Abandoned Justice

After a murder conviction is overturned, how eager are prosecutors to reexamine the evidence and find the real killer? A journalist who investigated 263 vacated cases around the nation since 2006 says it happens rarely.

Ninety-two year-old Emma Crapser spent the last night of her life playing Bingo at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, about a half a mile from her Poughkeepsie, N.Y. apartment. Upon her return home, she was murdered, apparently in the course of an intended robbery.

Six years later, in December 1983, a 24-year-old black man named Dewey Bozella was convicted of her murder and sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. In May  1990, a judge found that prosecutors had improperly excluded black people from Bozella’s jury and ordered a new trial.

Bozella was convicted again. Then, in 2009, another judge vacated that conviction. This time, the district attorney declined to file new charges and Dewey Bozella found himself, after 26 years behind bars, a free man.

The court’s decision to overturn the conviction was based on its determination that the prosecution had failed to disclose exculpatory information to Bozella’s trial lawyer. This included information that undermined the credibility of key witnesses—like statements that contradicted their court testimony and deals in their own criminal cases—and pointed to the likely involvement of others in the crime.

Among the other suspects were two brothers who ended up going to prison on 25- year-to-life sentences for the robbery and brutal beating of two disabled elderly sisters, Madeline and Catherine King, and the murder of a third, Mary, in their family home about a half a mile from where Crapser had lived, eight months after Crapser was killed.

One of these men also had been implicated in the violent assault in the same neighborhood of yet another elderly woman, Estelle Dobler, carried out two months after Crapser’s murder and for which no one was ever prosecuted.

In its response opposing Bozella’s bid to overturn his conviction, the Dutchess County district attorney’s office downplayed the similarities among these three crimes; (but) in his 2009 decision to vacate the conviction, the judge called them “striking.”

As it turned out, one of the brothers convicted in the King case was released on parole months before Bozella was freed.

In 2015, Dutchess County settled a civil suit with Bozella for $7.5 million. To finance the payout, the county was forced to issue bonds.

[The same year,] 38 years after her murder, the Poughkeepsie Journal asked “Who Killed Emma Crapser?”

The newspaper offered no definitive answer, but the question itself points to a broader issue that tends to be underexplored in the context of wrongful convictions: what typically happens with respect to the underlying crime—and, by implication, [what happens to] the cause of justice and of public safety—when the person found legally responsible for committing it is later determined not to be?

How many murder cases might there be like Emma Crapser’s?

I set out to answer this question, using the National Registry of Exonerations, news reports and court filings, first to identify all of the murder convictions vacated nationwide since 2006 that, like Bozella’s, did not hinge on DNA evidence.  I excluded any case in which the vacated conviction involved a finding that a murder had not been committed (as has happened, for example, in several arson cases charged as murders but later determined to be accidents).

I looked exclusively for murder cases because murder typically has no statute of limitations, and therefore can be prosecuted at any time, even decades after the crime occurred, if new evidence or a new suspect is identified. Finally, I limited my search to the past 11 years on the assumption that it might be easier to get information about relatively recent vacated convictions than those overturned several decades ago.

My research turned up a total of 263 vacated murder convictions that fit this criteria (according to the National Registry, there have been a total of 2,034 known exonerations in the United States since 1989.).

This number does not represent 263 murders, but wrongfully convicted defendants.  In some cases, multiple people were wrongfully convicted for the same murder, while in others one person was wrongfully convicted for murdering more than one person.

Of the 263 people whose convictions were vacated, 161 were black; 65 white, 33 Hispanic and four Native American.

A vacatur is not equivalent to a determination of actual innocence; convictions must be overturned not only when there is a finding of factual innocence, but also when a defendant’s constitutional rights have been violated, regardless of guilt or innocence. In fact, very few wrongfully convicted people are ever able definitively to “prove” their innocence, though in the course of the appeals process many end up presenting evidence that calls their guilt into question.

