only have been inflicted by someone in Hayne’s office. The video also shows that Hayne must have been lying when he testified at trial that he found bite marks on the Oliveaux’s cheek, then called West in to do an analysis. The first portion of the video, taken after Hayne’s initial exam, shows no such bite marks.

The more obvious thing the video shows is Michael West repeatedly jamming, scraping, and pushing a mold of Jimmie Duncan’s teeth into Haley Oliveaux’s body, actions experts to whom I’ve shown the video say amount to criminal evidence tampering. The excerpt posted at Reason is only 30 seconds long. But the full video spans 24 minutes, during which West uses the mold to desecrate Oliveaux’s body at least 50 times.

The results of West’s “analysis” were then used to help convict Jimmie Duncan of raping and murdering Haley Oliveaux.

In short, two “expert” witnesses in the state of Louisiana manufactured evidence that was then used to put a man on death row. That’s bad enough. But these guys have testified in hundreds of cases over the last few decades. The whole story is here.


More About Calvin Lester

February 19, 2009

Thanks to Mr. No Saggy Pants, we have the funniest headline of the week in the Times: “Shreveport Council to Public: You can trust us.” Why did they have to hold a press conference to tell us they are not all crooks and/or idiots? Here’s why:

Six of Shreveport’s seven City Council members held a news conference today to address the legal controversy surrounding fellow Councilman Calvin Lester — distancing themselves from Lester and a judgment in a civil suit that found he conspired with another man to damage the property of a rock-crushing operation Lester wanted closed. . . . .

Lester and acquaintance Alphonso Williams, who owns a Shreveport trucking company, have been found responsible by a Caddo District Court judge for dumping 250 truck loads of clay muck on Blount Brothers’ rock crusher site in 2006.

Lester led the charge in the City Council to shut down the North Hearne Avenue site, which was in his district.

The owner of the rock crusher, Blount Brothers, sued over the dumping and won a judgment against Lester and Williams. The two men face an April 21 trial in which a judge will decide if they should be responsible for paying to clean up Blount Brothers’ property.

Got that? Calvin Lester, a city councilman, didn’t like Blount Brothers. So Calvin Lester conspires with a friend to destroy Blount Brothers’ property and business. Remember, though, according to Lester it’s black kids whose pants reveal their underwear who are the real problem.

That Calvin Lester is a crooked moron does not surprise me. What did surprise me was reading this:

Lester’s lawyer told Judge Ramon Lafitte that Lester would claim “qualified immunity” in the damages phase of the trial. That could shield Lester from financial liability because actions as a government official were involved.

You might think that a government official who bullies his constituents and trespasses on their property ought to be held to a HIGHER standard than the average person. Lester is supposed to be a public servant; someone with a duty to help the people in his area. He abused his position. Lester, though, thinks his status as a councilman ought to excuse his reprehensible actions. That is some incredible balls, that is.

I’m pretty sure it’s also stupid. Qualified immunity is normally something that protects government officials then they mistakenly or unintentionally violate the constitution. To start, Lester simply committed a trespass. I could be wrong, but I don’t think the main issue here is constitutional. This is also a very intentional act, one no sane person could have thought was legal. Finally, he might be a government official, but I seriously doubt he was acting as one when he ordered the attack on Blount Brothers. Lester was just being Calvin Lester: a moron, a crooked lawyer, and a serious embarrassment to Shreveport.