Another phony “expert” witness for the prosecution

About a month ago, I told you about a pathologist in Ontario who may be responsible for convicting several innocent people.

Charles Smith testified in dozens of cases in which a child had been murdered. It now appears that he was overly zealous to get a conviction. In at least eight cases, it appears likely that an innocent person spent time under investigation or in prison because of Smith. His testimony was very impressive but also inaccurate.

A similar story is now emerging in Maryland. Former Baltimore police sergeant James Kulbicki has spent twelve years in prison for a murder that he may not have committed.

Firearms “expert” Joseph Kopera testified that Kulbicki’s off-duty revolver was the murder weapon. Kopera has now been exposed as a phony by Kulbicki’s lawyer.

The Washington Post reports that Kopera lied about his professional credentials.

Kopera testified at the 1995 trial that he had an engineering degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology and a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Maryland. Drouet [Kulbicki’s lawyer] contacted both schools, whose registrars said that Kopera never attended their programs. A University of Maryland transcript that Kopera had submitted after he was questioned to substantiate his credentials was deemed a forgery by the school’s registrar, court records show.

Confronted with the evidence, Kopera, 61, abruptly retired Feb. 28 and committed suicide a day later. His three decades of work in scores of other cases statewide is now under scrutiny by the state police.

Lying about his credentials is bad enough. But Kopera also gave testimony against Kulbicki which is contradicted by his own lab notes:

Kopera had testified that the bullet fragment recovered from the victim’s head and the one found in Kulbicki’s truck were of a “large” caliber, at least a .38 or .40. That would make them consistent with bullets fired from Kulbicki’s .38-caliber revolver.

But Kopera’s examination notes told a different story. For the bullet fragment recovered from the victim’s brain, Kopera declared the caliber “medium.” For a second fragment recovered in the truck, he put a slash mark in the caliber field of his notes to indicate that it could not be determined.

Kopera also testified that Kulbicki’s weapon was in a “cleaned condition,” allowing prosecutors to suggest to jurors that the defendant had sanitized the weapon to remove any blood or gunpowder residue and to hide the fact that it had been recently fired. …

Once again, Kopera’s notes told a different story.

“Residue in barrel: Yes. Bore condition: Dirty,” his notes stated, suggesting that the gun had not been cleaned.

There is some evidence against the former police sergeant. On the other hand, the defense brought forward several witnesses who testified that Kulbicki was a half hour away at the time of the murder. Perhaps it was Kopera’s testimony that tipped the scales and led to Kulbicki’s conviction.

These are disturbing stories. When you are accused of a crime, you are at the mercy of the state.

Smith and Kopera were supposed to be experts in their field, and there was no reason to suspect them of lying. But in both cases it appears they would say whatever it took to get a conviction.

What a nightmare scenario.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. 49erDweet
    Nov 23, 2007 @ 16:04:41

    Stephen, you again are spot on. But this “sickness” in the judicial process could be prevented if the courts could or would hold prosecutors and public entities responsible to properly vet their so-called “expert” witnesses. As practiced now they don’t, thus the folk that bring these twisted cancerous psychopaths masquerading as qualified “scientists” into the courtroom are free to reap the career-enhancing benefits of lies, lies and more lies, and almost fully escape the fallout when everything suddenly turns putrid.

    SOMEBODY originally accepted the credentials of these pathetic liars. Why is that “somebody” not held liable for the damage they incur? Doesn’t make sense. The same should be said for defense witnesses. Merely accepting a CV at face value should be cause for judicial malpractice, in my not-so-humble opinion.

    Other than that, cheers.


  2. Stephen
    Nov 23, 2007 @ 18:46:58

    Quite correct. In fact, expert witnesses are immune from prosecution. I pointed this out in a comment on the earlier post. The CBC reports that expert witnesses have immunity, but Louise Reynolds is fighting for the right to sue Smith.


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