Category: Crime Redefined Podcast

Silent Witnesses-S1 30

Wensley Clarkson is a British best-selling crime author and journalist.  His upcoming book The Real Silent Witnesses:  Shocking Cases From The World Of Forensic Science, is a fascinating account of the rise of forensic science in the UK. Wensley joins Crime Redefined to discuss the intriguing cases and issues highlighted in his book. Hosted by Dion Mitchell and Mehul Anjaria. A Zero Cliff Media production.

Who’s Watching You?-S1 29

Don Johnson’s new book Who’s Watching You? is a harrowing look at the horrifying crime his wife Ellen survived. It also highlights Ellen’s important work in expanding the DNA database in Louisiana. Don joins Crime Redefined to dig deep into this powerful book that serves as a warning to all of us. Hosted by Dion Mitchell and Mehul Anjaria. A Zero Cliff Media production.

Loyola Project For the Innocent-S1 28

The Loyola Project For the Innocent (LPI) in Los Angeles, CA works to exonerate the wrongfully convicted.  Lead attorneys Paula Mitchell and Adam Grant join Crime Redefined to describe the unique experience that their clinic provides for students who are passionate about criminal law. Check out this video for more about LPI:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bc_TsZbo3w.   Hosted by Dion Mitchell and Mehul Anjaria.  A Zero Cliff Media production.

 

 Loyola Project For the Innocent

Unofficial Transcript

 

B=Show Bumpers

DM=Dion Mitchell, Co-host

MA=Mehul Anjaria, Co-host

PM=Paula Mitchell, Guest

AG=Adam Grant, Guest

 

B

Welcome to the crime redefined podcast produced by zero cliff media coming to you from the US Bank tower high above downtown Los Angeles. In our podcast, we drill deep into forensics and criminal investigation from the viewpoint of the defense as well as explore the intersection of the media and the justice system.

 

DM

Hello, I’m Dion Mitchell here with my co-host and DNA expert Mehul Anjaria. On this episode of crime redefinde we’re taking you inside the Los Angeles based chapter of the innocence network. The Loyola project for the innocent is located inside the Loyola law school in Los Angeles. And today, we have the pleasure of speaking with legal director Paul Mitchell and program director, Adam Grant.

 

MA

What exactly is the innocence network?, I’m gonna go ahead and just read the description right off of the website. So it’s 68 organizations from around the world, working to exonerate unjustly convicted men and women, including independent nonprofits, as well as organizations affiliated with law schools, or other educational institutions, units of public defender offices, and pro bono sections of law firms.

 

DM

You know, one of the first things I learned about this, this organization Mehul is that they’re international. And I thought it was really amazing to find that they had innocence networks all around the world. And I’ll rattle off a couple of examples. Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, and Italy. All have innocence projects. I thought that’s pretty cool.

 

 

MA

Yeah, it is. It really, really spread and caught fire. And, you know, of course, it all started on American soil back in 1992, in New York with the Innocence Project. And you probably first heard of its co founders, Barry Scheck, and Peter Neufeld when they were members of OJ Simpson’s Dream Team. During that thing, they called the trial of the century back in 1995. And so if you go back to the origin of the innocence network, in 1992, DNA testing was really in its infancy. And if you think in terms of public exposure of DNA, it was really the OJ trial that was the watershed event that put it on everybody’s radar. Well, of course, DNA is a powerful tool to establish innocence. But the innocence network also takes on non- DNA cases, which of course make up a vast majority of the cases where there’s a wrongful conviction,

 

DM

You know, is interesting at Loyola, the students are the driving force behind the success of this program. Here in Los Angeles, it seems that every few months, we’re hearing about another wrongfully convicted person being released, with the help of the Loyola project for the innocent or LPI,for short, I believe and correct me if I’m wrong, that in 2017, they had three in one month. Is that correct?

 

MBA

That’s right. There may have been more that year, but they were one after another. I mean, before I knew who Adam was, I would, you know, see in the news. I’m like, oh, there’s that guy with the bow tie again.

 

DM

You know, you know, once we hear from them, people will have a better appreciation for that number. Because of the amount of time and, and legwork that goes into, you know, one of these undoing one these wrongful convictions. So with that, let’s hear from Paula and Adam.

 

Hi, Paula and  Adam, thank you so much for joining us on crime redefined today. We’re really looking forward to learning more about you and your amazing team at LPI.

 

PM

Thank you for having us. It’s a pleasure to be here.

 

MA

Well, Paula, you’re the Legal Director of the project. What exactly is your role and your duties?

 

PM

Well, we have a clinic, a legal clinic at Loyola law school. So students can sign up, take the seminar class where we learn about the causes of wrongful conviction. And they also help us work on the cases that come to us. People write to us asking for help. And we we get those requests and review them and then investigate them and, you know, try to see if cases are are worth looking into and try to help where we can. I wear so many hats, frankly, it would take a while to go through them all. But basically, you know, what we have found is that these wrongful conviction cases are incredible teaching tools. And it’s like the perfect way to explain to you know, young, not even just young, anybody in law school, anybody who wants to learn about what, where the problems are in the criminal justice system. Can do that by looking at that actual case involving a real person. And so, you know, that’s, that’s, that’s the thrust.

 

MA

Well, Adam, same question for you as the program director. You know, what’s your role and what kind of duties do you have?

