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"With Eye Toward Justice, Prof Takes Statistics to the Courtroom"

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Good Day.... FYI....



With Eye Toward Justice, Prof Takes Statistics to the Courtroom


http:// * no space * www.science.tamu.edu/articles/Spiegelman_USconstitution.jpg


Texas A&M statistician Cliff

Spiegelman applies his

professional expertise to make a

difference in the courtroom,

helping to provide justice for those

wrongly convicted of crimes on the

basis of flawed forensic science.


http:// * no space * www.science.tamu.edu/articles/Bullets_Spiegelman.jpg


Photograph of one of the two full

boxes of Mannlicher-Carcano

bullets -- the same type believed

to have been used in President

John F. Kennedy's assassination --

that Spiegelman's team bought

and he helped analyze for their

previous award-winning study.

Manufactured in 1954, the bullets

now are considered antiques,

Spiegelman says, mainly because

most surviving bullets have been

bought up by conspiracy buffs.

COLLEGE STATION -- Cliff Spiegelman keeps a thank-you note from a

client, along with a retainer for his professional services on that effort, a

$1 bill. That's more than the distinguished professor in the Texas A&M

University Department of Statistics often gets for his public service. But

his mission to improve forensic science in the criminal justice system isn't

about money.

"I couldn't sleep at night, knowing that I didn't stand up and do the right

thing," Spiegelman said from his office, where the United States

Constitution, in four-poster-sized frames, looms over his desk.

Spiegelman makes a few out-of-state trips a year to testify in cases in

which he believes the forensic science is flawed. He often works with the

Innocence Project, the national non-profit legal clinic dedicated to

exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing and other

post-verdict methods.

But before Spiegelman agrees to take on a trial-level case, he has a

prerequisite: He has to be convinced there's a chance the defendant is


"My conversations with the defense lawyers go something like this: If

your guy confessed to you and you believe him, please find someone

else," Spiegelman said.

Relying on his statistics expertise, Spiegelman was an ardent opponent of

a method of forensic testing called Comparative Bullet-Lead Analysis

(CBLA), which partly through his work the FBI discredited in 2007. The

abandoned technique, which used chemistry to link bullets from a crime

scene to those owned by a suspect, was first used following the 1963

assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Spiegelman admits it's often been a challenge bringing statistics to the

criminal justice system, where the concept of stare decisis -- the legal

reverence to precedence -- makes changes to the system difficult. But,

he says, it's a mistake not to embrace statistics in the courtroom.

"There's always the chance of error," he said. "So, for instance, if a hair

from the defendant is similar to one found at the crime scene, the issue

is, what is the frequency of hairs that are similar in the general

population? Ninety percent? Ten percent? One percent? The relevance of

the evidence is based in part on how common it is. And that's a

statistical issue."

Spiegelman's interest in statistical forensics was sparked in 2002, when,

because of his expertise in statistics in chemistry, he was appointed to

serve on a National Research Council (NRC) panel to study bullet lead

evidence. During the meetings, he would step out to inject himself in the

stomach with a high dose of interferon as part of a difficult

chemotherapy treatment.

Spiegelman's doctor gave him a 50 percent chance of living. Instead of

quitting the panel to focus on his treatment, Spiegelman immersed

himself in the work with the stark realization that it could be his last

professional act.

The treatment was a success, and while he overcame the threat to his

life, his passion for statistical forensics remained.

