The Schuster Institute
for Investigative Journalism
ex G 20 on eo 17 er r g at e ed !
George Perrot leaves Bristol County Superior Court with his mother, Beverly Garrant. | JONATHAN WIGGS/GLOBE STAFF
George Perrotâ€™s quest for justice
Perrot walks free Feb. 10, 2016, after 30 years in prison based largely on flawed FBI forensic science that would be inadmissible in court today. He was exonerated Oct. 18, 2017.
A Schuster Institute wrongful conviction investigation
Founding Director Florence Graves Advisory Board Chairs: Elaine Schuster Gerald Schuster
Members: Cynthia Berenson Katie Ford Michele Kessler Jonathan Lavine Julia Ormond George Packer Mariane Pearl Alexandra Schuster Tom Shadyac Senior Fellows Lisa Armstrong David Black Michael Blanding Scott Carney Michele Chabin Karen Coates Becky Cooper Madeline Drexler Judy Foreman Jan Goodwin E.J. Graff Lottie Joiner Brooke Kroeger Jaeah Lee Phillip Martin Linda Matchan Erin Siegal McIntyre Maryn McKenna Michael McLeod Tracie McMillan Jannelle Nanos Sonia Paul Jerry Redfern Maria Stenzel Stacy Thacker James Verini Seth Freed Wessler Hella Winston
Senior Justice Fellows Lara Bazelon Elaine Murphy
Visiting Research Scholars Diane Carr Robert A. DeNoble Marian Glaser Lisa Miller Shanlai Shangguan Kenneth Rosen Nina Gilden Seavey
Staff Lisa Button, Managing Editor Deirdre Bannon, Associate Editor Tate Herbert, Assistant Editor Leslie Ardison, Chief Financial Analyst Sybil Schlesinger, Executive Assistant
The Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University The Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University is a collaborative, investigative newsroom focusing on social justice and human rights issues as well as government accountability and transparency. We dive into systemic problems afflicting those who are poor, voiceless, or forgotten—with an eye toward informing policymakers and public debate. Launched in 2004 by Florence Graves to help fill the void in high-quality public interest and investigative journalism, the Institute was the nation’s first independent, investigative reporting center based at a university. In recent years our reporting has led to changes in practices by the U.S. State Department, the government of New Zealand, and major corporations such as Boeing, Unilever, Cargill and P&G. Our newsroom at Brandeis University is the hub for full-time staff and research assistants who support the work of more than 20 Schuster Institute Fellows located in New England and around the country, covering regional and national stories as well as global stories with U.S. ties. Subject areas include human trafficking and modern-day slavery; criminal justice; race and justice; food and health; government and corporate wrongdoing; environmental justice; gender and justice (including sexual harassment of teens and fraud in international adoption to the U.S.); political and social justice; and border issues and immigration.
The Justice Brandeis Law Project The Justice Brandeis Law Project was established at the Schuster Institute to make a contribution to resolving the untenable ethical, civil and human rights issues created by wrongful convictions and to shine a light on systemic flaws in the criminal justice system. Our approach is different from most wrongful conviction projects. It is one of the few projects around the country that uses journalistic methods as a primary tool. Although we consult with attorneys and academic experts in criminal justice, we depend on investigative reporting techniques to probe cases of likely wrongful conviction because, often, there is no DNA to test. Using time- and resource-intensive techniques, we dig into the facts of such cases, including obtaining and examining reams of court documents and police records; reconstructing the crime scene and timeline; and interviewing or re-interviewing witnesses. Brandeis University students we hire form an integral part of our work. The cases we choose involve the type of problems that affect defendants around the country to highlight issues as well as individuals. George Perrot’s case is the second investigation at the Schuster Institute to result in a conviction being overturned and a man being released from prison. In June 2015, Angel Echavarría was exonerated. The Institute is investigating other important and promising cases.
HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT OUR WORK The Institute was founded in 2004 with a generous gift from Elaine and Gerald Schuster. To learn more about how to support efforts like these or to get more involved, please visit our websites, brandeis.edu/investigate and WeInvestigate.org, or email email@example.com. Contact: Founding Director Florence Graves, firstname.lastname@example.org, (781) 736-4249 @SchusterInst 415 South Street • Waltham, MA 02454
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George Perrot vows to honor the terms of his release on his own recognizance.
Convicted & Freed by a Single Hair “I do, your honor.” These four words, the first spoken in open court by George D. Perrot at the end of a 30-year ordeal in prison, confirmed his oath to Judge Robert J. Kane to honor the terms of release on his own recognizance. Kane had overturned Perrot’s conviction for a 1985 rape and burglary several weeks earlier. “I wish you, Mr. Perrot, the best of luck,” Kane said. As the judge walked out of the courtroom, Perrot turned to hug his team of pro bono attorneys at the Feb. 10, 2016, bail hearing in the historic New Bedford courthouse. Supporters in the gallery, including Perrot’s mother and stepfather and Schuster Institute staff and student researchers, began to applaud. The bailiff removed Perrot’s shackles and he left the courtroom in gray prison garb, returning minutes later wearing a plaid shirt, sweatpants and a big smile. The smile was a sign of new hope after his conviction was overturned for the third time in 26 years. Perrot, 48, had spent most of his life so far trying to get the courts to recognize the junk hair science and prosecutorial misconduct that were largely responsible for putting him in prison as a teenager. Finally, after much time in solitary confinement, a botched back surgery, and surviving what he described as an “extremely violent” prison, Perrot was going home. “It really hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Perrot. “I just want to thank Judge Kane, and I want to thank my legal team and my supporters,” he said as he guided his mother down the courthouse steps. continues on p. 7
Ultimately, it will be up to George Perrot. It is he who will need to prepare himself for the confounding difficulties that lay in front of him. —Judge Robert J. Kane
1984-1985 A series of rapes of elderly women occurs over an 18-month period in Sixteen Acres neighborhood in Springfield, MA. 1985 Nov. 30 Emily Lichwala’s house in Springfield is broken into around 3 a.m. Lichwala does not see who breaks in but runs to a neighbor’s house to call police. Just after 4 a.m., a man breaks into the home of Mary Prekop, 78, about a mile away, and assaults and rapes her. Once her attacker leaves, she calls police and is taken to the hospital. She describes her attacker as a clean-shaven man with short, black wavy hair that did not go past his neck. Dec. 7 George Perrot, 17, breaks into the home of Joseph McNabb and later snatches a woman’s purse outside a Denny’s restaurant in the early hours of the morning. Soon after, Perrot is arrested and taken to the Detective Bureau for questioning. At 5 a.m., Sgt. Thomas Kelly and Det. Thomas Jarvis question Perrot about the purse snatching, and he admits to that and the breakin at McNabb’s. Jarvis questions Perrot three times throughout the day about the events of Nov. 30. Perrot, who had a mustache and long hair, is put in a lineup with six other men who have long hair and mustaches, despite the clean-cut characteristics described by Prekop. McNabb identifies Perrot. Prekop and Lichwala are unable to identify anyone. A rape victim from a previous assault is brought in and is also unable to identify anyone. Dec. 16 A Hampden County grand jury indicts Perrot for armed robbery, indecent assault and battery, aggravated rape, burglary and assault in a dwelling and breaking and entering with intent to commit a felony. 1987 April 1 ADA Francis Bloom drives blood and hair samples taken from Perrot a day earlier to the FBI in Washington. Prekop’s blood samples are mailed to the FBI a month later. Dec. 8 Jury trial begins. Perrot’s state-appointed attorney James Hammerschmith declines to give an opening statement. Dec. 14 The jury finds Perrot guilty on all charges. He’s sentenced to continues on p. 6
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Juan de Vojníkov
Untangling Junk Hair Science
A human black hair under a light microscope.
