Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Subject: Handwriting evidence

R. Rowley continuously argues his mistaken beliefs about handwriting evidence over and over and over.   Click HERE for his latest argument, which went as follows:
Mister Lake ignores the findings of the Task Force's own questioned document examiner and continually touts unnamed 'witnesses' (ie informants) whose testimony would be excluded for reasons adduced dozens of times in the past 3 or 4 years. To 'prove' (huh?) that Ivins' 'disguised' printing bears some resemblance (on how many points? No clue!) to the Amerithrax letters.
Here is Rule of Evidence #701:
RULE 701:
Opinion Testimony by Lay Witnesses

If a witness is not testifying as an expert, testimony in the form of an opinion is limited to one that is:

(a) rationally based on the witness’s perception;

(b) helpful to clearly understanding the witness’s testimony or to determining a fact in issue; and

(c) not based on scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge within the scope of Rule 702.

Mara Linscott, Patricia Fellows and possibly Nancy Haigwood would have testified as LAY WITNESSES that the handwriting on the anthrax documents - in their opinion - resembled Dr. Ivins disguised handwriting.  Here is what it says on pages 89 and 90 of the Amerithrax Investigative Summary about their planned testimony:
a witness who had received a number of packages and cards over the course of several years in the late 1990s and early 2000s was shown copies of the letters and envelopes used in the anthrax attacks. The witness thought that the handwriting on the envelope addressed to Senator Daschle reminded the witness of Dr. Ivins’s writing. If the witness were to receive a package with that writing on it, the witness would think of Dr. Ivins. The witness noted that, in particular, the style of the block letters with alternating heights stood out, as did the slant of the writing. The witness said that this was the type of writing Dr. Ivins used when he disguised his handwriting as part of a joke. As the witness studied the letters, the witness noted that the “E” and the “R” in the letter to the New York Post also looked familiar. The witness stated that these letters also reminded the witness of when Dr. Ivins disguised his handwriting as a joke. The witness described this “disguised” handwriting as being similar to Dr. Ivins’s standard handwriting, and that one could tell that he was trying to disguise his handwriting to a limited extent. Another witness familiar with the handwriting of Dr. Ivins in many contexts said the same thing.
The witnesses would have testified to this in court, under Rule #701.

1. They would NOT be testifying as experts.
2. Their testimony would be rationally based on their perceptions.
3. Their testimony would be deemed helpful in determining who wrote the letters.
4. Their testimony would NOT be covered by Rule 702.

Mr. Rowley inexplicably believes that such witnesses would have to be handwriting experts or they would not be allowed to testify about handwriting.  Click HERE for his latest post on this subject.  Rule #701 clearly says the lay witnesses the prosecution planned to use in the Amerithrax case CANNOT be such experts.  If they were such experts, they would have to testify under Rule #702, which covers "expert testimony."

When shown testimony about how handwriting testimony from lay witnesses was used in other cases, Mr. Rowley just argued that the circumstances were different.  In other words, he creates imaginary new rules to fit this case.  He seemingly cannot understand that Rule #701 covers lay witness opinion testimony in EVERY criminal case, not just cases which fit or don't fit his beliefs.

Plus, Mr. Rowley argues that an expert "document examiner" would testify in court, even though the prosecution would have NO REASON to call a handwriting "expert" who appears to have nothing relevant to say about Dr. Ivins' disguised handwriting or anything else proving Dr. Ivins' guilt. 

This purpose of this thread is to show Mr. Rowley once and for all time that his beliefs about handwriting evidence are NONSENSERule #701 CLEARLY says that lay witnesses CAN provide opinion testimony about handwriting they perceive as being familiar and relevant to the case.  Mr. Rowley had NO BASIS for arguing otherwise, yet he endlessly continues to do so.