RaquinMercer Blog

RaquinMercer Blog

Unregulated Public and Private DNA Databanks Need Legislative Supervision

DNA databanks are proliferating outside of the FBI’s CODIS network of law enforcement databanks and the regulatory framework that presently governs the collection, retention and distribution of DNA samples and records. These shadow DNA databanks primarily exist at the local level and belong to local police agencies, or to private companies that sell databank related […]

Ancestry DNA: Consider Privacy Risks of Familial Searching

People who submit DNA for ancestry testing can unwittingly become genetic informants on their innocent family members when the police search an ancestry DNA databanks for partial matches. Until there are meaningful statutory protections and robust quality assurance safeguards, law enforcement should not search an ancestry databank for family members related to the individual who submitted the DNA sample. There is […]

COSA indifferent to warrantless use of facial recognition, treating it as modern-day equivalent of telephone tip.

Facial profiling technology is a new weapon in the investigative arsenal with big-data implications for the collection, use, and retention of facial images (and gait—for longer range identification) in biometric fusion databanks. A recent Maryland intermediate appellate decision, Geiger v. State, Court of Special Appeals (December 5, 2017) (Moylan, J.), shows that courts have little […]

Watch John Oliver Call Out “Bullshit” Reliability Of Forensic Science

Although DNA/forensic science may appear to swiftly and reliably solve crimes with flashy graphics on television crime dramas, John Oliver called out the “bullshit” of forensic science on “Last Week, Tonight” (originally aired Oct. 1, 2017). HBO has posted Oliver’s focus segment on YouTube.  Oliver explains the surprising problem with a wide-range of forensic “science” […]

Challenging A Positive Drug Test In A VOP Hearing

Part 1 – The Certification of an Analyst. Do you face an upcoming violation of probation hearing or a drug court sanction hearing for testing positive? The common tactic is to demand the presence of the analyst and persons in the chain of custody and hope someone doesn’t show up.  For a number of reasons, […]

COA Clarifies Maryland’s Hybrid Legal Standard

Rochkind:  The COA Clarifies Maryland’s Hybrid Daubert/Frye Legal Framework Governing Admissibility Of Expert Testimony. In Rochkind v. Stevenson, 454 Md. 277 (2017) the COA took a close look at the third prong of Rule 5-702, which requires that an expert’s opinion be based on a sufficient factual basis. Rochkind is one in a series of […]

Bath Salt Users–Analogous Drug Act Alert

Drug Test Alert.  Contact RaquinMercer if you are charged with knowingly possessing, distributing, or PWID, of an “analogue” CDS alleged to be “substantially similar” in chemical structure and effect to a scheduled CDS.  The Supreme Court in McFadden v. United States answered the question whether a person charged with possessing an analogue CDS must “know” of its illegal character.  […]

3 NG’s In Murder Trials Highlight Limits Of Cell Phone Location Evidence

Appointed public defenders recently secured acquittals in three murder prosecutions involving cell phone location evidence that was central to the State’s theories of guilt.  These defense victories demonstrate the effectiveness of employing a litigation process that can work across the wide range of DNA/forensic science disciplines to identify problems and develop solutions, which in our […]

Drug Court Decision in Brookman – Carnes v. State

The COSA Holds Drug Court Sanction Involving Jail Is Appealable; Due Process Rights of Participants Violated When Drug Failed To Conduct Formal Adversarial Hearing.  Reported in the Court of Special Appeals (April 27, 2017):  Brookman v. State (No. 182) & Carnes v. State (No. 183) (Nazarian, Arthur, Thieme, JJ.).  Opinion by Nazarian, J.  Argued by […]

Cell Phone Location – Challenging the Factual Basis Under Prong One

Challenging The Factual Basis Of Historical Cell Site/Tower Location Opinion Evidence Under Rule 5-702 Cellular service has become an integral part of our daily life.  But it does not follow from our user experience with reliable cellular service that historical location information derived from call detail records is similarly reliable.  (This blog does not address […]

Steve Mercer Invited to Address the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST)

(Washington, D.C.) On January 14, 2016, Steve Mercer addressed by invitation PCAST during a closed session. Steve also submitted this written statement discussing the powerful incentives in criminal cases for police dominated laboratories to issue biased reports, and the critical need for complete discovery of all scientifically relevant information related to the results of any […]

Confrontation Clause Update

June 2014 At its May 22nd conference, the Supreme Court denied certiorari in twelve of the fifteen petitions–some held since the beginning of the term–that asked the Court to resolve the conflict in lower courts over when a forensic science report is testimonial for Confrontation Clause purposes. The twelve petitions included Confrontation Clause challenges to autopsy and toxicology reports, […]

Common Law Dieing Declaration

On May 27, the Court of Special Appeals in State v. Hailes, 2014 Md. App. LEXIS 49 (2014) (Moylan, J.), held that a common law dying declaration (not the broader rule based dying declaration) is exempt from the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause, and that the content of the declaration–which was an extra-judicial identification (photo array)–is only subject (under […]

Trial Court Erred When It Permitted A Police Officer To Testify As A Lay Witness About The Detection Of Accelerants By Canine

Simpson v. State – No: 2833, Sept. 25, 2013 (COSA Sept. Term 2012) (Hotten, J.).  On appeal from the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County (Pearson, J.) COSA held the trial court erred when it permitted a police officer to testify as a lay witness about the detection of accelerants by the canine he handled, where the officer had […]