Monday, April 23, 2012

The Case of Preston Hughes III: Brain Teaser #1

We need to talk.

This case is going to take a long time to work through. It's going to take a lot of posts. I'm going to plod through lots of details. I might lose many or most of you along the way. So be it.

It's beginning to feel as if I'm in this one for the long haul.

I have a couple thoughts on how I might continue to plumb the depths of this case while not allowing this blog to become focused on only one case. I simply need to find the time to blog about other cases and other topics. I've had two emails from readers about relevant topics. One mentioned the imperfect nature of fingerprints. The other mentioned the alleged CSI effect on juror expectations. Good topics, both. I'll be writing on them.

I'm also preparing a supplement (not an errata, a supplement) to my letter to Governor Jay Nixon in support of Byron Case's application for absolute pardon. This supplement is in response to the criticisms of reader Ivan. I'll soon be posting that as well.

Finally, I want to engage you more directly. I want you, those of you who are willing, to feel a bit of what I feel when I examine evidence closely and find what everyone before has missed. I want to give you a taste of what it feels like to chip away at a seemingly rock-solid case of guilt and uncover a wrongful conviction house-of-cards.

I'm going to start engagement here, in this post. I'm going to present you with three police documents from the Preston Hughes case. One is pretty clearly falsified. The others have been fudged only a little. I suggest there is sufficient information in the documents themselves for you to figure out which is which. You actually need to know nothing about this case, though you can catch up if you wish by reviewing the ever-current, always-evolving Table of Contents.

To keep from providing any hints via the order in which I present the documents, I'll use a random number generator to decide their order. Then you can use the comments to reveal which document is probably false and which are merely fudged. Please explain your reasoning in lucid, brilliant prose. Sign your comment with a pseudonym so that others can heap praise upon your perspicuity.

The person with the best answer will receive 10 attaperson points.

Get ready. Here come the documents. Click on each to enlarge. You can ignore the non-standard aspect ratios.

#1: We'll call this document the Consent for Samples.

#2. We'll call this document the Consent for Search.

#3. We'll call this document the Evidence Invoice. The red markings are from the folks at the Preston Hughes blog. You can ignore them.

There you go. Everything you need. Tell me, which of the three is probably falsified? How can we prove that? For the other two documents, how have they been tampered?

We have a winner. Read the comments. For my more thorough explanation of how one of the documents was forged, see Documents Gone Wild.

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Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how many people are following so it may just be me

But from the three documents I think you'll have the most trouble with the inventory report unless you think both signatures are fakes, but they look at naked glance to be too close and like a signature, so maybe you are arguing they are fakes.

But with the inventory report, it would require questions of the copy who wrote it to find out some things.

1) On the time stamp, was that the time he wrote it or when the evidence was in possession?

2) When did you find out the name of the victim? From the list there are no articles giving her name so it refers back to 1. If he wrote the report of what they had by 3 am but wrote the report at like 8am he would have both.

3) Where did the officers look on their first questioning of Preston? The people who wrote in red said that they didn't find the drugs or eye glasses on the report. But to me it looks like the report is about what they found the first time entering his apartment. If they knock on the door and say, "May we come in and look around" and he says "Yes" then they can use things found the first time. They then went back a second time.


tsj said...

People are still following. I can tell that from the statistics provided by Google and StatCounter. I don't know who, but I know how many, how long they stayed, what region of the country they are from, etc.

It's not that people are not following, it's that most people are reluctant to comment, for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is that thoughtful comment to this blog requires more than just stating an opinion. It can take time that many readers simply don't have to contribute to a single site.

I recognized a possible fake early on with one of these documents. I then spent six hours analyzing the document to satisfy myself the document had been faked. I suspect zero readers would be willing to spend that much time to comment on one blog post.

So here I'm hoping people will be willing to point out whatever leaps out at them after a somewhat careful examination of the documents. I'll present the gory details of how I analyzed the most egregious document in a later post.

I certainly appreciate all your comments. I get the sense that you are skeptical of the case I am trying to assemble here. It means I get a taste of my own medicine.

I'll respond to the remainder of your thoughts and questions in the next comment, to follow immediately.

tsj said...

Regarding the inventory document, Office Hale, the CSU guy, seems to have written it. That's his name and allegedly his signature. I don't challenge that.

Regarding the time stamp, I suspect the time is supposed to be when the document was written, rather than when the evidence was discovered. I'm not sure, however, it is either. Look at it again.

Regarding when they learned the name of the victims, I didn't realize until you raised that issue that it is not clear when they learned the name. An interesting question you raise there.

I'm not sure where the officers looked when they first went to Preston's apartment. They claim they then took him in for questioning, but took no evidence. They claim they used his key to lock the door behind them, and returned the key to him. They claim all the evidence was collected the next time the entered the apartment, at 9:15 AM.

