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Sue Russell

Sue Russell
Journalist Sue Russell's work has appeared internationally in such publications as The Washington Post, New Scientist and The Independent. She is the author of Lethal Intent, a biography of executed serial killer Aileen Wuornos.

Recent posts

 

Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in 2004 for the 1991 arson murder of his three young children. The arson evidence against him was later debunked.

A Prescription for Criminal Justice: Embrace Errors, Then Fix Them

A sampling of the many achievable reforms now being used to help avoid wrongful convictions

 

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Why Can’t Law Enforcement Admit They Blow It Sometimes?

Because police, detectives and forensic scientists are only human, and it’s all-too natural to be inexplicably reluctant to admit to – or even to see – some of their mistakes.

 

(PHOTO: ILYA ANDRIYANOV/SHUTTERSTOCK)

Seeking Second Chances Without DNA

DNA testing has overturned many wrongful convictions but the vast majority of criminal cases have no DNA to test. And some of those inmates’ convictions are also flawed.

 

The Right and Privilege of Post-Conviction DNA Testing

Almost half the DNA tests conducted at prisoners’ request confirm guilt. Yet many believe that the exceptions more than justify making post-conviction testing widely accessible. And what is often fair or prudent is for Death Row inmates essential.

 

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Litigating Lineups: Why the American Justice System Is Keeping a Close Eye on Witness Identification

The single biggest cause of wrongful convictions is mistaken eyewitness identification. Is there a better way to find the right perpetrator?

 

Why Fingerprints Aren’t the Proof We Thought They Were

Fingerprint matching is a vital investigative tool. But despite its legendary aura of infallibility, courtroom claims of fingerprints’ uniqueness are slowly receding.

 

Human Lie Detectors: The Death of the Dead Giveaway

Amateurs and experts alike overestimate their ability to divine truth and deception. But when criminal investigators do it, it can be very bad news for the accused.

 

Wrongful Convictions

Red Flags: Early Warnings of Wrongful Convictions

Experts find recurring themes in wrongful convictions. And while some jurisdictions are now creating in-house review units to ensure convictions are righteous, commonly repeated mistakes continue to mar cases.

 

A Porn Stash and a False Confession: How to Ruin Someone’s Life in the American Justice System

John Watkins’ stash of pornography made him a look like a prime suspect for a rape in police and prosecutors’ eyes. How they wrung a confession out of him and convinced a shaky witness to ID him offers textbook examples of how to achieve a wrongful conviction.

 

When Extreme Animal Rights Activists Attack

Lawmakers, researchers, and peaceful activists all say they deplore violence committed in the name of animal rights. But laws that may label some protesters as “domestic terrorists” are upsetting activists.

 

Reducing the Use of Animals in Experiments

U.S. law and U.S. agencies are both looking at ways to reduce the use of animals in labs.

 

Five Orcas, Five Slaves or Five Persons?

PETA’s lawsuit on behalf of five orcas at SeaWorld could end in a splash or a belly flop for animal rights.

 

Pets, Vets and Stalking Horses

The animal rights movement may set their sights on veterinarians, warn protectors of biomedical animal research.

 

Should Animals Be Considered People?

In a nation where corporations are people and others want fetuses to be, a core of philosophers and attorneys are trying develop laws to declare animals “legal persons.”

 

Teens Weigh Ethical Animal Research Dilemmas

Youth Ethics Summit gives students an understanding of how medical research works, which some say is critical to the pushback against animal rights activists.

 

Animal Research’s Changing Equation

Gavels and courtrooms are replacing placards and bullhorns, says the biomedical research community, as determined legal eagles work to increase animals’ rights and possibly even grant them “personhood.”

 

Some Smart Solutions Going Forward

A slew of good ideas, from high-tech UAVs to just leaving a hose out for firefighters, may help in battling tomorrow’s brush fires.

 

Catching Arsonists Red-Handed

A small but significant number of wildfires are intentionally set. The fire starters often share characteristics but aren’t always cut from the same cloth.

 

What’s Really Happening on U.S. Firelines?

While agencies in California can shine a spotlight on fancy new firefighting technology, their peers in places like South Carolina often make do with much less.

 

Smokey Bear Now Studies Computer Science

Understanding wildfire behavior and predicting its spread …

 

The Fires Down Below: ‘Look-Down’ Technology

Far above the rough terrain where wildfires thrive, satellite and aerial technology is being used to give firefighters on the ground the big picture.

 

Experts Live and Die With Mental Shortcuts

Understanding human thought processes puts a different spin on everything from global financial meltdowns to fighter pilot errors. It can also help make technology more brain-friendly.

 

High Court Recognizes Imperfections at Crime Labs

A 5-4 majority at the nation’s highest court finds that the work of crime labs is not infallible, and defendants have a right to make that clear.

 

Bias and the Big Fingerprint Dust-Up

Cognitive neuroscientist Itiel Dror finds that analysis of fingerprint data by human examiners can be ruined by unintentional bias. But he offers some relatively simple fixes that can improve the odds of reliable results.

 

Re-Mapping Forensic Science’s Future

A critical report from the National Academy of Sciences calls for national standards in forensics science, validation of new technology and crime lab ethics.

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Apparently You Can Bring Your Religion to Work

New research says offices that encourage talk of religion actually make for happier workplaces.

Canadian Kids Have a Serious Smoking Problem

Bootleg cigarette sales could be leading Canadian teens to more serious drugs, a recent study finds.

The Hidden Psychology of the Home Ref

That old myth of home field bias isn’t a myth at all; it’s a statistical fact.

A Word of Caution to the Holiday Deal-Makers

Repeat customers—with higher return rates and real bargain-hunting prowess—can have negative effects on a company’s net earnings.

Crowdfunding Works for Science

Scientists just need to put forth some effort.

The Big One

One in two United States senators and two in five House members who left office between 1998 and 2004 became lobbyists. November/December 2014

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