After 8 years in prison, I can say that I would not wish the evil of prison life on my worst enemy. – Doctor French Anderson (Father of Gene Therapy)
Another Innocent Man Framed by Bogus Recordings
It has become the way of the U. S. Justice Department.
Not unlike the framing of Idaho attorney Edgar Steele, where evidence of corrupted audio tape recordings was kept outside of the jury’s hearing, an older and lesser known case took place in California a few years earlier. This time the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was the creative culprit.
Example of tempering with digitally-recorded evidence:
Detective Kurt Ebert, who handled the technical side of police recordings, had edited the recording to turn it into evidence suggesting guilt. We later proved that he deleted the first 2 minutes of the conversation where it was obvious that Yusi was setting me up, and he moved phrases around in the conversation resulting in very damaging effects. For example:
Yusi’s “Why did you molest me?” at the very beginning of the deleted two minutes when I denied it, got moved to the middle of the conversation where it replaced her question: “Why did you push me?” My response was: “Because I thought it would help you”, an appropriate response to the question I was actually asked, but a rather absurd answer to the question in the edited recording. Nonetheless, the rearranging of the conversation by editing enabled the prosecution to claim that this was a “confession”.
It took nearly a month for the police to finally decide to arrest me (the sting meeting was on July 1 ; I was not arrested until July 30). Clearly, if the sting meeting recording had indicated guilt, I would have, I should have, been arrested immediately. The fact that it took nearly a month to make that decision strongly suggests that something unusual was going on. Yes, they were fabricating evidence.
Powerful new technology now exists that was not available in 2006 at the time of Doctor Anderson’s trial.The client was the subject of a covert operation that involved the use of a recording device that had as one of its capabilities the recording to a WORM drive.
It was the policy of the Sheriffs Department that this authenticity protocol be used. WORM drives are not perfect, but arguably they are better than nothing.
The recording was intentionally made without the use of the authenticity protocol, and was instrumental in the conviction of a crime. The client’s position is that the recording was edited and his lawyers have marshalled substantial evidence to that effect.
His original lawyer did not object to the admission of the recording into evidence. The client now wants a new trial, on the basis that his lawyer did not protect his rights. The original lawyer did nothing relating to the authenticity of recording.
ISSN 2054-8508 (Online) (c) 2014 Digital Evidence and Electronic Signature Law Review
Alterations to a digital audio recording may not leave traces of cuts, splices, etc., on the altered version because digital editing does not involve any mechanical cutting or splicing that would leave a physical trace as with traditional magnetic audiotape. However, digital alterations would change the spacing and relation between words and syllables on the recording from their original state as spoken, to an altered state as edited. The altered relationships between words and syllables provide an independent avenue of inquiry regarding the authenticity of the recording.
Panel of International Experts Who Examined Recording:
Yi Xu (University College, London, UK) one of the world’s experts on human voice analysis.
Curtis Crowe (President, Tracer Technologies, Windsor, Pennsylvania) – developer of the Diamond Cut Forensic 8 (DC8) software used internationally to identify anomalies consistent with editing in digital audio recordings.
Craig Schick (Consultant, Wildemar, California) – a consultant engineer who specializes in the field of designing, engineering, constructing, and maintaining high tech electronic systems, infrastructure, and buildings.
Frederick Cohen (President and CEO of California Science Institute Livermore, California) – one of the world’s experts in digital forensics, computer engineering, computer security, and electronic mail.
Catalin Grigoras (Director of the National Center for Media Forensics in the College of Arts and Media at the University of Colorado at Denver, Denver, Colorado) – another one of the world’s experts in examining digital recordings for authenticity.
Our forensic engineering expert, Craig Schick, did a careful critical listening of the 78-minute sting recording, counted and timed each of YH’s steps, determined the surface being walked on, and determined the origin of the various background sounds.
The sting meeting site was on a grassy slope 60 feet from the concrete that is in front of the library. Yet, there is no recording of her walking from the concrete in front of the library [where she was observed talking to friends with the recording running] to the meeting site.
