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False evidence, fabricated evidence, forged evidence or tainted evidence is information created or obtained illegally, to sway the verdict in a court case. Falsified evidence could be created by either side in a case (including the police/prosecution in a criminal case), or by someone sympathetic to either side. Misleading by suppressing evidence can also be considered a form of false evidence (by omission), however, in some cases, suppressed evidence is excluded because it cannot be proved the accused was aware of the items found or of their location. The analysis of evidence (forensic evidence) may also be forged if the person doing the forensic work finds it easier to fabricate evidence and test results than to perform the actual work involved. Parallel construction is a form of false evidence in which the evidence is truthful but its origins are untruthfully described, at times in order to avoid evidence being excluded as inadmissible due to unlawful means of procurement such as an unlawful search.
Apart from the desire for one side or another to succeed or fail in its case, the exact rationale for falsifying evidence can vary. Falsifying evidence to procure the conviction of those honestly believed guilty is considered a form of police corruption even though it is intended to (and may) result in the conviction of the guilty; however it may also reflect the incorrect prejudices of the falsifier, and it also tends to encourage corrupt police behavior generally. In the United Kingdom this is sometimes called 'Noble Cause Corruption'. A "throw down", i.e. the planting of a weapon at a crime scene might be used by the police to justify shooting the victim in self-defense, and avoid possible prosecution for manslaughter. However, the accused might have falsified some evidence, especially if not arrested immediately, or by having other access to a crime scene and related areas.
- Forged evidence - an item or information manufactured, or altered, to support some agenda, is not admissible in many courts, including U.S. criminal courts.
- Planted evidence - an item or information which has been moved, or planted at a scene, to seem related to the accused party, is not admissible in many courts, including U.S. criminal courts.
- Tainted evidence - information which has been obtained by illegal means or has been revealed (or traced) using evidence acquired by illegal search, and/or seizure, is called the "fruit of the poisonous tree" and is not admissible in many courts, including U.S. criminal courts.
- Parallel construction - tainted evidence, where the origin of the evidence is untruthfully represented, preventing discussion of whether it was legally obtained or not.
- Suppressed evidence - an item or information which a court judge has ruled as "inadmissible" is forbidden to be presented in a court case. Suppressed evidence might be excluded because it was found hidden or locked away in areas the accused could not be proven to know.
In some criminal cases, a person will be identified as a "person of interest" for a few days before arrest, allowing time to reveal suspicious actions (such as in recorded phone calls), or to attempt to falsify evidence before their arrest. A type of falsified evidence, used to acquit, would be faked sales receipts which indicated activities (with the accused) had occurred elsewhere during the time of the crime.
The Crewe murders
In June 1970 A Pukekawa, Lower Waikato, couple were killed and their bodies dumped in the Waikato River. Arthur Allan Thomas, a local farmer, was twice convicted of their murders but following massive publicity was later given a Royal Pardon.
Two bullet cases presented by senior policemen Hutton and Johnston were crucial evidence for the conviction. In 1980, after Thomas's pardon a Royal commission into the convictions concluded "Mr Hutton and Mr Johnston planted the shellcase, exhibit 350 in the Crewe garden, and that they did so to manufacture evidence that Mr Thomas's rifle had been used for the killings."
Killing of Bernard Whitehurst
In 1975, after the shooting death of Bernard Whitehurst by a Montgomery, Alabama police officer who mistakenly thought Whitehurst was the suspect in the robbery of a neighborhood grocery store, there was a police cover-up that included police officers planting a gun on him from the police evidence room. The coroner relied on police reports that Whitehurst was killed by a bullet fired through the chest. After an investigation by the local newspaper and local attorney Donald Watkins raised questions about the facts of the case, six months later, the District Attorney James Evans ordered the body to be exhumed and an autopsy to be performed. The results of the autopsy showed that Whitehurst had been shot in the back. The attempted cover-up led to the resignation of eight police officers, the city’s mayor, James Robinson and the Director of Public Safety, Ed Wright. No police officer was convicted of a crime. Forty years later, the Montgomery City Council passes a resolution that formally expressed regret for the shooting and cover-up.