How flawed FBI forensics convicted George Perrot
The FBI has known since the 1970s when it began using microscopic hair analysis as a forensic “science” method that it can’t positively identify a specific person (as DNA testing can) and that any statements made by FBI agents implying that they can are not valid.
decades by scientists. But it took outrage over three consecutive DNA exonerations in Washington D.C. to break the FBI’s decades-long silence. Finally, in 2012, under pressure from the legal community, the FBI agreed to systematically review its agents’ hair evidence testimony in thousands of cases. The FBI That’s because microscopic hair analymicroscopy publicly acknowledged for the first time sis, which involves an examiner looking that its agents had often given seriously [mahy-kros-kuh-pee] at hairs under a microscope, is based flawed, exaggerated testimony that on subjective visual comparison, which 1. the use of the microscope had led to defendants being wrongfully is not an objective scientific method, 2. microscopic investigation convicted. In 2015, preliminary results of according to a landmark 2009 National their review showed that examiners had Academy of Sciences report. To date, given erroneous testimony in 96% of there are no reliable statistics on the cases when they inculpated a defendant. distribution of hair characteristics throughout the population—something necessary to assign even the vaguest likelihood that a hair belongs to a suspect.
By 2000, DNA analysis of hair evidence had become the standard at the FBI and hair microscopy took a back seat. Before that time, many FBI hair examiners still attempted to give their conclusions value by touting their expertise and training, and saying that while they couldn’t be certain a given hair belonged to an individual, it was “rare” or “extremely unlikely” that they would be wrong. Some even declared an outright “match.” This FBI methodology has been criticized over several
George Perrot’s was the first case to be overturned based on the FBI review’s findings of significant errors in its agent’s testimony. Judge Robert Kane wrote in his 2016 decision that FBI agent Wayne Oakes’s testimony in Perrot’s case exceeded the limits of science and ought not to have been admitted. The decision is “upsetting a century of precedent,” Chris Fabricant, director of strategic litigation for the Innocence Project and one of Perrot’s attorneys, told the Boston Globe. The ruling is expected to influence jurists across the country looking at hundreds, possibly thousands, of similar cases.
DID YOU KNOW? • The FBI trained at least several hundred state and local hair examiners over 25 years. • Massachusetts, Texas, North Carolina, New York and Iowa are among several states conducting their own reviews of microscopic hair analysis performed at state or local crime labs. • On Dec. 7, 2000, Claude Jones, 60, was executed for a 1989 Texas murder he always said he did not commit. The main evidence against him was a hair fragment that state analyst Stephen Robertson said came from Jones, and the testimony of an alleged accomplice. His last-minute request to stay the execution so that the hair could be tested for DNA was not passed on to then- Governor George W. Bush. In 2010, DNA testing revealed the hair was not Jones’. Sources: FBI (1.usa.gov/1NaXfmH), Washington Post (wapo.st/1JegjMl), and Independent Record (bit.ly/1TTyPUV)
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What the FBI Knew & When They Knew It
Early 1970s: The FBI Laboratory begins using hair microscopy in forensic investigations.
The Ultimate Penalty
1974: The scientific community recognizes that visual hair comparisons are so subjective that different examiners can reach varying conclusions about the same hair.
In 2009 the National Academy of Sciences concluded the practice of analyzing hair with a microscope to identify a person is not based on the scientific method.