Here’s what I discovered:

Forty-eight of those who were wrongfully convicted were re-tried after their convictions were vacated, and all were acquitted. Following these acquittals it appears that no new suspects were charged, except in one case where an additional suspect had been arrested outside the county a year before the vacatur, was extradited to the US, and pleaded guilty to the crime a month after the wrongfully convicted defendant was acquitted four years later.

Of the remaining 215 wrongful convictions, prosecutors charged a new suspect in murders related to just 16, or 7%, of them.

Notably, in 11 of these 16 cases it appears in fact that it was the existence of an alternative suspect—typically identified by defense investigators and further investigated by prosecutors—that led to the vacatur and dismissal of charges.

In an additional case, a new suspect pleaded guilty to the crime a year after the exoneration.

As to why no new charges were filed in the murder cases connected to 93% of these wrongful convictions, the answer often depends on who is offering the explanation. Prosecutors, cops and defense attorneys often tend to see things very differently.

That said, I was able to ascertain that the true perpetrators—determined either by credible confessions and/or objective evidence—of murders connected to an additional 24 of these wrongful convictions are either dead or in prison, serving a long sentence for a different crime, sometimes in another state.

While neither outcome represents justice for the victims in the wrongful conviction cases, those murderers are nonetheless “off the streets.”

I also discovered that with respect to murders for which an additional eight people were wrongfully convicted, the true perpetrators appear to be beyond the reach of law enforcement because of immunity or plea deals given to them by prosecutors (these cases tended to involve violence perpetrated by gangs).

In addition, I identified seven cases (and four of the cases in which a defendant was retried and acquitted), in which the person who was wrongfully convicted was convicted along with at least one or more others who, it seems fairly clear, were actually responsible.

While there is reason to believe that in some of these cases not everyone involved was apprehended, someone has been held accountable for these killings.

Then there are the 10 cases in which the underlying crimes were committed so long ago, and the original prosecutions so flawed, that law enforcement seems reasonably to have abandoned any hope of being able to conduct a productive reinvestigation.

This is in contrast to an additional 24 cases I was told by prosecutors were either the subject of an “ongoing investigation” or “open,” though what that means (does open mean active? Are the ongoing investigations targeting new suspects or the original defendant?) remains unclear, as all refused to elaborate. About an additional 48 cases, prosecutors elected to say nothing.

I did learn that 17 people whose convictions were vacated are viewed as actually innocent by the district attorney currently leading the office that originally prosecuted the case (in some instances, a predecessor did not share that view), but it appears that law enforcement lacks any meaningful leads regarding the true culprit. In these cases, both time passed and limited resources appear to be major obstacles to developing such leads.

That leaves 61 cases about which prosecutors or their spokespeople offered statements attributing the lack of new charges in a case to the “erosion” or “insufficiency” of evidence to re-prosecute the original defendant, thus implying that there is no other possible suspect.

In some of these cases, prosecutors stated outright that they believe the wrongfully convicted person to be guilty. I discovered, however, that in just over a third of these cases—like in numerous other cases that prosecutors declined to comment on—there seems to be credible evidence pointing to a different suspect altogether.

Freeing Marty Tankleff

Take the case of Marty Tankleff, who was convicted in 1990 of murdering his parents in their Long Island, N.Y. home and spent 17 years behind bars before his conviction was vacated by an appellate court.

According to Lonnie Soury, a media expert who worked closely with Tankleff’s appellate team, including private investigator Jay Salpeter, “in the effort to free [Marty], we conducted a major reinvestigation of the case that produced significant new evidence that three men committed the murder at the behest of Mr. Tankleff’s father’s business partner.”

Soury says that “the new evidence was turned over to [Suffolk County District Attorney] Thomas Spota,” who “did nothing with [it] other than continue to oppose Tankleff’s bid to overturn his conviction.”

