False Positive, a documentary focusing on the wrongful conviction and eventual exoneration of a Wisconsin man, is available for online viewing through Vox Media.
The video follows the case of Robert Lee Stinson, who in 1985 was convicted of rape and murder on the basis of faulty bite mark evidence. Stinson had served 18 years of a life sentence when he contacted the Wisconsin Innocence Project for help.
Keith Findley, a professor of law at University of Wisconsin Law School, was co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project at the time. In interviews for the video series, he says that, even though the reliability of bite mark evidence has come under intense scrutiny, juries still find it compelling: “Here you have this very learned dentist who has no reason to lie, who comes in and tells you this is rock solid science. How’s a jury to decide he must be wrong?”
Based at UW Law School, the Wisconsin Innocence Project trains law students to investigate and litigate claims of innocence. Under the supervision of expert attorneys, students do all the work: they visit prisons, interview witnesses; consult forensic experts; draft appellate briefs; and argue motions.
Over several years, law students were able to provide new forensic analysis proving that Stinson’s teeth did not match bite marks on the victim’s body. DNA testing of saliva on the victim’s sweater also proved his innocence.
Finally in 2009, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office vacated Stinson’s conviction and dropped all charges against him.
Findley was there to see Stinson released from prison. “Finally justice is done,” Findley says. “But at what cost?”
The 30-minute Vox video is now available on YouTube in three episodes:
- How bite marks made one man a murder suspect
- How junk science convicted an innocent man
- A murder solved, 23 years later
Submitted by Law School News on February 11, 2019