1984: The FBI acknowledges that microscopic hair analysis cannot be used for purposes of positive identification, yet continues to use the method. 1996-2004: A Dept. of Justice task force investigates claims by FBI scientist and whistleblower Frederic Whitehurst, who alleges sloppy forensics and unethical – even illegal – practices by examiners across forensic disciplines at the lab. The investigation looks for potential wrongful convictions based on flawed forensics. Despite a promise by the FBI in 1997 that “when it is done, we will give a full accounting of our findings,” those findings were not publicly released until 2014. A report issued that year by the Office of the Inspector General found that the DOJ did not properly notify defendants in cases where they found flaws. Some defendants were executed or died in prison before the task force reviewed their cases and one was exonerated (see sidebar). 2000: DNA testing of hair evidence becomes standard practice at the FBI lab. 2009: The National Academy of Sciences releases its report “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward,” which roundly criticizes many specific forensic methods, including hair microscopy, as scientifically unfounded. Out of 14 forensic methods reviewed, only DNA testing was found to be scientifically sound. July 10, 2012: Spurred into action by a number of Washington, D.C. exonerations and the 2009 NAS report, the FBI and DOJ initiate a review of about 21,000 cases undertaken by FBI hair examiners from 1972 to 1999 — the largest post-conviction review ever done by the FBI. The pool is narrowed to nearly 3,000 cases in which examiners “may have submitted reports or testified in trials” about their analyses. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Innocence Project join the effort in 2014. April 20, 2015: The partners of the current review issue a joint statement acknowledging that 26 of 28 FBI hair examiners gave flawed testimony or reports in at least 90 percent of 500 criminal cases dating back to 1972. Of these, 35 defendants were sentenced to death and 14 of those have already been executed or died in prison. As of September, the FBI said it had completed reviews of 1,537 cases but, as of January 2016, had been unable to review an additional 389 cases because prosecutors had not responded to requests for information. January 26, 2016: George Perrot is granted a new trial on the basis of overstated forensic hair analysis by FBI agent Wayne Oakes. This is the first time a U.S. court has overturned a conviction based solely on flawed microscopic hair analysis testimony.
Nearly 3,000 cases have been flagged for review in a national audit of FBI hair microscopy cases in which FBI hair analysts “may have submitted reports or testified in trials.” About two thirds of those cases had been reviewed as of February. Here are facts about the capital cases: • 33 out of 35 capital cases were found to contain errors. • 9 of the 35 defendants had been executed • 5 had died on death row • 10 states were found to have defendants sentenced to death • 26 out of 28 hair examiners provided erroneous testimony or lab reports Source: FBI. Preliminary results, from March 2015. http://1.usa.gov/1NaXfmH
DNA: THE ONLY RELIABLE FORENSIC SCIENCE In 2009 the National Academy of Science reviewed and critiqued forensic science methods. In its groundbreaking report, the NAS concluded that DNA analysis when done properly is the only reliable method. The list of other forensic methods below, which continue to be used in criminal investigations and at trial, are not based on the scientific method, the NAS found. Pattern/experience evidence o Fingerprints o Firearms examination o Toolmarks o Bite marks o Impressions (tires, footwear) o Bloodstain pattern analysis o Handwriting
o Hair Analytical evidence o Coatings (e.g., paint) o Chemicals (including drugs) o Materials (including fibers) o Fluids o Serology Fire and explosive analysis
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two life terms for aggravated rape and armed burglary, and 18-25 years for armed robbery and indecent assault and battery on an adult. 1990 July 5 The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court grants Perrot a new trial, due to the trial judge’s error in allowing an improperly obtained purse into evidence. Oct. 25 Sgt. Kelly submits a report stating that Bloom created a document with his and Perrot’s forged signatures after Perrot’s conviction in an attempt to elicit confessions to another rape from two of Perrot’s friends. 1991 Feb. 25 A Grand Jury hearing is held on a motion to dismiss based on the fabricated confession. March 19 Motion to dismiss for prosecutorial misconduct is denied. 1992 Jan. 6 Second jury trial begins; prosecution led by Brett Vottero; Perrot defended by John Ferrara. Jan. 9 Perrot is found guilty on all charges and sentenced to two concurrent life sentences, one for aggravated rape, the other for burglary and assault on an adult. On robbery, burglary and indecent assault and battery charges, he’s sentenced to 33–45 years, to be served concurrently with the life sentences. 1993 Dec. 16 The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts publicly censures Bloom for creating and presenting a false confession. 1995 | May 3 The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirms Perrot’s convictions on appeal. 2000 | April 25 Perrot files a motion for new trial. 2001 | Sept. 10 Superior Court Judge Lawrence Wernick orders a new trial, citing his concern about the effects of Vottero’s “improper and prejudicial” statements in his closing arguments. 2003 | May 12 The Massachusetts Appeals Court reverses Wernick’s new trial order. 2006 – 2009 In 2006 Perrot petitions for and is denied in 2007 funds to conduct DNA testing. In October 2008, Perrot again moves to preserve the physical evidence in his case: a pair of gloves, a bed sheet, and a single hair. A Springfield policeman who in
cont. on p. 8
George Perrot, age 4.
