Management Resources principles Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin were honored to be included in Penn State’s online course, Presumed Innocent? The Social Science of Wrongful Conviction. Interviewed extensively about the wrongful conviction and exoneration of Jonathan Fleming, many questions arose from the class. Kim Anklin has been answering questions from students in the forum, “Ask Kim Anything.” Although the class is complete we are reprinting some of the general entries with the hope that readers will learn more about these types of investigations.
Do you have any sense of how often cases of tunnel vision occur in homicide investigations and what factors make these more likely?
How often does tunnel vision occur in homicide investigations? While there is no way to know an actual number, it is frightening to consider even the cases we get right, tunnel vision can easily occur both internally and externally. Consider the actors and other known factors that contribute into an initial homicide investigation, particularly when the perpetrator(s) is not initially known. They include police and detectives, the crime scene techs, forensic personnel, the medical examiner, the prosecutors, all of the police bosses, the witnesses, the victim, the family members for both sides, the geography where the crime occurred, the crime rate, the culture of the law enforcement agencies, the economy, the political landscape at the time. That is only naming some of the many factors that are in play even before there is a plea offering or a trial. All along the way these factors do indeed influence whether justice will be served or denied.
We are all human beings that while we think we try our best not to, we bring our own cognitive biases into play. The goal is to counter these factors by not allowing any of them to dominate the investigation. It is not an easy undertaking; however through counter measures such as training, education, and public awareness, many can be minimized. The heavy burden cannot be solely placed on a defendant to prove his or her innocence after being indicted.
At first glance, the Fleming case appeared to have been flawed by the police. How could they not investigate the leads provided by the witness who was in close proximity to the shooting? How could they believe one eye-witness that was 427 feet away, at night, through bars on the windows, without her glasses for distance, through trees positively identify Fleming? When she tried to tell the truth and recant, how could the judge then dismiss her as not being truthful? What about all the independent witnesses Bob and I found 24 years later who were there and never spoken to by any member of the criminal justice system. How could they continue to cram Fleming into this crime when he was in Florida?
The answer is Fleming’s wrongful conviction did not happen because of detectives’ tunnel vision. This case is about the District Attorney’s ADA and staff turning away from seeking the truth towards orchestrating many lies and hiding evidence to fit their theory.
Management Resources Ltd of New York is a professional investigative firm licensed in New York and New Jersey. . Management Resources is a member of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Associated Licensed Detectives of New York, and Founding Members and Regional Directors of Investigating Innocence.
Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin are available for interviews or speaking engagements. Contact ImaginePublicity at 843-808-08509 or email firstname.lastname@example.org