Brandon Baum

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Brandon Baum
Posted almost 3 years ago
Scott Fraser: Why eyewitnesses get it wrong
The allegation against the deputy is that he was a member of a group of "cowboy" cops/deputies known as the "Lynwood Vikings" who employed illegal tactics against the rampant gang problem. Mr. Carrillo was originally selected by one of the victims, Scott Turner, from a gang book (photos of gang members), and then the deputy reinforced the selection by suggesting to the Turner that Carrillo was one of the shooters for the Young Crowd gang. Thereafter, Turner reportedly told the other witnesses which photo he had selected, and they selected the same photo. Turner recanted his identification at trial, but the other witnesses held firm.
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Brandon Baum
Posted almost 3 years ago
Is circumstantial evidence enough for conviction?
Circumstantial evidence is typically more reliable than direct evidence. Unfortunately, most people don't understand what circumstantial evidence is. Circumstantial evidence is evidence from which another fact can be inferred. For instance, DNA evidence is circumstantial evidence. If a person's DNA is found at the crime scene (more precisely, if DNA matching a person's DNA profile is found at the crime scene) then we can infer that the person (or someone with his identical DNA) was present at some point. Fingerprints are the same -- they tell us that someone touched something. We can then infer that the person with those prints must have been present, or must have held the weapon, or some other fact in controversy. Most scientific evidence is circumstantial. In Mr. Fraser's example, information about the lighting at the scene would be circumstantial evidence, from which we can infer whether the eyewitnesses are likely to be reliable or unreliable. Direct evidence is evidence that directly proves a fact without the need to draw an inference of another fact. For example, eyewitness testimony is direct evidence. It is a person saying "that's the man who robbed me." No inference is required, you either trust it or you don't. Likewise, a confession is direct evidence. The evidence that convicted Mr. Carrillo in the case under discussion was direct evidence -- eyewitnesses. Had there been gunshot residue on Mr. Carrillo's hands shortly after the crime, or the correct make and caliber ammunition hidden under his mattress, that would have been circumstantial evidence. I realize the original question assumes that the term "circumstantial evidence" means some sort of weaker or less reliable evidence. But to be precise, I think the correct terminology is important.
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Brandon Baum
Posted almost 3 years ago
Scott Fraser: Why eyewitnesses get it wrong
In addition to his easily disproved assertion regarding the collapse of the tower, Mr. Fraser presents a misleading view of the underlying case. This was a gang shooting. The witnesses (members of the Neighborhood Crips or N-Hood gang) testified at trial that the car drove by them very slowly. As it drove by, the passenger was giving them hard looks, and was only 8-9 feet away. The witnesses testified that they recognized the passenger as Francisco Carrillo, a member of the opposing Young Crowd Loco gang. Some of them had attended the same schools as Mr. Carrillo. Others knew him from the neighborhood and had seen him "15-20" times. The car stopped several houses away, the passenger leaned out, yelled "F*** N-Hoods" and fired into the crowd. Donald Sarpy, Dameon Sarpy's father, was hit in the stomach and later died. The reason the trial judge granted a new trial in this case 21 years later was because the identifications were false, not just mistaken. It appears that the investigating detective, Deputy Ditsch, manipulated the entire investigation, including the identifications, in violation of Mr. Carrillo's rights. The witnesses now say that Deputy Ditsch instructed them to identify Mr. Carrillo, and that they were lying at trial. The judge didn't declare Mr. Carrillo innocent, though perhaps he should have. Mr. Carrillo is now suing Deputy Ditsch and the L.A. Sheriff's Office. So the takeaway from the case is not that humans can't be relied to make a positive identification, but instead that crooked or incompetent police work combined with lying witnesses can result in wrongful convictions. The question I have is, does that fact that Mr. Fraser omits these critical facts about the case and gets the Second Tower example so demonstrably wrong mean that his underlying point (that our memories are unreliable) is similarly wrong?