New at HuffPost: A Michael West Special

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

My latest piece for Huffington Post looks at the case of Leigh Stubbs, a Mississippi woman serving a 44-year prison sentence thanks primarily to testimony from our old friend Michael West.

West performed his typical bite mark voodoo in this case, but he also donned the title of “video enhancement expert,” claiming he was able to use some fancy computer equipment to “enhance!” security camera footage well beyond its resolution. He also gave his expert seal of approval to some, um, interesting opinions about homosexuals and crime. There’s also some nifty misbehavior by former U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton, back when he was a Mississippi DA.

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19 Responses to “New at HuffPost: A Michael West Special”

  1. #1 |  derfel cadarn | 

    Forensics is a voodoo science and this particular a$$hole should be in jail along with Haynes. Why is there no honor left in our “justice” system,does ones personal grandification outweigh the bonds of integrity ? With this mentality infecting ALL levels of government,from the lowest to the highest, elected or appointed it is no wonder that America is going to hell in a hand basket. Diogenes search will not be fulfilled by anyone ion government.

  2. #2 |  BoscoH | 

    That enhance thing… How in the hell does that still pass for expert testimony when most people at least know someone who has explained to them why when they have a small pixel size image and blow it up to print on 8″ x 10″ it’s all grainy and pixelated? Do they just wholesale eliminate anyone who has a digital camera from the jury? Jeez.

  3. #3 |  Brian | 

    its now clear that West learned everything he knows by watching crime movies. Sounds like the juries saw the same movies.

  4. #4 |  cjp | 

    Balko, this is your best article in recent memory. (Though it helps to have such a buffoon providing the material….)

  5. #5 |  omg | 

    Digital images are made up of pixels. Although it appears to be a contiguous image on a screen, it is actually many tiny dots of light that you are looking at, sort of like an image made up of different colored thumbtacks pressed into particleboard 100 feet away. If you try to “enhance” the digital image, you’ll just end up with bigger thumbtacks. No new data can be gleaned.

  6. #6 |  SJE | 

    I just saw this: Virginia Bar give public reprimand to a prosecutor who failed to disclose exculpatory evidence.

    Its a start.

  7. #7 |  JS | 

    Hell yea SJE!

  8. #8 |  Bob | 

    “Is this the video?” “Yes.”

    “There. Zoom in on the forward figure. Enhance.”

    The wristwatch seems abnormally bright, zoom in on it. Enhance.”

    Is that a building in the reflection on the watch? I think It’s across the street. Wait! That’s the building where the shooting took place! Zoom in on section 3-14 of the watch. Enhance.”

    “There, in section 4-6. That’s the window the shooting took place in. Zoom in. Enhance.”

    “How long before this footage was taken did the shooting occur?” “12 hours, sir.”

    “Do a Quantum Entanglement series on the window. 13 hour time backup with a 2 hour window, 50 millisecond resolution, both audio and video.” “I can get stills from the video, sir! It’s our man! But the audio is choppy.”

    “Redo the audio with a 20 millisecond resolution. Send it all in! Good work, team.”

    Damn! That thousand dollar software is awesome! I gotta get me that… then I can Enhance! video coverage of politicians I dislike. Yeah, I’ll go blind.

  9. #9 |  Curt | 

    Great article. I still like the comments section here 1000X more. I read through about 6 pages of the comments on HuffPo. Thankfully about half agreed that this is a really f’ed up situation.

    The other comments were either about casey anthony, people saying the druggie got what she deserved, or people talking crap about the south. TheAgitator has the only comments section I still enjoy reading. Most people’s comments are coherent and reasonable (even the ones i disagree with). Every other site’s comments are just ignorant venomous drivel.

  10. #10 |  omar | 

    The FBI is aware of the nyquist rate. Backwater corrupt doctors, not so much.

  11. #11 |  Mister DNA | 

    Curt, one thing I’ve learned from reading the comments at HufPo: Everything is the fault of the republicans.

