In Part 1 of his commentary, Ken Strutin discusses how the growth of social media and social networking applications has permeated and extended the range of legal investigation, discovery and litigation. The materials he highlights represent a current sampling of notable developments in law enforcement, law practice, civil and criminal litigation, and technology’s influence on human behavior.
Ken Strutin focuses on the impact of social media on jurors who increasingly try to stay connected to work and home while performing their civic duty, and the resulting impact of the power of individual jurors to virtualize a trial by going online. His article collects recent and notable examples of juror online misbehavior and highlights scholarship and practice resources concerning its implications for voir dire, trial management and the administration of justice.
Ken Strutin has written extensively for LLRX.com on criminal law issues. He argues that false confessions, bad eyewitness identifications, and faulty forensics, among other problems, have shown that seemingly iron clad adjudications can reach the wrong result. A ‘guilty’ verdict only indicates that the government has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed each and every element of the crime, and not that the defendant actually committed the crime. A freestanding claim of actual innocence is a potentially powerful tool to assail a verdict that points to the wrong person. Still, courts have made only small gains in recognizing actual innocence generally as a basis for contesting a wrongful conviction. This article collects selected scholarship on “actual innocence” and litigating post-conviction claims that go beyond the procedural metrics of the trial process.
For nearly 15,000 years dogs have lived with and served humankind as companions, hunters, shepherds and most recently detectives. The average canine possesses hundreds of millions of receptors for odors, compared with a few million for humans. Their outstanding sensory endowment – olfaction – makes dogs sought after by law enforcement. And in the last century, the cultivation and harnessing of this ultra sensitive faculty has become a part of many facets of criminal investigation. Ken Strutin’s article surveys select studies, standards and resources about canine scent detection evidence.
Ken Strutin’s selected guide represents current research and thinking about the physical, psychological and legal implications of isolation as punishment, and the policy issues behind continuing this practice in the light of national and international standards and human rights declaration. Ken engages us to consider the ramifications of solitary confinement, the most extreme penalty in the hierarchy of incarcerative punishment. Depending on the institution, length of detention and purpose, this “prison within prison” has been described in many ways: administrative segregation, communications management unit, control unit, disciplinary housing unit, the hole, intensive management unit, lockdown, punitive isolation, segregation, SHU (special housing unit, special handling unit, segregated housing unit, security housing unit), and Supermax (Super-Maximum Security Confinement).
This article explores the corner of the Internet landscape that concentrates on legal research. For the most part, these databases and search tools are free, although some might require a library card. Essentially, this is a short list of “go to” sites that most researchers will find useful. Before delving in, author Ken Strutin also examines a few time tested research concepts for the Internet age.
The media’s popularization of certain types of evidence may be inspiring a “CSI effect” on decision makers according to Ken Strutin. There is a question about whether impressions created by the media in its treatment and portrayal of forensic proof as either irrefutable or absolutely necessary for conviction is truly impacting the outcome of criminal cases. Ken’s guide is a collection of select legal scholarship and media studies that illuminates the extent of the phenomenon and whether it needs to be addressed and how.
In criminal cases, there have been challenges on sufficiency grounds and concerns over the use of forensic DNA evidence as the sole or primary proof of guilt. Uncorroborated DNA matching might not be enough to satisfy the burden of establishing guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The reliability of forensic DNA testing results might be questioned for any number of reasons, e.g., laboratory error, cross-contamination, interpretive bias or fraud, etc. Ken Strutin’s essay provides an overview of nuclear DNA typing, a sampling of the kinds of discretionary decisions that analysts often confront when interpreting crime scene samples, and concludes with with remarks about current disputes in forensic DNA typing, and how recognition of its inherent subjectivity might inform and illuminate these debates.
Interpreting Rule 1.6(b)(1) of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct in the context of wrongful convictions is complicated by evidentiary and practical considerations surrounding the potential use of such information. This article by Ken Strutin examines resources about several notable cases and the scholarly literature analyzing different approaches to resolving this dilemma.
Ken Strutin’s article focuses on threads of scholarly literature citing and commenting on the recent National Academy of Sciences report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, and highlights discussions where experts and practitioners rethink the merits of a wide range of forensic issues.