Expert Witness

Felicity Huffman’s Smarter Choices (Updated with Huffman Sentencing)

Update: Just before publication of this story, actress Felicity Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in jail and was fined $30,000 for her role in the college admissions cheating scandal. Last week, federal prosecutors asked United States District Judge Indira Talwani to impose a one-month jail sentence on actress Felicity Huffman, who pleaded guilty to mail fraud last May in “Operation Varsity Blues,” the bribery investigation that rendered Americans even more cynical about college admissions. It’s a light sentence for a hefty nationwide scandal, and she probably won’t even serve it. Huffman...

Amanda Knox: Expressions of Guilt

Emotion Recognition in the Criminal Justice System A young man is on trial for murder. His defense says he’s being railroaded. The prosecution paints him as a deceiving psychopath. Is he lying when he says he wasn’t there that night? We don’t have to look into his eyes to figure that out; the Emotion Recognition System does that for us. With dozens of cameras; thermal, pulse, and respiration measurements; sophisticated facial expression recognition algorithms, with billions of hours of human observation as background data; and thousands of hours of...

Ugly Politics is Feeding the Power of MS-13

It was broad daylight in East Boston when a 16-year-old homeboy for MS-13, a high school freshman nicknamed Animal, spotted a 15-year-old boy in a red shirt. He smirked, pulled out a knife, and began running down Princeton Street, oblivious to the children and families all around him. The victim, Irvin DePaz, felt Animal at his back and began darting through the crowded sidewalks trying to get away. He didn’t run fast enough. Animal caught up, the knife glistening at his side, and pounced on his slightly built adversary. Without hesitation Animal...

First Days: Tragedy and Transformation in Juvenile Justice

We watch the video footage. These are the moments leading up to the discovery of the boy’s suicide. The grainy, black-and-white images show a staff member looking in the boy’s cell, calling for help, opening the cell door, and, with the assistance of some other residents, pulling the boy's limp body out onto the floor of the dayroom.  After watching the video, members of the Attorney General’s office and my staff jump into a conversation about the ongoing internal investigation into his death. I stop them mid-sentence and ask those present to tell me about...

Amanda Knox reads: The Injustice of Nancy Grace

In Oxygen’s Injustice with Nancy Grace, Grace promises to investigate “cases that inspire other victims to believe it ain’t over yet. Somebody still cares.” In other words, Grace is reprising her self-appointed role of “voice of the victim,” and presumably ― Grace says the show will focus on wrongful accusations and botched investigations ― she’s finally including wrongly convicted people within that definition. If so, it’s a big step for Grace, who historically has treated people like me as monsters. I first learned of Grace’s new show when Ryan Ferguson,...

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