At age 10, Perrot played on a peewee football team in Springfield.
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The final hurdle in securing his freedom was overcome on Oct. 18, almost two years later, when Hampden County prosecutors dropped their appeal of Kane’s decision and said they would not retry Perrot. The Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism began investigating Perrot’s case in 2011. By that time, Perrot had exhausted many avenues of appeal and had been denied three motions he filed for a new trial. He said his many requests to organizations committed to reviewing wrongful convictions had been turned down and that he received his first “yes” from the Schuster Institute. Since then, staff and student researchers have probed inconsistencies and problems, including faulty forensic science, lost and mismanaged evidence, and a victim who insisted Perrot was not her attacker. Several years later, a team of pro bono attorneys gathered to represent Perrot: Christopher Walsh, Kirsten Mayer and Nicholas Perros from Ropes & Gray; Lisa Kavanaugh, director of the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services Innocence Program; and Chris Fabricant, director of strategic litigation at the Innocence Project. Kane wrote in his 79-page decision overturning the conviction that “justice may not have been done” in the case, citing newly available evidence that the “enormously influential” testimony of FBI hair analyst Wayne Oakes in Perrot’s trial was not supported by science and should not have been admitted. This new evidence included a landmark 2009 report from the National Academy of Sciences debunking hair microscopy as a junk science, and the results of an FBI review that began in 2012 of hair microscopy testimony by FBI agents in thousands of cases across the country. Perrot’s was one of those cases, and in 2014 he received a letter from the FBI admitting to specific, significant errors in Oakes’s trial testimony. The single hair that helped convict him was declared lost before it could continues on next page
left: George Perrot reacts emotionally to the news that he will be freed on his own recognizance. | Jonathan Wiggs, The Boston Globe
Debee Tlumacki, Boston Globe
Beverly and Robert Garrant, Perrot’s mother and stepfather, attend his evidentiary hearing Sept. 11, 2015.
Debee Tlumacki, Boston Globe
As one of his lawyers makes a strong argument at the evidentiary hearing, Perrot turns to smile at his mother.
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2004 searched for the sexual assault kit taken in the case was reportedly unable to find it. Perrot’s attorney, Greg Schubert, files two separate affidavits, one in 2007 and a second in 2009, stating that he viewed Perrot’s requested evidence and confirmed it was in custody of Hampden County Superior Court. A Springfield police officer says he is unable to locate the requested evidence. Perrot’s motion to preserve the physical evidence is denied in March 2009. 2008 June 6 Perrot, representing himself, files a motion for a new trial. Aug. 21 Motion denied. 2012 May 16 Perrot files a motion under the new DNA Access Act to test the physical evidence in his case, and for the court to order the DA’s office to search for missing evidence. Sept. 21 The court allows Perrot’s motion to test the gloves and the bed sheet, but denies his request for the state to conduct a further search for physical evidence, including the hair and a sexual assault kit. 2013 | June 27 The FBI Microscopic Hair Comparison Analysis Review Team examines FBI analyst Wayne Oakes’ lab reports and testimony in the case and finds that the testimony “exceed(ed) the limits of science” and included 3 types of errors. 2014 April 24 Bode Technology communicates that DNA tests failed to produce measurable levels of DNA from remaining bloodstains found on the sheet. Because of the low likelihood of obtaining DNA results in these circumstances, Perrot decides not to move forward with DNA testing on these items at this time. July Motion for a new trial filed. Aug. 5 The FBI notifies the Innocence Project and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers that its review of Perrot’s case found errors and asks them to respond. Aug. 13 The Innocence Project and NACDL, having identified more errors in Perrot’s case through their independent review, send their findings back to the FBI. Oct. 16 The FBI sends Perrot and Hampden County DA James Orenstein the results of the joint review of Perrot’s case. 2015 cont. on p.10
Judge Robert J. Kane reads aloud his decision to free George Perrot on his own recognizance at the Feb. 10, 2016 bail hearing. GEORGE’S STORY continued from previous page
be tested for DNA. In January, his became the first new trial ordered based on new evidence about hair microscopy itself. “The fact that George has served three decades in prison for a rape that the 78-year-old victim, Mary Prekop, repeatedly told authorities he didn’t commit is beyond tragic,” said Florence Graves, founding director of the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism. “Moreover, George’s case It is disappointing although not showcases the devastating surprising. The Commonwealth, impact of a criminal justice despite overwhelming evidence system that takes decades to of my innocence and their own acknowledge that thousands of people have been found guilty misconduct, continue to waste based on deeply flawed forensic taxpayer dollars and torture me. science. I believe Judge Kane’s —George Perrot decision will give others still in prison real hope.”