 

AG

When we started, I was one of the two people who started this clinic. Laurie Levenson and I started it when I had just graduated from law school. And we had been working on an innocence case together while I was in school, that became the first case in the clinic when we started the clinic. And so when we began the clinic, and when Paula came aboard, there were there was nobody else there. So we we did everything. Now that we have some staff attorneys, our roles are I mean, it’s a little hard to define what our role is. But you know, we all work on the cases, we all supervise students, we all take part of the teaching. Paula and I both do a lot of the sort of directorial tasks that have to do with dealing with the school and dealing with people who want things from us and people who contact us from outside. And some of the things I used to do sort of as case manager and things like that have been delegated to other people. And I try to work on as many cases as I can. And it essentially, my favorite part is investigation. So I try to do as much investigating as I possibly can also.

 

MA

So at present, how many staff members does LPI have?

 

AG

I think we have about seven people working altogether now.

 

DM

Paula you mentioned just a minute ago, you have that you kind of are a little bit of a gatekeeper and kind of vet the cases that come in, I’m curious, how many inquiries do you receive every year from inmates who claim to be innocent? And then from those how many cases do you actually take on?

 

PM

Great question, we get between 800 and 1000 letters a year from people who are incarcerated, some of them we know right away, we cannot help because they are not in custody in the state of California. So that is one of the main criteria, you have to be close enough that we can actually get to get to you and get to your witnesses and do the investigating, like Adam said, and then, you know, because there are the line is so long, we try very hard to take the cases and review them as they come in. So the older the case, the the closer it is to the top of the list. However, there are situations that come up where, for example, somebody comes in and says, oh, my son is in prison. And he just got this declaration from the main witness who testified against him at trial. And this witness is saying I lied, I made up the whole thing or somebody pressured me, it’s not true, he didn’t do it. And when that happens, we kind of have to move the case up, because it sort of starts the clock ticking in terms of how long we have to bring this claim that the person is innocent to the court’s attention. So you can’t take a fresh piece of new evidence like that, and just stick it in the file drawer, and let it sit there for five years while you keep working on your cases that that are, you know, ahead of it. So it’s, you know, we try very hard to be systematic, and take the cases as they come. But like I said, there are different ways to get to the front of the line,

 

DM

That’s a great way to frame it and actually answers the question. So now it sounds like probably a better way I should have asked that is how many cases are you juggling at one particular time? Because it sounds like you can like I said, you know, something comes in and starts the clock ticking on another case that maybe you weren’t working on at that time. So if you were to put a ballpark number on how many in a given month, do you think that you’re you and your team are juggling?

 

PM

Well, we currently have a oh my gosh, I’m gonna say like six or seven cases in litigation. Some of them have been filed recently, some of them have been filed several years ago, sometimes these cases can go on for years. So in terms of actually, you know, going to court and we’re in the thick of it, I’d say six or seven cases like that. And then we have another, I would say six or seven cases that we’re very close to being ready to file the petition on to get that case, they get those cases into court. But we have to, you know, we have limited resources. We’re a nonprofit. So we can’t, we can’t over commit ourselves. We have to make sure that once we are ready to file, we have all the resources we need to see that case through. And then I’d say we probably have another 30 cases that are under investigation in at some stage. Does that sound right to you?

 

AG

Yeah. You know, like any good lawyer, we can’t give you a straight answer

 

DM

I was gonna keep digging, but I thought I’d just I cut it off there.  But actually, that’s a great segue, since you started in 2011, about how many students have completed your clinic?

 

AG

I would say we’ve had between 150 and 200 students. And you know, there are also those are law students. And then we also have a robust summer program, where we work with a lot of law students from other schools, and also undergrads from around the country. And so that’s probably another, I don’t know, 60, or 80 students, as well.

 

DM

And those are just ones that come in like, like during the summertime, they’re not full time.

 

AG

Well, what’s great about the summer is that they are full time over the summer. So when, when we’re, you know, working with students during their school year, we have to compete, with four or five other very important draws on their time and attention. But as sort of the opposite of the way the rest of the world works, where everybody tries to take it easy over the summer, we usually go full throttle over the summer, because that’s our opportunity to get full time help for us. And so we have a little hive of energy and activity going on in the summer

 

MA

I was curious to know, how often do students maybe start the clinic and just drop out and decide it’s just not for them? And if that does happen, what are the typical reasons?

 

AG

Well, we often have, we will often have one student who decides that it’s not for them kind of roughly at orientation. You know, the thing about wrongful convictions is that I think most people are very aware of wrongful convictions and innocent people in prison now, but the way they come to it is that they see somebody collapsing into the arms of their family, getting out of prison, and it’s a very joyous occasion. And maybe everybody doesn’t think about the fact that this started with a murder or, or a sex crime or a kidnapping. And there’s, there’s a, there’s a straight up criminal victim, I mean, victim of a crime, and a horrible story that’s occurred and horrible facts attached to it. And then there’s a whole other set of victims who are the wrongfully convicted person and his or her family. And there’s so much suffering and so much just awful facts and awful things that you kind of have to live in as you do the case that I think sometimes people want to come on board because they see the joy and they see the back end or the front end or whatever it is, but they don’t see. They may not be prepared for what they’re really going to see when when you peel back the lid on these areas.

 

DM

Adam to kind of build on that. Do your students ever circle back in their career to help out LPI with cases or in fundraising or even promotion?

