In 1992, 24-year-old Lorie Lee Lance was killed in a house fire in Old Hickory, Tennessee. Claude Francis Garrett, Lance's boyfriend, was accused of setting the fire. Although he swore he was innocent, an arson investigator claimed that a set of large, irregular burns in the living room represented a "pour pattern" indicating the use of a liquid accelerant. A large container of kerosene was found in the home, which Garrett claims was used in a kerosene heater.
There have been developments in the case of Joe B., a former high school principal who was convicted of his wife's 1985 murder based largely upon bloodstain-pattern evidence that has now been discredited. Now 78 and in frail health, Joe is hoping for a new trial.
When it comes to blood-spatter analysis, "expert" witnesses for the prosecution are often law enforcement officers with just a week of training. This was so in the case of Joe B., a high school principal accused of murdering his wife. He was convicted in 1985 based on flecks of blood on a flashlight found in his car, which a detective convinced a jury came from his wife. Now, the Texas Forensic Science Commission has concluded that the analysis was "not accurate or scientifically supported" and, in fact, "entirely wrong."
The U.S. Supreme Court has just heard an appeal on whether police can collect cellphone location data without a warrant and still have it be admissible against criminal defendants. The case pits Americans' privacy rights against the government's interest in easy access to personal data that can solve crimes.
A man who has been serving time since 1995 for the murder of a drug dealer has been released with his conviction overturned by a judge. That judge found evidence of serious prosecutorial misconduct that made his trial and conviction unfair. The district attorney's office is appealing the decision.
Ledura Watkins was convicted of the 1975 murder of a 25-year-old woman during a home robbery. The only evidence against Watkins was a single hair found on the scene, which police analysts had tied to him using a technique that has since been discredited by the FBI. With the help of the Innocence Project at the Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School, Watkins is now free.