Murder of Holly Skater
In 1992, 11-year-old Holly Staker was raped and murdered while babysitting in Waukegan, Illinois. A local man named Juan Rivera was convicted of the murder solely on the basis of a confession, one that he claimed was coerced. No physical evidence linked him to the crime scene and many details of his confession contradicted known evidence from the crime scene. DNA testing done in 2004 on semen taken from the crime scene ruled out Rivera as the source, however, the prosecution argued that the semen sample came from previous consensual sex with another man. Rivera was convicted again. His conviction was overturned by the appellate court who took the unusual step of barring prosecutors from retrying Rivera and he was released.
After his release, Rivera's attorneys asked the courts to order genetic testing on a piece of evidence the prosecution had tried to use at his trial in 1993. Rivera's shoes had blood on them, which the prosecution argued belonged to Holly. The prosecution withdrew them prior to his first trial when it was discovered that the shoes were not available for sale anywhere in the United States until after the murder. In 2015, Juan's attorney sought further forensic testing on the shoes. DNA analysis indicated that the blood indeed belonged to Holly, but also contained another genetic sample; one that matched the semen sample. Rivera's defense team insists that this is proof not only that the blood was planted, but that the real killer's DNA was inadvertently planted as well. The DNA has yet to be matched to an individual, but has been linked to DNA from another home invasion and murder. The man convicted of that crime also claims to be wrongfully convicted.
New York State Police Troop C scandal
In the New York State Police Troop C scandal of 1993, Craig D. Harvey, a New York State Police trooper, was charged with fabricating evidence. Harvey admitted he and another trooper lifted fingerprints from items the suspect, John Spencer, touched while in Troop C headquarters during booking. He attached the fingerprints to evidence cards and later claimed that he had pulled the fingerprints from the scene of the murder. The forged evidence was used during trial and John Spencer was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison.
After the truth came out, it was discovered that they had been falsifying evidence in cases for many years. At least three officers were convicted. Every case the department had been involved in had to be reinvestigated.
In the 1990s, the fingerprint, DNA, and explosive units of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Laboratory had written reports confirming local police department theories without actually performing the work.
Such laws and regulatory procedures stipulating the conditions under which evidence can be handled and manipulated fall under a body of due process statues called chain of custody rules. It is crucial for law enforcement agencies to scrupulously collect, handle and transfer evidence in order to avoid its falsification. In most jurisdictions, chain of evidence rules require that the transfer of criminal evidence be handled by as few persons as possible. To prevent error or improper tampering, chain of evidence rules also stipulate that those authorized to experiment with collected evidence document the nature, time, date and duration of their handling.
Iraq and Afghanistan Wars
In the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers have been known to place weapons on or near a slain individual to make that person appear to be an enemy combatant or insurgent. Alternatively, a drop weapon or other item is left in the open; any individual who picks it up may be fired upon; a process known as baiting.
In 2008, three United States Army soldiers were found guilty of planting evidence in this way; one of them, Sgt. Evan Vela, was also sentenced to a 10-year prison term for murder of an unarmed Iraqi.
A military court found that on the 27th of April, 2007, Specialist Jorge Sandoval, shot an Iraqi man, on the order of Staff Sgt. Michael Hensley. The two men then placed a spool of wire into the pocket of the dead man, who had been cutting grass with a rusty sickle. Hensley and Sandoval were charged with murder, of which they were acquitted, and with planting evidence, of which they were found guilty.
The Asymmetric Warfare Group is said by Captain Didier to have sent boxes of the kind normally used to hold ammunition filled with "drop items" to his unit, the 1st Battalion 501st Infantry Regiment in order "to disrupt the AIF (Anti-Iraqi Forces) attempts at harming coalition forces and give us the upper hand in a fight."
The Independent newspaper quoted a spokesperson for the US military as saying: "There are no classified programs that authorise the murder of local nationals and the use of 'drop weapons' to make killings appear legally justified."