After the Court vacated the conviction, Spota requested that it formally dismiss the charges against Tankleff,  saying that his office could not “reasonably assert that a new prosecution would be successful.” He also said he would ask then-Governor Eliot Spitzer to appoint a special prosecutor to reinvestigate the case.

Asked by e-mail whether Spota’s office had ever looked into these other suspects, a spokesman failed to answer the question, noting instead that then AG-Andrew Cuomo “conducted an investigation” after the DA “requested the Governor appoint a special prosecutor to resolve any residual doubts with respect to the potential prosecution of other individuals the defense claims participated in these murders.”

For reference, the spokesman attached to the e-mail an excerpt from the judge’s decision to dismiss the indictment following Cuomo’s review. That excerpt, however, did not mention that Cuomo—who Soury says [was] given the information developed by Tankleff’s appellate team—had investigated any other suspects and stated only that the “Attorney General’s office… determined that there should not be a reprosecution of defendant.”

For his part, Soury cannot say for certain why the DA failed to take action with regard to these other suspects, three of whom, he says, continue to live “freely and with impunity” in Suffolk County, but adds that “some evidence exists that the leader of the group was a confidential informant to the DA’s office” and that others may have had political connections that protected them from prosecution.

Indeed, in late 2015 federal investigators began looking into allegations of corruption involving the Suffolk County Police Department and Spota’s office. This came on the heels of a 2013 federal probe that led the Suffolk County police chief to plead guilty to federal civil rights and obstruction of justice charges.

But even absent the spectre of outright corruption, experts argue, there is generally little incentive for a prosecutor to reopen a case after a conviction has been overturned.

“To charge a different suspect in the crime is as clear an admission of initial wrongdoing as it’s possible to make,” says veteran defense and civil rights attorney Ron Kuby, who has represented numerous wrongfully convicted people.

“And prosecutors will [admit wrongdoing] only when they are absolutely forced to do so, by a court. And even then, they may acknowledge that there was misconduct, or that the evidence was insufficient or tainted, but rarely do they say, ‘we had the wrong guy and let the actual killer free X number of years.’ It makes them look really bad.”

Getting a prosecutor to go beyond an admission that mistakes may have been made to even consider a defendant’s actual innocence, let alone investigate other suspects, also can be an uphill battle, says Kuby, because prosecutors—like their counterparts on the defense side—tend to become deeply invested in their narrative of the crime.

And, he believes, many also become invested in a view of themselves as being “unfairly tarnished” by “shady defense attorneys” and “soft courts,” which makes it easier to justify inaction.

“It is easier to insist that you’re right and the defense lawyers and the judges were wrong because you don’t have to do any work… [and] can indulge in both self-pity and laziness. It’s a lot easier than going out and finding the actual killer.”

But even in instances where a prosecutor may be inclined to revisit a case, without unimpeachable evidence implicating the new suspect, mounting a successful new prosecution presents challenges.

According to Benjamin Schneider, a former Assistant District Attorney in Brooklyn, a vacated conviction “may doom a subsequent prosecution for the same offense, because the second defendant will offer the prosecution’s old, discredited evidence—and the fact of someone else’s conviction—to raise doubt about his own guilt.”

The prosecutor “will want to counter that,” Schneider says, by “arguing that reasonable doubt has not been raised by the old evidence, because the old evidence was tainted and the first defendant was set free after years in prison. But the jury will learn that this prosecutor’s office put an innocent person in prison, for this very crime, by using tainted evidence”—not exactly a ringing endorsement of the prosecutor’s credibility on the case.

All of this goes a long way toward explaining why, even when there is much to indicate the original defendant’s innocence and someone else’s guilt, new charges are brought so infrequently in the wake of a vacated conviction.

Where that leaves the loved ones of the victim, not to mention the public at large—which has an obvious stake in seeing the right people held accountable for violent crimes—is another question.

In the case of Emma Crapser’s murder, because the crime itself happened so long ago and Crapser was an elderly, childless woman, it has proved difficult to find anyone who might be an advocate for her today.