 

AG

Oh, yeah, we, we there are a lot of times when we ask when we ask our students to help us with promotion or something that we’re doing but there and there are a lot of times when students will email us from a job at a big law firm and say, I’m finally able to do some pro bono work, is there something I can do with you. And we also have, you know, a lot of former students who are working for public defenders or other justice oriented organizations who are sort of doing our work in in in another setting, there are a lot and there are also a lot of people who generally people do our work or our clinic in there 2L year. But there’s always a percentage of them who really don’t want to let their case go after a year and want to come back for their three year and even try to get some kind of a fellowship for after they graduate. So we you know, we don’t require that people want to go into criminal law when they join the clinic, but we find that we have we do have a lot of converts and a lot of people who went to law school to try to help people or specifically to work on innocence cases.

 

DM

You know, that’s a great point. It would be hard to give a year of your life working on this and then just to walk away because your time’s up I could see a lot of lot of the students wanting to come back continue to be involved, you know, as much as they possibly can just get across the finish line.

 

AG

Yes, because the case is taking much longer than then they’re gonna be in the clinic, but I also tell them you know, I apologize in advance for ruining you for every other legal job since this is the most moving most, you know, fulfilling thing you’re probably ever going to do.

 

MA

So for the students that are then turned on by criminal law and pursue it, what percentage of those students end up working for the good guys that is, as criminal defense attorneys?

 

AG

Oh, I mean, overall, I think there’s, it’s, it’s not a majority. But I would say there’s a good, maybe 30% of the students end up working in criminal defense in one way or another, beyond doing pro bono work and things like that.

 

PM

I would just add that, you know, even those who don’t go on to do criminal defense work, are often profoundly moved by the experience. And I just got an email yesterday, from Brittany Whitehead, who was a volunteer with us in 2015. And she was here as an undergrad from Colorado, she’s going to college in Colorado, and she came to volunteer with us. And she wrote me this really nice email, and she said, You know, I worked on Jane Dorotik’s case, which is one of our cases, and, and it’s still going on, but she has been released from prison, and her conviction has been overturned. And Brittany just said, I check, I have a, you know, reminder in my calendar to check every week to see, you know, if anything, if there’s any news on the case, and she was ecstatic to hear some of the things that she was working on five years ago, you know, still matter, and they helped, they helped us get Jane out. So our client, Jane Dorotik out. So, you know, I was really happy that she reached out in and said that, because you never know, you know, when somebody comes in volunteers and then moves on, you don’t always know what impact they experience had for them. And she just expressed it so well, I was happy.

 

 

MA

So Paula, to build on that, for the students that do go on to be prosecutors, what do you hope that they’ll will take with them after their experience in the clinic?

 

PM

I hope that they have a clear- eyed view of the fact that we all make mistakes, and a lot of mistakes are inadvertent, but they’re still mistakes. And it is incredibly important that we hold ourselves accountable. And for for reviewing possible mistakes, uncovering them, and then fixing them. And it’s not an indictment of one’s character to admit that you made a mistake. It’s a testament to your character, that you can acknowledge that and, and try to fix it and then and learn from it and move forward. And I also hope that they, they take into their position as a prosecutor, an understanding that there’s a lot of gray, in criminal law, things are not always as black and white, as they are sometimes presented to the jury. And what I mean by that, as an example is, you know, just because the law says you can throw the book at somebody and charge them with 14 different crimes and gun enhancements and gang and like, you know, you can just load it up, it doesn’t mean that you should, and, you know, prosecutors too, can look at the whole picture, you know, who is this kid? What, where’s he coming from? How did he end up in the situation? Is this that, you know, all of those questions that, that go both to public safety and to our humanity, and how we treat people in the criminal justice system and out, I think, I think that they need to, you know, take with them when they when they leave our project.

 

DM

Let’s stay with the students. And I’m gonna open this up to either one of you to answer, tell us about the selection process for students in what what goes into that? What’s some of the qualities that you’re looking for? And then how do you coach them up?

 

AG

You know, we are looking for people who can get things done, who sort of had a history of taking care of business, frankly, it not necessarily just in justice, but did things in high school where they had to sort of take charge and accomplish something and get something completed. You know, we’d love to see people who, who have a history of trying to help other people and trying to make justice happen wherever they wherever they can. But we also recognize that that not everybody has launched, you know, all kinds of justice projects by the time they’re in law school. But the idea that we’re looking for people who don’t wait for somebody else to tell them exactly how to do things for people who don’t wait for other people to do things for them. And I like to look at how they talk about the work that they assume they’re going to be doing. Because everybody has a decent idea of what we do as an Innocence Project, maybe not the nitty gritty, but what our cases are going to be about. I like to see how people talk about that work, and how or whether they talk about the effect it’s going to have on the clients or whether they talk about the effect that it’s going to have on them.

 

 

 

MA

Well I know that the clinic is very hands on for the students. So besides, you know, helping out with legal motions and proposed court orders and this kind of thing, what type of boots on the ground investigation and, you know, kind of real lawyering experience do the students actually get?

 

PM

Well, one area that comes up quite a bit, in our cases, is has to do with expert witnesses. Because a lot of these cases involve forensics, or as you know, DNA things, issues for which we really do need expertise. And I like to give the students opportunities to interact with the experts, a big part of lawyering, especially litigation, any kind of litigation, frankly, is the ability to become quickly become a little mini expert yourself, because you cannot interact with your own experts, you cannot appropriately address the issues in your own case, unless you understand them. And that means science or, you know, brain injury, or DNA or whatever. And so, I like giving the students chances to interact with the experts help them get the materials they need to review, explain to the students, you know, what’s going to be helpful to the court, we need to get these experts to tell the court the information that that the court needs to decide the issue. And it’s a really great exercise, and it’s a great way to teach them how to do that analysis. They also do a lot of witness interviews go out, we actually go out we knock on doors, and we Adam is is really good at this, you know, we they come to the door, and we ask if we can talk to them about something happened 35 years ago, and and the students are there, we prepare them ahead of time, they understand, you know, the reason we’re going to see a particular witness. And I think it’s really a beautiful thing to watch, because in the beginning, they’re usually pretty shy. For the most part, they don’t want to speak up too much. But by the end of even the first semester, you know, they’re they’re finding their, their comfort zone and and getting in there and, and adding value to those witness interviews, don’t you think? h,