In 2008, Spiegelman was a co-recipient of a prestigious national award

for leading a team**** that published a paper finding that forensic

evidence used to rule out the presence of a second shooter in President

Kennedy's slaying was fundamentally flawed. He shared the American

Statistical Association's 2008 Statistics in Chemistry Award with Simon

Sheather, professor and head of the Texas A&M Department of

Statistics, William D. James, a researcher with the Texas A&M Center for

Chemical Characterization and Analysis (CCCA), and three other co-


( ****NOTE.... the entire team that published its "The Annals of Applied

Statistics" (2007) peers-reviewed research paper was Cliff Spiegelman,

William A. Tobin, William D. James, Simon J. Sheather, Stuart Wexler and

D. Max Roundhill.... The paper, "CHEMICAL AND FORENSIC ANALYSIS


is always available for you here.... http://arxiv.org/pdf/0712.2150.pdf )

The paper showed that the bullet fragments involved in the assassination

were not nearly as rare as previously thought, and that the likelihood

that all the fragments didn't come from the same batch of bullets also

was greater than previously thought. Bullet matches were found to be

much more likely than was indicated in testimony presented before the

House Select Committee on Assassinations, which was formed in 1976 to

investigate the assassinations of President Kennedy and Rev. Martin

Luther King Jr., as well as other shootings with similar national


Spiegelman doesn't take a stance on whether he believes presumed

assassin Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. That's beyond his scope of

examining the quality of the CBLA forensic science, he says. And though

he often receives letters because of his assassination research -- like

the one from a clergyman who says he delivered last rites to a

condemned mobster in Central America who said the mob was involved,

and the Aggie who claims to have found the second shooter's rifle in a

hotel room the day after the assassination -- he stresses that he's not a

Kennedy assassination buff.

But Spiegelman says the Kennedy case is the ultimate example: If the

science could be wrong in a case with intense public interest and with

the government having all the resources it needed, then it certainly

could -- and has often been -- wrong in much more low-profile cases.

Spiegelman says the discrediting of CBLA as an unreliable procedure was

the result of a years-long, multi-pronged effort. One of his co-authors on

the Kennedy paper -- William A. Tobin, a former chief metallurgist for the

FBI -- had been raising concerns about the technique since the 1990s,

leading to the convening of the NRC panel that studied the technique.

But it wasn't until national media such as CBS' 60 Minutes and The

Washington Post started reporting on CBLA in 2007 that the FBI officially

announced it would permanently discontinue use of the procedure.

"It takes a village to take down bad forensic science," Spiegelman said.

Spiegelman was a founder within the statistical sciences of the field of

chemometrics, the science of using data to extract information from

chemical systems. He also is a senior research scientist at the Texas

A&M Transportation Institute, the state of Texas' transportation

research agency. He joined the Texas A&M Department of Statistics in

1987 as an associate professor and became a distinguished professor in


For more about Texas A&M Statistics, visit http://www.stat.tamu.edu.

To learn more about the Innocence Project, go to http://www.innocenceproject.org.


Best Regards in Research,


Donald Roberdeau

U.S.S. John F. Kennedy, CV-67, plank walker

Sooner, or later, The Truth emerges Clearly

For your considerations....

Homepage: President KENNEDY "Men of Courage" speech, and Assassination Evidence, Witnesses, Suspects + Outstanding Researchers Discoveries and Considerations.... http://droberdeau.bl...ination_09.html

Dealey Plaza Map Detailing 11-22-63 Victims precise locations,

Witnesses, Films & Photos, Evidence, Suspected bullet trajectories, Important

information & Considerations, in One Convenient Resource.... http://img831.images...dated110110.gif

(updated map coming in 2012)

Visual Report: "The FirstBullet Impact Into President Kennedy: while JFK

was Hidden Under the 'magic-limbed-ricochet-tree' ".... http://img504.images...k1102308ms8.gif

Visual Report: Reality versus C.A.D. : the Real World, versus, Garbage-In, Garbage-Out.... http://img248.images...ealityvscad.gif

Discovery: "Very Close JFK Assassination Witness ROSEMARY WILLIS Zapruder Film Documented 2nd Headsnap: West, Ultrafast, and Directly Towards the Grassy Knoll".... http://educationforu...?showtopic=2394

T ogether

E veryone

A chieves

M ore

For the United States:



+ + + + + + + + + + + + +

"Better to light a candle, than, curse the darkness."

(Chinese proverb)

"If you want to get ‘even’ with someone, start first with the Ones who have been Good to You."

Edited by Don Roberdeau
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