Days after Perrot’s 2016 release, prosecutors filed a notice of appeal, thumbing their noses at a warning from Judge Kane that his decision was ironclad. “Words can’t express how grateful I am for the team of individuals who made this exoneration happen. The people who stuck by me when I was at my lowest and never quit,” Perrot said after prosecutors dropped the appeal. “This exoneration was hard fought and there were many times over the 30 years that I felt I would die as a convicted man. Now I am truly free.” Meanwhile, as he rehabs houses for a real estate company owned by Schuster Institute legal researcher Sherrie Frisone, Perrot is busy rebuilding his life on the outside. He likes to keep busy, he says. And he relishes the relative quiet of his apartment. On only his tenth day of freedom, Perrot found himself in Wells, Maine, seeing the ocean for the first time in years. Embracing the moment, he stepped up on a bench, steadied himself against the wind, and raised his hands in the air — “free at last.”
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THE QUESTIONABLE CONDUCT OF PROSECUTOR FRANCIS W. BLOOM Hampden County Assistant District Attorney Francis W. Bloom prosecuted and won a conviction of George Perrot in 1987 for the rape and burglary of an elderly woman. As the case played out over 30 years, questions were raised about Bloom’s conduct, including his involvement with a fabricated confession and forged signatures, and his unusual personal involvement with key physical evidence.
And even though Bloom left the prosecutor’s office in 1990, he has cast a long shadow over George Perrot’s threedecades-long effort to prove his innocence, which began the day he was arrested in 1985 at age 17. Judge Kane recognized in his 2016 decision overturning the conviction that Bloom had had an outsized effect on the case. Most notably, soon after the conviction was first secured in 1987, Bloom fabricated a detailed confession, attributing it to Perrot. He signed the document himself, and was responsible for Perrot’s and Sgt. Thomas Kelly’s forged signatures. Bloom then tried to use the confession to manipulate two of Perrot’s friends into confessing to participating in a separate rape and break-in — one of a series of similar attacks on elderly women that had occurred over the past year and a half in Springfield. Both friends refused to confess. In 1990, after the original conviction was overturned, prosecutors prepared to retry the case. Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Dunphy Farris discovered what she assumed was a real confession in Perrot’s file and mentioned it to Kelly. The case seemed like a slam dunk. Mistakenly thinking Farris was referring to another partial confession, Kelly agreed. It wasn’t until later, when Kelly happened to see the actual document, that its fake origins were discovered. Kelly told Farris that he had never seen the document nor had he signed it. During grand jury hearings held to get to the bottom of the fabricated confession with forged signatures, Bloom repeatedly indicated his memory was foggy. He said he couldn’t remember for sure who signed Perrot’s and Kelly’s names. Under intense questioning, he testified that he also couldn’t remember who helped write the fabricated confession, but he eventually acknowledged that he had
Prosecutor Francis W. Bloom was responsible for this false confession with forged signatures of George Perrot and investigator Sgt. Thomas Kelly.
approved the final version. In the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s 1993 public censure of Bloom, Justice Herbert Wilkins wrote: “Fraudulent attempts to enduce (sic) confessions are reprehensible. The integrity of the Commonwealth’s criminal justice system is put in question by conduct of this nature. Zeal for convictions blinded the duty to do justice.” Wilkins acknowledged that Bloom’s punishment was “mild,” but said this was appropriate because in the end “harm came neither to the two suspects who were shown the fabricated confession nor to the ‘confessor’” as a result of Bloom’s actions. Judge Kane noted in his decision granting Perrot a new trial that Bloom “despised Perrot,” citing diary entries in which Bloom described Perrot as “inherently evil” and “a sociopath.” Kane wrote that Bloom’s animus towards Perrot was so intense that it was passed on to FBI examiners involved in the case after Bloom took the highly unusual step of personally driving blood and hair samples to the FBI Laboratory in Washington, D.C. Bloom had wanted to speak with the scientists himself, Kane wrote.
