News 02.20.08

Fallout continues after Mississippi exoneration

Days after Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks were cleared in Mississippi, new questions are being raised about the forensic analysts and prosecutor who secured their convictions. Both men were wrongfully convicted of killing three-year-old girls in the early 1990s served 15 years behind bars before they were cleared. Brewer served several years on death row.

A discredited forensic dentist, Michael West, testified at both trials that marks on the victim’s bodies proved that Brooks and Brewer bit the victims – using only their top two teeth. In new statements published today by ABC News, Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld says that West’s actions in these cases was “criminal.”

West "deliberately fabricated evidence and conclusions which were not supported by the evidence, the data or the rules of science but … because they were consistent with the prosecutor's theory,'' said Peter Neufeld, co-director of the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal organization that examines questionable convictions and has won the exoneration of more than 200 inmates.

"If you fabricate evidence in a capital murder case, where you know that if the person's convicted they are going to be executed — as far as I'm concerned that's the crime of attempted murder.''

"He's a criminal," Neufeld said of West.

The two cases were investigated by the same Noxubee County, Mississippi detective and prosecuted by the same attorney, and the same medical examiner and forensic dentist appeared in each case.

This is the first time that Neufeld or his colleagues at the Innocence Project have ever called for the criminal prosecution of a scientist, Neufeld said.

"These are not cases of sloppy forensic science,'' Neufeld said on Monday. "This is intentional misconduct. It's fabricated evidence to send people to death row.''

ABC News also spoke to Noxubee County Forrest Allgood, who brought West into the case as a witness. Allgood prosecuted both Brewer and Brooks in the 1990s, and he fought Brewer’s exoneration for the last seven years.

Allgood said that during the trials of Brewer and Brooks in the early 1990s, West's reputation was intact.

"At the time he was sitting on top of the world,'' Allgood said. "He was lecturing in China. He was lecturing in England."

"Nobody wants to put the wrong guy in jail,'' Allgood concluded, though adding that he still believes that Brewer "had a hand'' in Jackson's abduction.


Read the full story here

. (ABC News, 02/20/08)

In fact, West had already been widely discrdited – and his membership in professional associations had been revoked – when Allgood called him to testify in Brewer’s trial. There is also no evidence that Brewer “had a hand” in the kidnapping, rape or murder of the three-year-old victim; instead, there is solid, irrefutable scientific evidence that he was not involved in the crime at all.


Read more about the Brewer and Brooks cases and reforms proposed by the Innocence Project to prevent future wrongful convictions in Mississippi

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