As an aside, allowing an officer to come in does not authorize a search and seizure. In this case, the HPD does not make that claim. They claim that he signed a voluntary search and seizure form, provided them with his key, and only then did they search his apartment, beginning around 9:15 AM.

tsj said...

I also meant to add that I don't believe either of Preston's signatures is fake. I spent some time on that issue as well, using information not yet available to the general public. I'll write of that as well.

Anonymous said...

But the thing that would make the document wrong is the time because I re-read the police reports and you were right about saying everything found was the next morning. So there is a possibility he meant 2:58 pm. But this report would have definitely drawn questions from the defense.

Regarding search, the rule I thought would be either plain sight or authorization from someone to search in a specific location. So if the police officers are invited into a house and there is a bloody knife in plain site on the kitchen counter then they could seize that.

The inventory would raise questions for the officer who wrote it, but not necessarily a forgery because it would be a dumb forgery.


tsj said...

The knife wasn't in plain sight. It was in the bottom of a box in a closet. Also, I think plain sight is limited to something illegal, such as drugs. If you invite cops into your home, they can't seize your computer because it's in plain sight and they think it might contain evidence.

Your missing something about the time, though. Look more closely at the time, literally.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you about the knife in a box unless the cops ask to search the closet and you say yes then they can't go after it. The specific evidence has to be in plain sight. But as I said earlier the reports said everything was obtained after the consent to search.

I see two problems with the time so I'm not sure what you are referring to. The one thing that does look kinda weird is that it doesn't look like time belongs in that box. It's a date field. But maybe they put time in there normally too. I would have to see other inventory reports from that department. And second as I mentioned, 2:58 am was before 1/2 the information was known. They didn't know Shandra and they didn't have any of the items obtained from the apartment.


tsj said...

The time 2:58am was added after the initial document was typed. At some point, the document was reinserted into the typewriter and the time was added.

The text is darker than the other text, suggesting a somewhat fresher ribbon. The text is not quite parallel with the other text, suggesting the document was not quite aligned the same during the first and second sessions through a typewriter.

Most obviously, the "am" is in lower case. The HPD has the habit of typing in all upper case. It makes narrative hard to read. During the first pass through the typewriter, the typist had the machine set on caps lock. During the second pass through, the typist did not.

I guess an alternative is that the document went through one time only, that the typist used caps lock for everything except those two letters, that the font is only coincidentally darker, and that the non-parallel appearance of the text is an artifact of the copy.

Given that the time stands in stark contrast with the police reports, and given it suggests an illegal search, I'm surprised that such a number was added retroactively, and seemingly needlessly.

I can't make sense of what the seemingly retroactive time entry might mean. I note, however, that the Property Officer's name also seems have been added as a later entry. It is not vertically aligned with the Submitting Officer's name, as it should be if typed as part of the same line during the same session.

I consider the property invoice to be a tampered document. It is not, however, the document I believe to be egregiously falsified.

Since you suggested earlier that I might declare Preston's signature to be a forgery, I'll add here that I believe the Preton signatures you see are probably not forged.

Anonymous said...

So it does look like the report was typed by Hale and then given to the evidence police officer who typed his name and time on it, either because Hale forgot it or SOP. I'll wait for your next report because I don't see where either of the other two was forged.


Anonymous said...

Wow, so the plot thickens, as they say.

Well I will just start by saying that there is certainly an issue with the evidence log. As my understanding, that log is to relieve the retrieving officer of liability and place it under the purview of the evidence storage personnel/safeguards, therefore I conclude that whatever date/time is on that document is the date and time that the receiving evidence officer is claiming responsibility for those items. I fail to see why he would sign for those items if he didn't actually receive them at that time. Yes, the time certainly looks manufactured, but I'm still uncertain why. According to the police they had only went at that time to talk to Preston, and had not taken any evidence until later. Also, there seems to have been some tampering with the evidence item #s, but perhaps it was just a typo as #11 was omitted and #13 was assigned to two separate items.

The problem I have with the evidence collection form is just as simple as there is an empty space where I believe should be the name of the authorized person that collected the samples.

The search and seizure form to me just doesn't look quite right. Based on my admittedly non-exert handwriting analysis, I would say that the same person filled out the entire top portion of the form. It then appears as though that piece of paper may have been taped over the top of another piece of paper and photocopied leaving behind artifacts on the top of the page, just above Preston's signature, and the diagonal mark to the right.

It is hard to say with any certainly, but I am definitely skeptical about the validity of the search and seizure consent.

- Lando

tsj said...


I'll explain all, today, in a post cleverly entitled Documents Gone Wild.

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