Francis W. Bloom’s website for his personal injury law practice claims “Francis W. Bloom Gets Results!” Screenshot from http://www. springfieldpersonalinjuryattorney.org/index.html
Kane wrote that “these feelings that filled Bloom’s mind, coupled with his trip to Washington, D.C., produce a reasonable foundation for the inference that Bloom voiced his views about Perrot to” FBI hair examiner Wayne Oakes continues on next page
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Feb. 25 A pre-evidentiary hearing on the motion for a new trial is moved to Bristol County after a Hampden County Superior Court judge determines he may have a conflict of interest because Perrot’s former lawyer John Ferrara is now a judge in the same court. Perrot’s motion for a new trial argued Ferrara was ineffective in the second trial. March 20 Perrot’s case is assigned to Judge Robert J. Kane, associate justice, Bristol County Superior Court. July 1 Judge Kane orders an evidentiary hearing to take place in September and grants part of Perrot’s discovery requests. Sept. 11 Evidentiary hearing begins. Hair microscopy experts Elizabeth Ziolkowski, formerly of K-Chem Labs in Massachusetts, and Cary Oien, of the FBI Crime Laboratory, testify on the practices in their field at the time of Perrot’s second trial. Ferrara also testifies about his strategy in the 1992 trial. Sept. 25 Witnesses Marc LeBeau, chief scientist of the Scientific Analysis Section at the FBI Laboratory, and David Koropp, a lawyer from Chicago who worked on the joint review of FBI hair cases, testify about the review process and their findings. Statistician Karen Kafadar testifies that hair microscopy lacks scientific validity and significance. 2016 Jan. 26 Judge Kane allows Perrot’s motion for a new trial for his convictions relating to the Nov. 30, 1985 rape and burglary. The motion is denied in regard to his conviction for the Lichwala break-in. Feb. 10 Kane releases Perrot on personal recognizance with minor restrictions at a bail hearing in Bristol Superior Court–New Bedford. Feb. 23 Hampden County files notice to appeal Kane’s Jan. 26 decision overturning the 1992 conviction. Feb. 25 Attorneys for Perrot give notice of a cross-appeal dealing with the conviction for the Lichwala break-in. 2017 Jan. 17 The Massachusetts Appeals Court allows prosecutors’ motion to extend the deadline to file their brief and appendix. Oct. 18 Prosecutors drop their case against Perrot, and he is officially exonerated.
global media impact Starting with a Sunday
column by Yvonne Abraham in the Boston Globe and picking up with Associated Press news coverage, the news of George Perrot’s conviction being overturned and his subsequent release reached thousands of readers and viewers around the world.
Feb. 11, 2016 Jan. 28, 2016
BLOOM cont. from previous page
before his testimony. “Unconsciously, Oakes, because of these communications, departed from his role as a neutral expert and slipped into the role of a partisan for the government,” Kane wrote. Serious questions also surfaced about the way Bloom handled test results of alleged blood evidence leading up to trial. In 2015, in connection with Perrot’s motion for a new trial, prosecutors turned over a handwritten note by Bloom that contradicted blood evidence presented at trial. At the hearing, Kirsten Mayer, Perrot’s lead counsel, handed Bloom’s note to Judge John Ferrara, Perrot’s defense attorney in 1992, who was testifying. Mayer asked Ferrara to read aloud from the note, starting with the header “Perrot case problems.” “One of the bloodstains, the blood found on the sheet … in her bedroom, is not consistent with Perrot’s sub-grouping,” Ferrara read. “And are there two exclamation points after that?” asked Mayer. “There are,” Ferrara said.