 

AG

Yeah absolutely. And, you know, the witness interviews are one of the more fascinating aspects because there’s, there’s a whole lot of psychology and there’s a whole lot of just understanding people and how people operate and, and using that to try to get to the truth of the matter. And, you know, for for a lot of law students, there’s an opportunity opportunity to talk to someone in a part of the city or, or in a situation that they really don’t spend much time in and learn how to talk to different kinds of people and people in different situations. And understand that you know, people have different lives and and you have to go into interactions with people, just not assuming that you know, everything about them or not assuming that, you know, what, what, what you will find when you talk to them. So it’s great. It’s also great practice for any kind of legal area that they work in. But it’s such an exercise in understanding humans and trying to really have a an honest interaction with a person that you probably never meet otherwise.

 

DM

Yeah, I find this part of the work that you do extremely fascinating. I don’t think that a lot of people that are that may have heard the Innocence Project, understand that these students are going out into the field now and I find this a really interesting part of of your work. And I was curious, since you probably have, you know, you said students coming from across the country to come out and work and I’m sure that there’s things where they’re maybe going into South Central is there have  there been situations where students felt unsafe or at least extremely scared while conducting an investigation or doing these interviews?

 

AG

Well first of all, we take a lot of precautions to make sure that everybody is safe. We nobody ever goes anywhere alone. They don’t go out without somebody on the staff and we have a lot of experience as to you know how to keep ourselves safe. I think when people have become frightened, it’s not even about really dealing with people, it’s more like making sure they’re, you know, whether there’s a dog in the yard or when you see a dog in the yard, whether you can go in that yard or not, or figure out a creative way to keep yourself safe and stay away from that dog. Or some some circumstances where you go into a building, looking for a witness. And it’s, you know, it’s a very intricate series of hallways, and it’s dark. And you wonder if you’re really safe in there, we take a lot of precautions, and we have a lot of faith that we have, you know, we have truth and justice on our side. And we don’t think anything’s going to happen to us, if we’re smart about it.

 

PM

Also, I, you know, one of the things that we do in every case is, I would say maybe there, maybe there is an exception or two is we go, we go physically to where the crime occurred if we can, and, you know, training people who are potentially considering being a prosecutor or a criminal defense attorney, to actually go and lay eyes on a on a scene is really important. And I don’t know that a lot of that happens a lot in, in during the trial, pre trial and trial phases of a lot of cases. And, you know, for example, if you have a witness who says, Oh, I saw the person, I saw the defendant, go across the street and do X, Y, and Z. And it was, you know, midnight, and it was on such and such a corner, and we go there at night at that same time. Sometimes we even go on the very day, or we look at the moon conditions, we look at the lighting we go and we we see, could they even really see this. And I think the students are often surprised when they see the results, like just physically going in and putting yourself there can be incredibly informative.

 

MA

Well, Adam, you hit on this already. But obviously this type of work is grueling, it can be extremely frustrating, and at times actually disturbing for the reasons that you pointed out Adam, and also just the sort of pictures and things that you see in discovery. So I’m curious for what I’ll call a kid, since I’m old now, you know, a student who may be in their 20s, who doesn’t have a lot of worldliness and they’re thrown into this work, what kind of resources are you able to provide them to help them cope with with the stress?

 

AG

Well, we do have the ability to obtain the services of specialist for secondary trauma, if people feel like they’ve been really traumatized, by things that they’ve seen, or things that they’ve heard. Um, and we spend a lot of time talking about, you know, after we go somewhere, after we see something we spend a lot of time talking about what we’ve seen and what its effect is on on us. And I have to say the students have, you know, when this works, the students really give over emotionally to their case. I don’t see a lot of students who are, who are seemed traumatized or who are seem to be thinking about themselves very much they, I think they most have almost all of them that I can think of have really taken it in stride. And again, I think the ones who who are easily traumatized by some of this work kind of weed themselves out early, but we do make sure that there are counselors available if somebody needs one. And we talk a lot about how we feel about things. And what we’ve seen. It is a constant worry, though, because they are young people. And some of them have never had a job before even. And they’re looking at, you know, we see autopsy photos and, and pieces of evidence with blood on them and all kinds of grim things. And by the way, you know, we also go to prisons all the time and talk to people. You know, we talked to some witnesses who unfortunately really have no future at all to look forward to and we all have to figure out how to talk to a person who essentially has nothing to look forward to. How do you really communicate with them and and make them feel heard, without reminding them of all the things that they’re missing? And that’s somewhat I don’t know if traumatic is the right word, but it’s pretty serious stuff.

 

DM

That could really, you know, weigh on you when you’re trying to make a connection with somebody I could completely identify with that. You mentioned this early on in our conversation Paula about some of time people make mistakes. And I was wondering some of the more what’s the most egregious instance of injustice that you’ve seen in one of your cases?

