Friday, July 8, 2011

A Digital Forensics Innocence Project

Any digital data storage device can be used to...Image via WikipediaJoe Windish posted an article on the need for a computer forensics innocence project. For A Computer Forensics Innocence Project over at the TheModerate Voice.  What he advocates makes a lot of sense.

"What we need is a Computers Forensics version of the Innocence Project. We need experts who believe in the presumption of innocence and are willing to spend the time it takes to dig through logs, registry entries and hard drives to find exculpatory material when present. Prosecutors who look for – and presume – guilt do selective searches for data supporting guilt; those accused rarely have the resources to counter such selective evidence."

I agree with him in principal, considering that there are people who are charged with crimes who do not have the resources to hire experts.   And in cases where the client cannot meet the standard to be declared indigent and receive funding for an expert, I believe that we as experts in the field should be willing to take on a reasonable number of pro bono cases.

It is our policy at Guardian Digital Forensics to take on pro bono cases when we can spare the resources.  The Casey Anthony case was one of our pro bono cases.

I am a firm believer in the presumption of innocence, not matter how heinous the crime a person is accused of committing.

I can speak for the other examiners at our firm and state that we would gladly support the formation of an innocence project for digital forensics.  However, one firm cannot do it alone.  I invite my colleagues in the field to start a conversation on how we could make this a reality.  If you are interested in working on creating an innocence project for digital forensics, contact me and let's see where we can take this.
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4 comments:

  1. Larry,

    I appreciate this post and the sentiment. I believe everyone is entitled to a vigorous defense and I believe the presumption of innocence, such as it is, is one of the jewels of our justice system.

    Those interested in contributing to something like this may want to check out The Innocence Network (http://www.innocencenetwork.org/how-to-help). You can visit the members page (http://www.innocencenetwork.org/members) and contact the group(s) in your area and let them know your services are available pro-bono or at a reduced rate.

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  2. This is the way I operate on cases. Forensics to me is being a neutral fact finder. I understand clients/investigators/prosecutors are looking for something to support their case, but its an obligation of a forensic examiner to report what's there, not what the client want's to see. A lot of the work I do is explaining what I find and why it's there. Managing clients/investigators/prosecutors expectations is always a big part of it as well.

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  3. @Jonathan - If only it were that simple. Civil cases sometimes are. Criminal cases almost always are not. I, too, worked on the CA case. Surprisingly, I've worked other far less spectacular cases where the government put in more effort in their forensic investigation. I have my theories as to why but that's not where I wanted to go with this. The biggest hurdle facing any type of innocence project is something that really must be dealt with up front. Namely, the government's ability and readiness to throw ever more resources at a criminal case when a defense expert is named to it.

    I've experienced this first-hand, having been brought into cases at the 11th hour, cases that were on track for imminent trial, only to have prosecution seek continuance and suddenly name two or three additional computer experts to the case. A mountain of nonsensical discovery follows shortly thereafter; all of which must be addressed in addition to attempting my own analysis.

    It's difficult enough trying to make a decent living working criminal defense when these sorts of odds are stacked against you. Taking on strictly pro bono work when every for-profit case involves some degree of pro bono anyway is a bitter pill. Nonetheless, I believe in the principal and I'd really like to have a good conversation with other interested parties in how we might start something like this by first tackling the aforementioned issue (I'm thinking strategic relationships with existing advocacy groups).

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  4. @Jonathan - If only it were that simple. Civil cases sometimes are. Criminal cases almost always are not. I, too, worked on the CA case. Surprisingly, I've worked other far less spectacular cases where the government put in more effort in their forensic investigation. I have my theories as to why but that's not where I wanted to go with this. The biggest hurdle facing any type of innocence project is something that really must be dealt with up front. Namely, the government's ability and readiness to throw ever more resources at a criminal case when a defense expert is named to it.

    I've experienced this first-hand, having been brought into cases at the 11th hour, cases that were on track for imminent trial, only to have prosecution seek continuance and suddenly name two or three additional computer experts to the case. A mountain of nonsensical discovery follows shortly thereafter; all of which must be addressed in addition to attempting my own analysis.

    It's difficult enough making a living by working criminal defense when these sorts of odds are stacked against you. Taking on strictly pro bono work when every for-profit case, no matter how well managed, involves some degree of pro bono anyway is a bitter pill. Nonetheless, I believe in the necessity of an Innocence Project for technology crimes and I'd really like to have a good conversation with other interested parties. Starting something like this would, in my mind, requires tackling the aforementioned issue head-on (I'm thinking strategic relationships with existing advocacy groups).

    ReplyDelete

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