Indeed, the nephew who discovered the King sisters after their brutal assault by the same people who may well have been involved in Crapser’s murder months before, died in 1995, at the age of 74.

Of course, there is no guarantee Crapser’s relatives even would believe that Bozella was innocent or, if so, push to get the case reopened.

As Kuby notes, often “these families have at least grown accustomed to thinking the guilty person has been punished,” particularly when the DA’s office “continues to insist that they got the right person.”

It is not unusual, he says, for “the victim’s family and the DA’s office to engage in this synergy of denial that satisfies both their interests.”

But what about the interests of the communities where these crimes occurred?

By definition, those interests are supposed to be represented by the district attorney, the very same entity that, for whatever reasons, botched the case the first time around, quite possibly leaving the community more, rather than less, vulnerable to violence.

In such cases it is typically the DA’s more narrow interests—whether in avoiding revelations of incompetence or wrongdoing; prosecuting only cases they think they can win, or merely curbing the expansion of an already heavy workload—that win out.

And in the absence of a truly neutral body tasked with re-investigating these crimes, we may never learn who killed Emma Crapser, let alone be able to hold the right person accountable for her death—-or those of the many other murder victims whose cases, regardless of their legal status, remain in a kind of limbo in the real world, beyond the courthouse doors.

This is a condensed and slightly edited version of a story  published July 2 in the Daily Beast. Please click here for the complete version.  The reporting was supported by a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism. Additional support was provided by Hin Hon (Jamie) Wong through the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, as well as a John Jay/Quattrone Fellowship in Criminal Justice Reporting. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Murder on Hold: Rural Cops Need Help to Solve Rising Cold-Case Backlogs

The rising number of unresolved homicides nationwide taxes the resources of most police agencies. But the hardest challenges are faced by smaller departments. Here’s one way to address that.

In an earlier column for The Crime Report, I wrote that the number of unresolved or “cold case” homicides accumulating around the country represents a major public safety challenge.

Since 1980, the national total of such cases has grown to more than 240,000—and with present clearance rates of about 61%-62%, the number of unresolved homicides nationwide is increasing by 6,000 to 7,000 each year.

I suggested that one way to tackle the cold case issue is to form “dedicated” cold case teams.

But for smaller departments, that represents a significant challenge. A research project I completed in 2016, entitled “Cold Cases: An Exploratory Study of the Status of Unresolved Homicides in the USA.” found that of those agencies which reported having cold cases but do not have a cold case team, 83% of them were departments with less than 100 sworn officers.

That should concern all of us. The evidence suggests that resolving these cold cases saves lives and reduces crime by getting criminals off the streets.

In smaller jurisdictions, the public safety challenge represented by these cold cases is no less serious. But even with the best will in the world, the kind of multi-disciplinary team I suggested is often beyond their reach—because of lack of adequate staffing, lack of funding, or both.

More tax dollars allocated to crime labs would help turn around evidence more quickly, especially considering that it can take more than 12 months in some jurisdictions to process DNA evidence. But a smart way to tackle the larger manpower and funding issues felt most keenly in smaller jurisdictions would be forming regional cold case teams with surrounding agencies.

Police have successfully used “Multi-Agency Task Forcing” for decades to combat drugs, gangs, human trafficking, and locating fugitives. Why not use the same multi-agency task forcing concept to investigate cold cases?

Here are two ways such a task force can be structured, the first using combined police agencies themselves; and the second by working through District Attorneys’ offices.

The Police Agency Model

City and county agencies can easily form their own multi-agency cold case team where the burden of manpower and even funds can be evenly distributed and not bankrupt one single agency.

One department will have to take the lead, but the contributions should be equally distributed based on size of the agencies, number of cases involved and the availability of funding.   Consideration should also be given to including the State Police in cases where broader powers and jurisdictions are involved—or even to including a federal representative such as the FBI.