 

PM

I would say it’s probably in Andrew Wilson’s case, Mr. Wilson had his conviction was overturned in 2017, after he was in prison for 32 years. And, you know, to the, to the DA his credit that the deputy DA on the case at the time, discovered that the trial prosecutor knew some information before Mr. Wilson’s trial even occurred, and the information that she knew strongly pointed to another suspect. And that was not disclosed to the defense. It wasn’t raised at trial, she went forward with the trial and, and he was convicted and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. And the, you know, the trial prosecutor, it may be that she really didn’t know the value of the information she had. You know, generally I don’t think prosecutors set out to convict innocent people. But it was a huge injustice. And it was clear, you know, when we saw it, how incredibly exculpatory, the evidence was, and that it clearly should have been given over to the defense. And they they acknowledged that and they conceded that his conviction should be overturned. I don’t know, Adam, am I forgetting anything?

 

AG

Well, also, I would add to that, that prosecutor didn’t. Not only did that prosecutor not turn over the information, but there was no effort made to investigate it, either. To make sure, you know, that it wasn’t important, or was important.

 

PM

You know, what’s, what’s interesting, too, is Adam and I contacted her all these, you know, decades later, she’s like, yeah, sure, come on over, I’ll talk to you. And we told her what case it was. And she said, Oh, this case has always troubled me. And she listened to, you know, all the problems and the case, and she signed a declaration that said, You know, I think there might be some problems in this case, and she didn’t remember, you know, the, the material that I was just describing, she didn’t remember that happening. But there was something about the case that always bothered her. And she came forward and said, So, which was really helpful. And it was also the right thing to do.

 

 

DM

How do you stay calm?

 

How do you hear see it the first time and then go back and talk to her again? How do you how do you stay calm? I feel like I would I don’t know.

 

AG

It’s a particular lawyer skill that you have to have at the moment when something you’re hearing somebody who’s sitting two feet away from you is telling you something that’s like an earthquake. And you have to figure out how to keep your poker face on and not let them know how important it is what they’re saying. So they keep talking. It’s a particular legal skill. I don’t know what what to call it.

 

DM

Clearly, I would not be good at it.

 

PM

If you ask a lot of people on my staff, they would tell you, I do not stay calm

 

DM

Thanks for making me feel better Paula.

 

MA

So Paula and Adam,big picture, in all the cases that you’ve handled in the project, if you had to rank the top three causes for wrongful convictions, what would you say they would be?

 

AG

Well, in our office, I, the number one cause seems to be prosecutorial and and related police misconduct, I would say, Would you, Paula?

 

PM

I would say that’s present in almost every case, I would say eyewitness ID is probably second.

 

AG

Mm hmm. And of course, those aren’t mutually exclusive. Right. And there are, you know, increasingly, we’re seeing cases where, where it’s about bad science

 

PM

And bad defense, lawyering You know, it’s, it’s the same on both sides. There are prosecutors, some are trained better than others. Some are, are just better than others. And the same is true on the defense side. And, you know, everybody has their resource limitations, and they have their own issues. But we have seen some really horrendous cases, including an attorney who had just graduated from law school two years and 10 months before taking on a potential death penalty case. and had never been really had much felony experience. And Yep, that was back in 1980. I think things are maybe better now.

DM

So. Let’s move on to something more positive. Tell us if you want to name names. Tell us a couple of if you don’t mind sharing a couple of stories on some past students who went on to do some really great things in their career.

 

PM

Well, one of our first fellows, her name is Jackie Rambis. And she was in the clinic she worked on which case Adam was it Kash?

 

AG

I think she came along just after Kash’s case. Well, to be honest, she worked very hard on a couple of cases that we ended up closing that i don’t i don’t know that we need to say the names of she spent an awful lot of time working on a couple of cases that that didn’t pan out, for for the person who was convicted.

 

PM

She worked on Maria Mendez, and now she works at the LA County Public Defender’s Office. And we have another staff attorney named Seth Hancock. And he also now works at the LA County Public Defender’s Office, we have a former student, Charlie Nelson Keever, who is now pursuing postconviction opportunities. And I’m trying to think of, we have a couple of students who have now become fellows within our clinic. So there, they claim they’re never leaving. We’re trying to make that happen.

 

AG

And there’s Lauren,Lauren Noriega, who has her own firm does a lot of postconviction work. Also,

 

PM

Ariana Price has moved to Tucson, she left us and moved to Tucson, got married and had a baby, and she’s also doing postconviction work.

 

MA

Well, that’s great. And along those lines, I’m kind of curious to know, what kind of bond do you and the students end up forming with your exonerees and their families as a result of sharing is such a profound experience?

 

PM

It’s pretty, it’s a pretty profound bond, you’re right. It we are, in many instances, a member of the family and they they we have, you know, friends, slash former clients, who just straight up call us brother and sister. And you know, when you think about it, they they see us as instrumental in in really helping to save their lives in some respects. And, you know, when you were asking earlier about the students, and you know, how we, how we go about protecting them from things that might be traumatic, you know, we we give them a heads up and like, these are autopsy photos, don’t look, if you don’t want to look, we, you know, we’ve tried to prepare them as much as possible. But one of the things we tell them is, look, the people who are writing to us, they don’t have anywhere else to go. They don’t have it’s not like, should we choose? Should we choose Loyola Or should we just go hire a lawyer, they don’t have money. And so, you know, I encourage the students, if they ever feel like, you know, I just don’t know if I want to do this, I don’t know if this is going to be too hard. I want them to really dig deep and think, you know, if I don’t help this person, or if we don’t help these people, there isn’t anybody else. So, you know, with respect to our former exonerees I mean, our former our clients who have been exonerated you know, it’s always a joyful thing to stay in touch to hear how they’re doing. And it is forever they they will forever be part of our extended family.

