Thursday, November 22, 2007

Get the lead out of military justice

On Sunday, the Washington Post and 60 Minutes ran important stories dealing with scientific quackery about lead composition analysis that FBI lab analysis peddled for years. See here and here and here.

Today's Post contains a follow-up by John Solomon about the Senate Judiciary Committee's response to the Post's earlier reporting. The article's lead reads: "The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday demanded that the Justice Department turn over to Congress all cases involving the FBI lab's use of a now-discredited bullet-matching forensic test and criticized the department for failing to alert defendants whose convictions were affected by the flawed science." The article also stated, "In response to the reports, the FBI has announced it will review all bullet-lead testimonies that led to convictions and alert prosecutors to any misleading statements so that defendants can be notified. Separately, two umbrella groups for criminal-defense lawyers are launching their own effort to help people who might have been convicted using the science."

One case where the now-discredited FBI lead composition analysis was used is familiar to military justice practitioners: United States v. LCpl Wade Walker, No. 9501607 (N-M. Ct. Crim. App. redocketed Aug. 10, 1995). LCpl Walker, of course, currently resides on death row and the United States Disciplinary Barracks.

I haven't read the complete record of trial in United States v. Parker, but I suspect similar quackery was presented in that case. Can one of his counsel let us know?

[Disclaimer: I was an appellate defense counsel in the Walker case.]


Guert Gansevoort said...

This may be reason number 1000 why the military should never try capital cases. For reasons 1 through 999 see Colonel Sullivan's recent article on the military death penalty. Confessions and eyewitness accounts will never do. Let us bring in lead analysis as in Walker, or gang analysis as in Quintanilla. I would like to be the first to congratulate the United States government on its successful campaign to get LCPL Walker a new trial fifteen years after its first attempt to kill him. Had it only tried to confine him for life, appellate review would have been completed, and he would be filing a writ of error coram nobis that would likely be denied. Military prosecutors are their own worst enemy in serious cases.

Anonymous said...

You can't believe the FBI, you can't believe the CIA, and you can't believe your client. Words to live by.

No Man said...

I agree with the sage
Anonymous, our most plentiful commenter. The best service you can do to your client is to doubt everything the government tells you and your client tells you. Ondependently verify the facts. But, if the military judge prevents you from hiring an expert or inspecting the evidence, how do you independently verify the facts. It is a lot easier to know that your client's story doesn't hold up than to verify that an FBI metallurgist, who was the only person to inspect evidence in your case, was full of . . . lead.
This is exactly why
The rights in Ake v. Oklahoma were created, and the reason why denial of funding or inspection of the evidence under that regime has to have consequences when something like this occurs. Will it?

Note: I too was once a counsel in the Walker case.

Anonymous said...

Walker and Parker BOTH deserve to die. They were guilty PERIOD. A shotgun was used in their case anyway not a rifle so who cares about matching lead. Screw them both and may they rot in hell.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention all of the other evidence against walker and parker. Let me guess, somebody planted Lcpl James blood on the back underside of walkers car that was brought into the courtroom? I hate our justice system, losers like you who fight for the guilty while wasting all of our tax money. I do suppose that some innocent people are convicted, but clearly not in this case. My God this happened over 15 years ago, and they are still breathing. More than we can say for their 2 victims.

DJ said...

Before you pass judgement, please get all your facts straight. Yes these men are on death row and it has been 15 years, what was the total involvement of both of these men? My understanding is that several others involved in this case stated that Walker was NOT the gunman, and he was NOT the driver, though it was his car. If Walker had been executed, as anonymous states, where is the ability to correct any errors made by the prosecutors, defense attorneys, or witnesses? Currently, the murder convictions have been overturned, it is a good thing that we do not listen to people who have hatred as their guide.