A good example of such a state-sponsored regional unit can be found in the Grand Rapids area of Michigan where the team is configured with multiple agencies and run by a Michigan State Police detective. According to the team leader, 18 murders have been solved through this process between 2007 and 2016—which is a satisfactory figure for a good working unit.

The District Attorney Model

A significant number of district attorneys (DA) in this country have legal jurisdiction over several counties that include multiple police agencies. Under the leadership of the DA, each police department in his/her jurisdiction can provide a representative to the cold case team to supplement the DA’s investigative staff.

Each team member brings with them his or her department’s own cold-case homicides. Consolidating them will maximize efforts.

This concept has already had successful roll-outs in places like Orange County, FL, and Hamilton County (Chattanooga), TN. Data available so far from the Hamilton County program shows that nine cold cases have been resolved in the last few years—again an impressive result.

If such regional teams didn’t exist, the likelihood of any cold cases begin resolved would be slim to none.

Can either the regional law enforcement or DA model work in other parts of the country?

I believe it can. Dedicated teams enable jurisdictions to attack the cold-case problem at both ends of the spectrum—hot cases and cold cases—at the same time. That’s as much of a priority for smaller jurisdictions as for larger ones.

It is time to be pro-active, and to stop chasing our tails reactively by putting out fires, from one hot homicide to another.

Working them from both ends will reduce the number coming in the door, and help create a better and safer environment for all— which will in turn restore confidence in local police.

The research makes clear that in jurisdictions with populations of less than 100,000 and/or departments with less than 100 sworn officers, there is very little effort to resolve the problem.

So why not consolidate efforts?

Any effort to resolve cold, unresolved homicides is worth applauding.  But, as we know from experience and research, without a “dedicated” team, properly trained in the nuances of cold case investigations and utilizing an organized process that maximizes effectiveness, the effort is counter-productive. Time is being wasted.

James M. Adcock

A colleague of mine who works on a non-dedicated cold case team related that about 70% of the cases he works on come either through news media inquiries or from a family’s request through the police command and staff.

Research tells us that this is the least likely method to bring about a successful resolution; yet we do it all the time.

It’s time to think differently.

James M. Adcock, PhD, a retired US Army CID agent, a former Chief Deputy Coroner of Investigations in Columbia, Richland County, SC, and a former Tenured Professor at the University of New Haven, has spent the past 19 years specializing in cold case homicides by training law enforcement, researching, and reviewing cold cases for agencies around the U.S. He has written two books one on Cold Case Investigations and the other on Death Investigation, both second editions. He also lectures on cold case investigations at the Dutch Police Academy, Apeldoorn, the Netherlands. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Why Solving Old Murders Can Help Prevent New Ones

Time is the most important resource for detectives examining the thousands of “cold cases” accumulating on police files since 1980. In the interest of public safety, mayors and police chiefs should make sure they get it, says a former deputy chief coroner.

When “hot” and “cold” cases are handled by the same detectives in a police department, both types of investigations suffer.

I wrote recently in The Crime Report that the number of cold-case homicides is rising across the country at the same time as violent crime is increasing—a parallel that is not just a coincidence.  According to data I compiled from various sources, the number of unsolved homicides since 1980 reached 230,355 by 2014—and indications are that the number has continued to rise through 2016.

That figure represents a threat to public safety, if you consider the possibility that even a small percentage of those un-caught murderers may find new victims.

Solving this crisis requires police agencies to create a “dedicated” unit that only handles issues related to their cold cases, and is not brought into a “hot” investigation when a new homicide occurs.

Why is that important? And, given the strain on many police budgets, can it be done?

The answer to the first question should be self-evident.  In newly reported homicides, the situation is evolving quickly as an investigation proceeds—especially if officers are required to address the immediate threat of a perpetrator who may present a clear and present danger.

The nuances of a cold case are different.  There’s plenty of time to carefully read and evaluate the documented evidence.  There isn’t the constant push from supervisors and mayors—not to mention the media and members of the victim’s family—to clear the case.