 

AG

The other thing about our clients is that you know, what, when you’re in prison when you’re imprisoned in, in America, in state prison or in county jail. You know, there’s this process of dehumanization that goes on and, and when you’ve been in prison for 30 years or 20 years, you know, you’ve been dehumanized, sometimes on purpose. Sometimes inadvertently, in certain situations. You’ve you’ve had most of your or somebody has tried to take most of your humanity. And one of the one of the ways that manifests itself is that nobody listens to you. And you know, if you imagine yourself having been a victim of this terrible injustice, and and put in a cage for all this time, and then every time you try to tell somebody about it, they just kind of shake their head like yeah, yeah, yeah, I heard somebody else say that once, you know, who’s, I mean, it’s so profound and and one of the things that we try to do for everybody who asks for our help, even the people that we can help is just to try to give them an experience of being treated like a person again, and being listened to again. Then being taken seriously again, and treated like somebody who might be telling the truth, or has something to say. And so if you start from there, and you build a relationship where you where you then go on to help them in this profound way, I mean, you know, the attachment, the fulfillment that it gives us, and the, the effect that it has on them, it just can’t help but create this incredibly intense relationship and friendship and kinship. And when you combine that with the fact that, you know, to get to this stage, our clients are some of the most strong willed, resilient, remarkable people that that we’ve ever met. It really creates this bond that I mean, it’s one of the privileges of this work, I’ve, you know, you’ve never had a relationship like it, probably. And if the students get a little taste of it, it’s another one of the really intoxicating things that we hope will help them remember the power and the privilege that they have to help other people. It’s really an incredible relationship,

 

DM

I could understand now that connection could last forever, you know, that your just, you’re giving them a piece of themselves back.

 

AG

Or their mom and their sister. They may have never seen outside of prison before. You know, it’s it’s unbelievable. It, it couldn’t be more intense.

 

DM

I want to talk about how DNA is, is how it’s a powerful tool to potentially win someone’s freedom. Tell us a little bit about the post -conviction DNA testing grant that you received, and was actually just renewed.

 

PM

The grant is for public institutions only. And Loyola is a private, a private law school. So we decided what we needed to do is get creative and figure out some way to propose a project that would have us collaborating with a public institution. And so Cal State LA, which is where the crime lab that services, LAPD  and LA sheriff’s department, and they have a criminalistics program and a graduate program, the the director of that program, Dr. Kathy Roberts, and I got together and thank you to Mehul, who introduced us, you know, she could help train her students who want to go into criminalistics and be criminalists, one day, the same way we’re training our law students, which is, you know, by looking at some of these cases where we think there might be problems. And so we got the grant. And we coordinate our case work, where we think that there might be evidence that can be DNA tested, and we are doing it in connection with her program. So it’s been, it’s been incredibly successful, I think, which may be partly why we got renewed. And we’ve got a couple of cases where DNA is being analyzed right now, right this very minute. And we have a DNA expert retained who advises us and gives us his opinion. You might have heard of him, his name is Mehul Anjaria. And he’s wonderful. And, you know, he’s, he teaches our students, he comes into our class, and he’s like, we’re gonna learn about DNA. And it’s incredibly helpful. Because, you know, one of the things that people always joke about lawyers is, you know, they’re terrible at math, and they’re terrible at science. But you know, doing this kind of work, you can’t, you can’t afford to be bad at science you have to learn. And so, through the DNA grant, we have funding to actually physically pay an independent lab to go analyze the evidence and look for DNA. And we have funding to to do some investigation and to do some travel and things like that. So those those funds are dedicated to cases where we suspect DNA might be present that could help you know, exonerate one of our clients.

 

DM

So speaking of DNA, obviously, the origin of the whole Innocence Project was Barry Scheck and  Peter Neufeld in New York. I’m curious, how much interaction do you have with that mothership Innocence Project in New York?

 

PM

We actually have a really a really organized network there are between 60 and 70. I think now, innocence projects across the country, actually internationally. There are a couple outside of the United States now too. And we all get together once a year at an annual meeting in different cities across the country. Barry and Peter are very much stewards of this work still and you know, what we have learned by studying these wrongful conviction cases, is incredible. And it is guiding all sorts of reforms that need to take place across the country. Because you know what we all know, no one better than Peter, Peter and Barry is, you know, getting people out one at a time is it takes forever, it’s a tremendous amount of work. And it’s really not going to move the needle in terms of making things better going forward. What we need to do, in addition to working on those cases is we need to look at the systemic problems that are revealed in these cases. And we need to talk about legislative reforms, changing the way we police changing the way we punish and think about public safety through a different lens, all the stuff that you’ve been hearing about in terms of the idea of criminal justice reform, and and the information that we’ve gotten by studying these cases. It did all start with Barry and Peter, and the DNA cases that they did, because what DNA did is it showed conclusively you got the wrong person. And then what we did after that is we’ve studied it and like, why did we get the wrong person? And that’s where we came up with all the what we now call the common causes of wrongful conviction, a coerced false confession, erroneous eyewitness ID, police or official misconduct, all of those things. Now we know how we can go and and try to address it and fix it. So to answer your question, they’re very much still involved. And we do have contact with the mothership in New York as well as our our friends and colleagues across the country at other projects, you know, constantly a new issue comes up that nobody’s ever heard of. And so we all say, Hey, does anybody have seen this before. And we try to support each other that way

 

AG

People think of lawyers as very competitive. But you know, everybody in the network really wants to see everybody else exonerate as many people as they can. And everybody’s very generous with their time and their brainstorming and their advice and their ideas. Whether it’s New York, or some of the other projects around the country, we’ve had a lot of great success, just just helping each other and, and, you know, helping each other to succeed. Because we’re all really, you know, we’re doing the same thing. It’s very specialized. There are very few people around the country who have the same conversations we have. But we are all very, very collaborative.