    I guess if the country was a one-party state, we’d be living in paradise.

  12. #12 |  Rick H. | 

    #9 Curt: Not to mention the occasional Huff commenter actually bitching that a concisely written, 2-page article somehow contains overly much information and is too long to read. Unbelievable.

  13. #13 |  omg | 


    I do like the idea the puffins have that there would be zero problems if it wasn’t for those gosh darn private prisons. Suspects are arrested by the government, tried under government law in government courts by government workers, and shipped and held at government expense by a government contracted prison. But the puffins know what the real problem is: TEH PRIVAET CORPARASHUNS.

  14. #14 |  Highway | 

    omg, that’s a great observation. And somehow, even though the private prisons are in the service of the government, they’re exerting some undue influence to keep the government locking up a bunch of people they shouldn’t be locking up. As if those prison staffers would want less work and be laid off if it wasn’t for the corporation pushing for more prisoners. As if the prison officials would want a smaller fiefdom to rule over because they’re part of government instead.

    Radley’s articles at HuffPo really do act like the Rorshach test for readers. Out of nearly total systemic breakdowns like he reports, they latch on to the one part that confirms their biases. I figure everyone does it, but it really comes out when people *only* see that the problem is “private prisons” or “DUI laws aren’t harsh enough.”

  15. #15 |  Stephen | 

    I have a degree in Physics. I almost never get to serve on a jury. One side or the other always gets rid of me during voir dire. Our current system is very biased toward having clueless jurors.

  16. #16 |  DarkEFang | 

    To be fair, the private prisons do make the situation worse in places where they pay kickbacks to the local police for every prisoner. If you increase the incentive to incarcerate, more convicts will be created.

  17. #17 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    Bob at #8, your comment somehow reminded me of this, a video sufficiently complex to get people’s minds off their problems.

  18. #18 |  Diane Seltzer | 

    Yes, the enhanced video or the lack of that possibility was used to convict an innocent man, Paul Cortez, by clueless jurors who “thought” it might be something it was not..when the real facts could have been found but the lawyers” chose not to hire an investigator
    did not test any DNA at the scene of the crime (skin under victim’s fingernails, several blonde hairs intertwined between victim’s fingers – Paul had dark hair, blood splatter pattern the jeans of the victim’s live-in ex-boyfriend who was said to discover the body and a knife that was found in the sink with blood on it)
    a fingerprint that was not visible to the naked eye was characterized by the prosecutor as having been left at the scene of the crime despite no expert opining as such – clearly, if Paul’s attorney would have consulted an expert, the expert would have deduced that the latent print was left prior to the murder on one of Paul’s many visits to the apartment to visit the victim (his on-again, off-again girlfriend)
    not one expert was consulted prior to the trial
    did not call any witnesses other than character witnesses and Paul himself. In the meantime, a wrongfully convicted very reseponsible man is being caged for a crime he did not commit while a lot of corrupt people profited from this horrible injutice..and, the injustice continues. Wake up people to the realities of our justice system! FREEPAULCORTEZ.ORG

  19. #19 |  varmintito | 

    I have long advocated that misconduct of this sort should be punished by trebling whatever sentence the defendant received — e.g., based on this case alone, West and the prosecutor should be doing 132 years each.

    Offering quackery that sends somebody to jail, as either the prosecutor or the prosecution expert, is the height of criminality. And yet, these scum who destroy lives and the integrity of the legal system generally get away with it, and are unbelievably self-righteous when confronted with conclusive evidence of their wrongdoing.

    One of those things that make me kinda wish there were a hell. A hell where these guys’ victims could shove a white hot poker up their ass and burn them to death from the inside. Then the next day, they’re all recovered so they can be yanked apart by four trucks driving four different directions. Next day pliers. Next day anthill. Next day fish hooks and acid. Next day septic tank. Repeat variations on this theme until the books are balanced.