Moreover, many of the relationships of the actors in a cold-case investigation have changed, and that could produce more and better information.  There may also be physical evidence that hasn’t been evaluated in years.  There’s no hurry: This case isn’t going anywhere until you do something about it.

The only pressure that exists with cold-case investigations comes from either the investigator’s own personal standards, or a supervisor pushing for clearances.

Ideally, a cold-case unit should consist of at least two primary detectives, a supervisory detective, a crime analyst, a dedicated prosecutor,  and at least one person who can provide administrative support. My most recent research, presented in February at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (not yet published),  has shown that having a prosecutor assigned to the cold case unit significantly increases the chances of a proper resolution.

The problem with many newly formed cold-case units is that the two assigned detectives end up being the only members of the unit, and therefore spend excessive amounts of time doing administrative functions. If they had a little support, they could do what they do best: investigate.

What about the cost?  The fact is, a dedicated cold-case unit can help a department arrange its priorities in a more efficient way.

Many jurisdictions have no idea how many cold cases exist on their docket.  Identifying them and then organizing them according to a standard formula can help establish an efficient workflow. The most solvable ones should obviously lead the file.  One colleague has suggested putting female victims first because they present the highest return for the presence of physical evidence.

Conducting a “triage” of the files based first on the availability of physical evidence, then on those where suspects have been identified, followed by cases where much more work is needed to develop either suspects and/or evidence, is both cost-effective and time-effective.

Technology is changing rapidly.  That’s why physical evidence that has not been tested in the last three to five years should be re-tested.

Efficiency is further assured by proper supervision. Case progress needs to be reviewed regularly to ensure all viable leads are followed, and to prevent tunnel vision—such as becoming fixated on a person or theory unsupported by the evidence.

Without good supervisory oversight, mistakes are inevitable. I have seen cases where persons of interest were named in the case file as the perpetrator(s). Yet after ten years, they still had not been interviewed— not even once.

Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. Having another set of eyes is always helpful.  Research published in 2003 by Robert Keppel[1] on serial killer cases identified many examples of cases where the perpetrator’s name was most likely already in the case file during the first 30 days of the investigation.

Just as importantly, a separate cold-case unit ensures that it will not be held to the same rapid “clearance” standard by which other detectives are measured.

Due to the volume of the information in cold cases, which inevitably necessitates more time spent in reviewing, cold-case detectives need more latitude. They should not be expected to produce quick results.

That’s important to ensure sustainability. The fact that unsolved homicides that have been lingering in the file for years means it now takes a lot more patient and painstaking detective work to finally close them; supervisors should set more flexible standards, backed up by the documentation of every actions taken to solve the case.

When should police give up on a cold case?  Ideally, never.  But realistically, once all viable leads have been exhausted, it’s time to move on.  Not all homicides are solvable.

The ability of the cold case unit to be sustainable over time will go a long way towards getting killers off the streets and helping families move on.

James Adcock

And by implication, it will make a major contribution to public safety.

James M. Adcock, PhD, a retired US Army CID agent, and a former Chief Deputy Coroner of Investigations in Columbia, Richland County, SC, has spent the past 19 years specializing in cold case homicides by training law enforcement, researching, and reviewing cold cases for agencies around the U.S.  He has written two books one on Cold Case Investigations and the other on Death Investigation, both second editions.  In February, he  presented the results of a 15-month study on the status of unresolved homicides to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. He welcomes comments from readers.

[1] Keppel, Robert D. and William J. Birnes; 2003. The Psychology of Serial Killer Investigations.  Academic Press. San Diego, CA.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Getting Away With Murder: The National Crisis of Cold-Case Homicides

The murder rate in 2016 was up nationally. But that’s not the worst of it. The unsolved rate of homicides is also on the rise, and that means every year, there are more people who get away with murder than the year before.

The murder rate in 2016 was up nationally. But that’s not the worst of it. The unsolved rate of homicides is also on the rise.