 

DM

I want to talk about another important element of your wrongfully convicted, and that’s the media coverage. You know, obviously, we know how important these days social media is about framing and framing these cases. How can you potentially use it to your advantage of getting out in front, on on framing, the messaging and these cases?

 

AG

Well, it’s so interesting to me that there are so many now days when you’ll see the news, or see some feed that you have, and and there’ll be a story about somebody walking out of prison, who was wrongfully convicted and who was innocent. It’s, um, it’s, it’s no mystery anymore, that these things happen. And they happen more and more, which means that these wrongful convictions are still happening. So you know, as a threshold, it helps just for the entire nation to now be educated on what what really happens. And in wrongful convictions and the fact that there are wrongful convictions. I do think now we need to try to figure out a way for people to really pay attention to the frank facts of how it happens, why it happens, and why it may not be happening any less than it ever was, and how will we need to actually take measures to change things so that, you know, it’s not just something awful that used to happen. It’s it’s happening today, people innocent people are being convicted today. And it’s helpful that we’re talking about justice reform in the media. But I think we really need to start concentrating not only on the success stories, but on, unfortunately, you know, the real nuts and bolts of why this is happening and how we how we can stop it.

 

PM

Also, I mean, just to address your question, that maybe from a different angle, because people are becoming more engaged, whether it’s because they’re watching things in the media or because they are watching social media. And we have seen sort of an uptick in projects and supporters taking a case right to the streets, right. So they they’ll put it up on on social media, you know, we want you to help Mr. so and so he’s wrongfully convicted, or let’s write to the governor and trying to mobilize support like that, to bring this case to the, you know, to get more attention. And it’s it’s a good strategy. It’s something we talked about internally a lot. It’s always difficult and things are in a litigation posture, because, you know, you have to be careful about everything, you don’t want to do anything that might compromise your case so, you know, that’s a needle we’re trying to thread and think about, and be creative with. Because people are, they seem to be kind of hungry for it. They want to be engaged. We’ve gotten so many requests in the last year, let us help, how can we help I want to volunteer Can I donate? And I think a lot of it’s because of what’s going on politically and culturally across the country, and in Los Angeles. And we want to be able to respond to that we want to give people opportunities to engage and to help and to feel like they are part of the solution. So if you guys have any ideas,

 

DM

That’s what we’re here for. We’ve actually had a good number of people reach out to us and want to bring exposure to their their particular case or someone else’s case. So yeah, and we have a couple of ideas that we can talk about.

 

 

 

MA

Well, Paula, besides grant funding, what are the other sources of your funding for the program? And how can people help you out?

 

PM

We rely almost entirely on grants and donations. And we have, we have been when developing some really good community relations, working on community outreach, and, and taking our case out there to people who are looking for ways to help, you know, donations are huge. We have events, both both events that we charge for, and raise money with, and events that we don’t. But really, what we need is money. We need more attorneys. As you heard me describe earlier, the the caseload that we have the number of people who are waiting, we need help with social media, we need help with our website, we need help, you know, getting the word out to people that we are here, and we can help if we you know, if we have the resources.

 

AG

I mean, it’s, it sounds awful to say, but you know, just raising money to pay attorneys is is is a huge part of the ballgame. Having people who, as you just asked about the media, you know, having people who can help us raise our profile, will, will would be helpful, because it would again, point us toward funders and people who, who want to give us that kind of help. Um, you know, it’s, it’s a, it’s hard for people, people always want to help us, but these cases, help us in kind or, you know, to actually do tasks or come into the office and, and do help. But, um, it’s, it’s a very hard place, I think, to, to help in short bursts. You know, the kind of help that we need from people often involves a real time commitment. Because these cases take so long and these, these matters are so complicated. So you know, we love having people volunteer with us on and we try to be creative about different ways they can help. We have a high school student, for instance, who started a an Innocence Project club at her high school, and just sort of raised awareness at her high school among the other students who didn’t know all the things that she knew about wrongful convictions. There’s all kinds of creative ways to do it. People can who are involved. We’ve spoken, for instance, at meetings of organizations that are sort of continuing organizations, education organizations, for older people, and retirees who just want to learn more things. We’ve spoken to that to those groups, and they can branch out and help us in various ways if they’re engaged. So there are a million ways to do it.

 

DM

What do you see in the future for for the LPI?

 

PM

Well, in the near future, we are planning to announce that we are changing our name to the Los Angeles Innocence Project, so that it will help people find us. You know, there are a number of other institutions of higher learning in the country called Loyola. So we’ve had people comment that you know, it’s a little bit difficult. Are you in New Orleans? Are you in Chicago? Where are you? So we’re going to be Los Angeles Innocence Project. So hopefully that will help.

DM

Some simple branding, I think will probably clear some things up.

 

PM

Yeah. And so that’s on the horizon, we have some cases that we are, you know, up to our, our eyeballs and litigating. So hopefully we’re going to be getting a few more clients exonerated. And, you know, that’s about it. I mean, we were holding it together during COVID. It’s the as you can tell from these this conversation, the nature of this work is extremely collaborative. And it’s been really hard. I mean, I know, it’s hard for everybody to be a part in isolated, but the way we work and the way we have to investigate our cases and get out and knock on doors, you know, it’s been a little, it’s been challenging this year, but we have really weathered it. And, you know, we’ve still, we’ve had four people released from custody this year.