The 1993 public censure of Bloom
Mayer then said the note “may qualify as Brady material,” which is shorthand for exculpatory evidence that prosecutors should have turned over before the first trial. In addition to his 1993 censure, Bloom was publicly reprimanded in 2002 for, among other things, “commingling [of funds] and inadequate and improper record keeping” and “conflict of interest.” Bloom still practices law in the Springfield, MA area. The website for his personal injury law practice states: “We will fight for your legal rights and achieve justice for you.”
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Amelie de Cirfontaine
Schuster Institute staff, research scholars and student research assistants gather at Brandeis University to celebrate the release of George Perrot (seated, middle) after 30 years in prison. The Institute has been working on Perrot’s case since 2011. To the right of Perrot is Florence Graves, founding director of the Schuster Institute. On Perrot’s other side is Sherrie Frisone, the legal researcher who brought his case to the Institute.
How the Schuster Institute Got Involved in the Investigation of George Perrot’s Case When the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism took on George Perrot’s case in October 2011, he had exhausted many avenues of appeal, and had been denied three motions he filed for a new trial.
a rape the victim said he didn’t do? George did not in any way meet the victim’s description of the attacker? The first prosecutor admitted he had signed off on a fabricated confession with two forged signatures, George’s and a police investigator’s, yet this prosecutor was still practicing law in Massachusetts?
Perrot told us he had also sent — without success — numerous requests to organizations committed to reviewing wrongful convictions, but received his first “yes” from the Schuster Institute.
“We quickly found that all these allegations were true and that there was much more. But harder to fathom: How could the system possibly have let this happen?”
Since then, staff and student researchers have probed inconsistencies and problems, including faulty forensic science and lost and mismanaged evidence. “We first learned about George’s case when a source for another story forwarded us an email he had received about George,” said Florence Graves, founding director. “He told us he had sent it to several lawyers, but hadn’t heard back. Did we want to check it out? “The allegations were so shocking that, frankly, they seemed unbelievable. Almost 30 years in prison for
In focusing on Perrot’s case, the Institute is also shining light on issues such as prosecutorial misconduct and flawed forensic science. “Sunlight is the best of disinfectants,” Justice Louis D. Brandeis opined. Taking this to heart, the Schuster Institute’s Justice Brandeis Law Project uses journalistic techniques to shine sunlight on problems in the criminal justice system. George Perrot and Florence Graves shared a moment of celebration on the Brandeis University campus with the iconic statue of Brandeis.
To support the work we do on the Justice Brandeis Law Project and our other investigations, please visit our website at brandeis.edu/investigate and click on “Support Schuster Institute.”
The development of DNA testing in the 1980s has given us a glimpse of the problems that beset our justice system. But it is as if we lit a single match in a vast, dark mansion. The dim light has allowed us to see that our criminal process can be horribly flawed … Yet the magnitude of the crisis is many times larger. — Adam Benforado, Unfair 2,129 Current total number of exonerations since 1989 that researchers have identified to date.2 166 Annual record high number of exonerees, set in 20162 351 Post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States since 19891 160 Exonerated while on Death Row (as of Oct. 12, 2015)3 88% of DNA exonerees who were arrested as juveniles are African American.1
96% of hair microscopy cases where examiners made inculpatory statements reviewed by March 2015 as part of N FBI audit contained errors4 94% of FBI hair microscopy cases where the defendant was sentenced to death contained errors4 93% of the FBI Lab’s microscopic hair comparison unit overstated forensic matches in ways that favored the prosecution in trials reviewed in the FBI audit, as of March 20154 98 DNA exonerees pled guilty to crimes they did not commit.1
163 DNA exoneration cases in which the true suspects or perpetrators of the crimes have been identified.1 46% DNA exoneration cases in which unvalidated or improper forensic science contributed to the wrongful conviction.1 Sources: 1 Innocence Project 2 National Registry of Exonerations at the 3 University of Michigan Death Penalty Information Center 4 FBI
By the NUMBERS