That means every year, there are more people who get away with murder than the year before.

Between 1980 and 2014, according to data I compiled from the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and the Bureau’s Supplemental Homicide Reports, we accumulated well over 230,355 unresolved homicides.  Nationwide, police agencies on average clear—where an arrest is made—about 62% of the cases, which means that over one third of those cases remain unsolved.  Sadly, for 2016, there are indications this clearance number will drop below that percentage to its lowest in our nation’s history.

This isn’t justice. It is also not good for public safety.

Those who kill will continue to commit violent crimes, perhaps even more homicides, until they are arrested and convicted.  At the same time, relatives of the victims will continue to suffer as long as those who took their loves ones from them remain unidentified and un-caught—a population that is likely to grow.

That’s why authorities must make resolving these cold cases as much of a priority as solving the “hot” ones. If we are going to successfully address this problem, we cannot do just one without the other.

The national figures for unresolved homicides are alarming, but they look even more disturbing at the local level.  To take some random examples, listed by order of magnitude:

  • Chicago—9,757
  • Detroit—7,500
  • Washington DC—3,884
  • Philadelphia—3,392
  • Phoenix—2,136
  • St Louis—1,629
  • Memphis, TN—1,480
  • Birmingham, AL—1,364
  • Nashville—1,213

And these just reflect the figures for 1980-2014. The nationwide numbers continued to grow in 2015 and 2016.

Focusing on the problem of open homicide cases means that law enforcement leaders must first identify the unresolved homicides still on their books. That seems obvious, but in fact, many police chiefs have no idea how many cases exist in their jurisdiction.

Yes, you read that correctly. How can this be the case?

First, they are concentrating their efforts more on the present than the past. Smaller agencies might justifiably claim they are constrained by budget or staffing issues, but for the larger ones cold cases just do not have the same priority as more recent homicides.

In fact, avoiding the cold cases only makes their problems worse.

Second, they also must come to understand that by resolving cold cases they will in turn take bad actors off the streets who are committing other crimes. This is accomplished by creating a dedicated cold case team trained on how to properly conduct a cold case investigation.

A dedicated cold case team is defined as a team that does nothing else but investigate unresolved homicides.  The team members should not be introduced to—or brought in— to investigate the hot cases that occur on a regular basis.

Finally, the over-reliance on technology can actually impede quick resolution of these cases.  Research suggests that good, old-fashioned detective work can solve more cases than resorting to poring over physical evidence like DNA.

Cold case detectives tell me that if there isn’t a DNA “hit” or other evidence that comes back from their crime laboratory which is positive for the identification of a perpetrator, then the case is not pursued further.

Have our officials bought into the CSI effect? This type of approach is wrong and it’s making the matter worse.  Technology is no silver bullet. If it were, we would not be suffering the huge backlog of unresolved murders that we face today.

For the sake of justice, and the surviving family members, we should demand that our police agencies properly address this problem with dedicated cold case teams that have received specialized training into the nuances of investigating decades old homicides.

If they don’t, the unresolved homicides and an untold number of surviving victims will continue to increase by the thousands each year.  It’s a national crisis that can no longer be ignored.

James M. Adcock, PhD, a retired US Army CID agent, and a former Chief Deputy Coroner, has spent the past 19 years specializing in cold case homicides by training law enforcement, researching, and reviewing cold cases for agencies around the U.S.  He has written two books one on Cold Case Investigations and the other on Death Investigation, both second editions.  Last month, he presented the results of a 15-month study on the status of unresolved homicides to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. He welcomes comments from readers.