The recording faithfully documents the time it took YH to walk back to the library after the conversation. She took a straight line path from the meeting site to the front door of the library (approximately 80 feet), as observed by several covert deputies around the meeting site. She can be heard on the recording walking across grass for 22 seconds, then concrete for another 6 seconds, and then in through the library door, but there is no recording of her ever walking to the meeting site. This is absolute proof of a major material deletion in the recording.
Dr. Anderson says the conversation/confrontation began like this:
A: Hi, Yusi!
YH: You ruined my life! [Loud]
YH: Why did you molest me? [Quiet]
A: Oh, Yusi, not again. You know I didn’t.
YH: But you did ruin my life.
A: Yusi, we’ve been through this, and you know I’m sorry. I thought you were better.
YH: No, I’m worse. Look at my arm. [shows her fresh “suicide” cuts]
A: Oh, my heavens.
All of this was deleted, the phrase “Why did you molest me?” was inserted later into the conversation.
At a critical point, YH allegedly says, “Why did you molest me? Why? Why me?,” with a rapid pitch rise on the first “Why?” (of the “Why? Why me?”) within a very short interval that appears to exceed the capacity of the human voice.
Evidence indicates that this damaging accusation (“Why did you molest me?”) was fraudulently inserted and that the insertion was placed into this latter part of the conversation too close to YH’s following words, “Why? Why me?” This editing event resulted in running the first “me” into the “Why?” as heard in the recording and seen in electronic analysis.
The 189.05 ms rise time between the two phrases is too short for the human voice to produce. This indicates that the phrase, ‘Why did you molest me?’ was fraudulently inserted into the recording at that point and was likely lifted from the first part of the deleted portion of the sting conversation that is now gone.
Anderson remembers that the original conversation was:
YH: “Why did you push me? Why? Why me?”
A: “. . . because I thought this would help you.”
This exchange was altered to:
YH: “Why did you molest me? Why? Why me?”
A: “. . . because I thought this would help you.”
This is a highly unlikely response to an accusation of molestation, further suggesting that “Why did you molest me?” was fraudulently inserted.
The phrase, “Why did you molest me?” takes slightly longer to say than “Why did you push me?,” such that a superimposition of “molest me” over the phrase “push me” would result in the word “me” too close to the ensuing “Why.”
The police deny that any misconduct has taken place in the Anderson case. In fact, they have insisted (and still insist as of August 2013) that it is not possible to tamper with police digital recordings. They continue to make this claim despite the fact that they now admit that they intentionally bypass the anti-editing safeguards established by the manufacturer of the law-enforcement-only recorders.
The manufacturer of the law-enforcement only digital audio recorder was Adaptive Digital Systems Inc.
If the user follows a specific procedure in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, and transfers the recorded data in the flash memory of the recorder directly onto a write-once CD-ROM, and prints a copy of the transfer data contained in the computer’s screen shot at the time of the transfer, an authentic copy of the recording then exists, as well as virtually conclusive documentation of its authenticity. The manufacturer’s authentication procedure was not followed with the July 1, 2004, sting meeting.
By his own testimony, Detective Ebert, who handled the Anderson sting meeting recording, bypassed the fail-safe procedure recommended by the manufacturer and, instead, transferred the digital data directly to his hard drive, not to a write-once CD-ROM.
Furthermore, Detective Ebert testified that he erased the original recording shortly after transferring it to his computer in order to make the recorder available for subsequent use. Recently, Sergeant Powell, supervisor of the Sheriff’s Technical Operations Detail, acknowledged that the LASD has not followed the manufacturer’s authentication procedure for a number of years.
In the work area where Detective Ebert carried out his assignments, there is an analog mixer. Analog mixers are widely used in the entertainment industry for “mixing” various musical (and other sound) components, i.e., for editing. Analog mixers are only used for editing. If the LASD never does editing, what are they doing with an expensive analog mixer?
On June 18 , we received the discouraging news that our entire habeas petition had been denied! The court said that having an evidentiary hearing would be “an idle act”. The AG [Attorney General] had our forensic evidence thoroughly vetted and concluded that they cannot object to it on a scientific basis, so they chose not to challenge it but rather to simply claim that “the police would never fabricate evidence.”.
On October 15, 2013, we submitted a Petition for Review to the California Supreme Court. On December 16, we received the devastating news that our Petition for Review was denied.