Hennepin County Case No. 27-CR-15-21563
I was approached by the Public Defender’s Office of Hennepin County, Minnesota. They had a case wherein they needed a Firearms Expert and an Ammunition Expert.
In this case, the State had a shooting incident scene with 2 deceased persons and 5 each fired .22 Long Rifle cartridge cases. They also had, from a search of a residence of Mr. Jenkins, a handgun in .22 Long Rifle caliber. The State claimed that testing showed the 5 cartridge cases came from the confiscated handgun. The State charged Mr. Jenkins with murder.
This case relied upon the belief of the State in the myth of “ballistic fingerprinting”. The state had fallen hook, line and sinker for the IBIS System; the computer oriented data base system which purports to link all firearms to a central database, much like the FBI fingerprint database. It also purports to be able to link any recovered cartridge case or recovered bullet back to a specific individual firearm. The system originated in Canada and, after some 900 million dollars sent down the rabbit hole, had been abandoned. However, the computer whizzes who created the system have been selling the system around the world, including to US federal agencies and to local police departments.
Parallel with approaching myself, the Defender, Mr. Jordan Deckenbach, wrote a brilliant motion to exclude the State’s expert testimony. His theory was based on the statements of the State’s laboratory techician (the State labels them “firearms scientists”:: insert snort of derision here) that the cartridge cases matched and were fired from the subject firearm. However, she stated that she could not show the match, nor take photographs proving the match but, based on her experience, she “knew” a match when she saw it. Mr. Deckenbach’s Motion concentrated on the Constitutional aspect of these claims. Specifically, if the State cannot show the match in a photograph, then it violates the right of the Defendant to properly confront adverse witnesses and have a defense expert examine and contradict the State’s conclusion.
(Contact the DPA office, 612-348-4104, to get a copy of the Motion. It is entitled Memorandum in Support of Motion to Suppress Firearm Identification Evidence, Court File No. 27-CR-15-21563, dtd. 3 June, 2016.)
Mr. Deckenbach, and his assistant, Ms. Kyle, were not firearms knowledgeable at all but they smelled a skunk when confronted with the old “I know it but I can’t show it” argument of the laboratory technicians.
I did some preliminary work explaining the reality of firearms science and engineering to Mr. Deckenbach and Ms. Kyle. I prepared some visual aids, and traveled to Minneapolis for an evidentiary hearing. I spent the day before the hearing briefing Mr. Deckenbach and Ms. Kyle on the basics and science behind my conclusions and opinions. At the hearing, I sat in the gallery; armed with easel, charts, photographs and other visual aids; while legal arguments were presented. The State bitterly resisted having me testify, or even for me to be questioned by the Judge.
The legal argument dragged on into the afternoon. By the end of the day, the State stipulated that if the defense agreed to not call me to testify, the State would not enter the alleged death handgun into evidence, nor have the laboratory technician testify. Instead, the State would rely on eye witness testimony.
The trial started the following week and lasted some 9 days. The jury deliberated just less than 2 hours and returned a Not Guilty on all counts.