 

 

 

 

from http://thecrimereport.org

Douglas Shondel

Douglas James “DJ” Shondel II Undetermined (Suspicious Death) Douglas James Shondel II 21 YOA 1000 N. 16th St. Fairfield, Iowa Jefferson County Sunday, March 11, 2001  Jefferson County in Iowa Fairfield in Jefferson County   any things don’t add up in 21-year-old Douglas James Shondel II’s mysterious March 2001 death. Crystal Knight, Shondel’s 9-months-pregnant girlfriend at the […]

Douglas James “DJ” Shondel II Undetermined (Suspicious Death) Douglas James Shondel II 21 YOA 1000 N. 16th St. Fairfield, Iowa Jefferson County Sunday, March 11, 2001  Jefferson County in Iowa Fairfield in Jefferson County   any things don’t add up in 21-year-old Douglas James Shondel II’s mysterious March 2001 death. Crystal Knight, Shondel’s 9-months-pregnant girlfriend at the […]

Douglas Shondel

Douglas James “DJ” Shondel II Undetermined (Suspicious Death) Douglas James Shondel II 21 YOA 100 N. 16th St. Fairfield, Iowa Jefferson County Sunday, March 11, 2001 Jefferson County in Iowa Fairfield in Jefferson County   any things don’t add up in 21-year-old Douglas James Shondel II’s mysterious March 2001 death. Crystal Knight, Shondel’s 9-months-pregnant girlfriend […]

Douglas James “DJ” Shondel II Undetermined (Suspicious Death) Douglas James Shondel II 21 YOA 100 N. 16th St. Fairfield, Iowa Jefferson County Sunday, March 11, 2001 Jefferson County in Iowa Fairfield in Jefferson County   any things don’t add up in 21-year-old Douglas James Shondel II’s mysterious March 2001 death. Crystal Knight, Shondel’s 9-months-pregnant girlfriend […]

from https://iowacoldcases.org

7 Days, 14 Anniversaries

Cold case anniversaries are always tough. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the anniversary of a loved one’s unsolved homicide, a birthday he or she would have celebrated, or even the date the body may have been found. The most important lesson I’ve learned in my years writing about cold cases is that it doesn’t matter […]

Cold case anniversaries are always tough. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the anniversary of a loved one’s unsolved homicide, a birthday he or she would have celebrated, or even the date the body may have been found. The most important lesson I’ve learned in my years writing about cold cases is that it doesn’t matter […]

from https://iowacoldcases.org

7 Days, 14 Anniversaries

Cold case anniversaries are always tough. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the anniversary of a loved one’s unsolved homicide, a birthday he or she would have celebrated, or even the date the body may have been found. The most important lesson I’ve learned in my years writing about cold cases is that it doesn’t matter […]

Cold case anniversaries are always tough. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the anniversary of a loved one’s unsolved homicide, a birthday he or she would have celebrated, or even the date the body may have been found. The most important lesson I’ve learned in my years writing about cold cases is that it doesn’t matter […]

from https://iowacoldcases.org

5 Lost Birthdays

We all love celebrating birthdays, especially (these days) on Facebook. We send all sorts of good wishes, emojis of birthday cakes and big “Happy Birthday!” images, and tell our friends and loved ones we wish them another great or exciting or successful next year. When I last updated the ICC homepage, I couldn’t help but […]

We all love celebrating birthdays, especially (these days) on Facebook. We send all sorts of good wishes, emojis of birthday cakes and big “Happy Birthday!” images, and tell our friends and loved ones we wish them another great or exciting or successful next year. When I last updated the ICC homepage, I couldn’t help but […]

5 Lost Birthdays

We all love celebrating birthdays, especially (these days) on Facebook. We send all sorts of good wishes, emojis of birthday cakes and big “Happy Birthday!” images, and tell our friends and loved ones we wish them another great or exciting or successful next year. When I last updated the ICC homepage, I couldn’t help but […]

We all love celebrating birthdays, especially (these days) on Facebook. We send all sorts of good wishes, emojis of birthday cakes and big “Happy Birthday!” images, and tell our friends and loved ones we wish them another great or exciting or successful next year. When I last updated the ICC homepage, I couldn’t help but […]

from https://iowacoldcases.org