- False accusations
- False arrest
- Kompromat § History
- Miscarriage of justice
- Parallel construction
- Surveillance abuse
- 2015 Ninoy Aquino International Airport bullet planting scandal
- Barış Pehlivan
- Howland will forgery trial
- List of wrongful convictions in the United States
- M62 Coach Bombing
- "689 F. 2d 1220 - Webster v. City of Houston". openjurist.org. 28 October 1982. paragraph 29. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
- Taylor, Robert Linsay; John Bowie Gorden; Allen Howard Johnston (1980). "Report of the Royal Commission to inquire into the Circumstances of the Convictions of Arthur Allan Thomas for the Murders of David Harvey screwed Jeanette Lenore Crewe" (PDF). Book. NZ Government Printer. p. 125. Retrieved 2009-06-11.
- MacPherson, Myra (1977-04-03). "Alabama's 'Watergate'". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-11-21.
- "Montgomery erects second marker honoring Bernard Whitehurst". The Montgomery Advertiser. Retrieved 2016-11-21.
- Times, Special To The New York (1977-02-06). "TOP POLICE OFFICER IN MONTGOMERY QUITS". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-11-21.
- "City of Montgomery unveils marker recognizing police cover-up in 1975 shooting death of Bernard Whitehurst; family still wants apology (photos)". AL.com. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
- "People V. Rivera". Appellate Court of Illinois, Second District. December 9, 2011.
- Mills, Steve (December 10, 2014). "Attorneys: Police planted blood on Juan Rivera's shoes in Waukegan slaying". Chicago Tribune.
- Hinkel, Dan; Mills, Steve (January 30, 2015). "Judge orders tests for alleged evidence tampering in Juan Rivera case". Chicago Tribune.
- Moran, Dan (May 5, 2015). "Man freed after 20 years in prison for murder gets $7.5 million from Waukegan". The Chicago Tribune.
- Meincke, Paul (March 20, 2015). "JUAN RIVERA WINS LARGEST WRONGFUL CONVICTION SETTLEMENT IN U.S. HISTORY". ABC 7.
- "Police Investigation Supervisor Admits Faking Fingerprints". New York Times. July 30, 1993. Retrieved 2007-06-21.
In a widening scandal that has rocked the New York State Police, a lieutenant who supervised criminal investigations in seven upstate counties admitted yesterday that he had faked fingerprint evidence in three cases. The lieutenant, Craig D. Harvey, also said in court in Delhi, N.Y., that he had been assisted in fabricating evidence by another lieutenant, Patrick O'Hara, who works out of state police headquarters in Albany supervising drug and organized-crime investigations.
- Weapons left by US troops 'used as bait to kill Iraqis', Kim Sengupta, Baghdad, The Independent, 25 September 2007
- U.S. Aims To Lure Insurgents With 'Bait', Washington Post
- U.S. Army Snipers Accused of 'Baiting' Iraqi Insurgents, Fox News September 25, 2007 "sworn statements and testimony in the cases of two other accused Ranger snipers indicate that the Army has a classified program that encourages snipers to "bait" potential targets and then kill whoever takes the bait", "The transcript of a court hearing for two of the three accused snipers makes several references to the existence of a classified "baiting" program"
- Murder or Exhaustion in Iraq?, Time
- Stark writes to Defense Secretary Gates to express alarm at military "Baiting" of Iraqis
- U.S. Snipers Accused of 'Baiting' Iraqis, Pauline Jelinek and Robert Burns, The Associated Press, September 25, 2007
- National Law Journal; October 9, 1995; "Faked Evidence Becomes Real Problem-From Fingerprints to Photos to Computer Data, Lawyers are Learning to be Vigilant"
- New York Times; November 22, 1992, Sunday; "Ripples of a Pathologist's Misconduct In Graves and Courts of West Texas. The prairie graveyards of West Texas are giving mute testimony to the misdeeds of a circuit-riding pathologist who left a trail of faked autopsies, botched blood samples and missing organs from the Panhandle to the Rio Grande. According to defense lawyers' estimates, as many as 20 capital murder cases ..."
- John F. Kelly and Phillip K. Wearne; Tainting Evidence: Inside The Scandals At The FBI Crime Lab