 

AG

Just to return to your previous question about how people can help, too. One thing I we haven’t talked about in this conversation is the aftercare that goes on when our clients are exonerated and released from prison. And in a lot of cases, you know, they walk out of prison with absolutely nothing, no belongings, sometimes no family, no housing, no jobs, very little job training, no money, obviously. I mean, literally, sometimes no belongings at all. And they’re automatically, they’re not entitled to anything automatically when they get out of prison. As opposed to even parolees who have, you know, there are programs of support for parolees, but not for exonerees, necessarily. And so there’s a tremendous amount of aftercare that goes on with our, our clients, when they come out of prison, you never know exactly what they will need, but we have to sort of stand at the ready to make sure that we can help to provide it. And so there are lots of opportunities for people from outside who wants to do something good for our clients, to help with the aftercare and the support and the sort of helping them to put their lives back together and launch the next part of their their lives, the happy part of their lives. You know, not just money, and not just things but all kinds of different support. There, you just never know exactly what they’re going to need. But almost all of them need quite a bit just to get themselves started. And so that’s a great way for help people to help us and our clients.

 

MA

Well, Adam, my final question is specifically for you. Let’s talk about this signature bow tie. What’s the story behind that? And how long have you been rocking it?

 

AG

Well,I, you know, I don’t even know how to answer that question. I just Well, there’s one really profound thing about bow ties. And that’s, it’s so much, it’s so much easier to get through lunch without getting your lunch on your bow tie.  It saves you money in the long run and makes you a little less dopey.  The rest of it is rather confidential.

 

 

MA

Okay, Fair enough. Well, Paula and Adam, I happen to know that you’ve a big hearing to get ready for tomorrow. So we don’t want to hold you any longer. But I thought this was a great discussion. Thank you so much for your time. And we hope that you’ll come back on crime redefined. And maybe we can get into some specific cases and issues as appropriate.

 

AG

Yes, We’d love to come back anytime

 

PM

That would be fantastic.

 

DM

Really appreciate it. Good luck tomorrow.

 

PM

Thank you. Thank you for what you’re doing. I really love the podcast, and you guys are great.

 

MA

Oh, thank you. Thank you so much, Paula. Take care.

 

DM

It was really a fascinating discussion Mehul. I can see that from the outside looking in that it really takes an army of resources to undo wrongful convictions.

 

MA

Yeah, absolutely. And it’s just so good that LPI has some resources, you know, they have all of the students to do a lot of legwork, that in the original investigation probably never was done.

 

DM

That’s right. And not only are they battling the legal and the scientific issues, but also issues of human nature. And I think this is a big part of where these wrongful convictions come from. And that’s ego and not wanting to admit any wrongdoing.

 

MA

Yeah, those issues are harder to deal with than the evidence in the case itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DM

I don’t know, that’s just human nature. You know, like I said, I don’t know if that’s something that will ever change. You know, hopefully we can get to a spot where people can just say, hey, look, you know, this is wrong, you know, take it on the chin and then and then move on.

 

MA

I would say that, you know, in my consulting work, if I have criticism of the prosecution crime lab, I hope that they take it as constructive criticism.

 

DM

versus an attack?

 

MA

Yeah, they may take..

 

DM

there’s a difference, obviously, right?

 

MA

Well, yeah. And they may take it as an attack initially. And that’s fine. But I hope maybe they’ll go back to the lab and say, Oh, you know what, yeah, we need to look at how I do that in the future.

 

DM

That kind of goes to my next point is that I was really impressed with both of them with both Paula and Adam, with their attitude. And the acknowledgement that people sometimes make mistakes. And that it, that it’s about fixing the injustice rather than pointing fingers.

 

MA

Yeah. And I mean, listen, there’s politics here, too, you know, it takes a lot of people to get somebody out of out of prison, it takes a judge, it takes a DA to cooperate on some level. So there has to be some diplomacy.

 

DM

That’s right. And I think at the bottom of everything, there’s always going to be, you know

either politics or money or both.

 

MA

Yeah, and I think you have to handle it with care. Because ultimately, you do need the cooperation of the district attorney in some regard to, you know, get these cases resolved and get these people free. And I’ve noticed that very often, their clients have already done a lot of legwork on their own cases. And that gives LPI a really good head start. And I’ve had that same experience with some of the pro pers that I work with who are really mindful. I mean, after all, it’s you know, they’re the ones whose life is basically at stake here. And the more responsible pro pers I work with, they want to be the expert in their case, they want to know everything about it. And, you know, unfortunately, these wrongful conviction cases, at some point in the process, it basically it falls on the shoulders of the wrongfully convicted individual to seek out, you know, the last resort for their freedom, such as LPI. But you wonder how many of these men and women slipped through the cracks? You know, after being so demoralized by their case, and the insurmountable issues with the legal system?

 

DM

We definitely heard that a lot from from Adam. And then, you know, Paula had mentioned some of the numbers of the volume of cases that they’re going through. So you’re right, it’s really on the the wrongfully convicted to to push this and make sure they get it in front of somebody.

 

MA

Yeah. And not to give up if LPI doesn’t get right back to them, because of course, they’re backlogged as well.

 

DM

That That’s right. You know, and something else that I, you know, kind of took away from this is that this work isn’t for everyone. But it seems like the law school clinic provides students with an on an awesome launchpad to begin a, a really rewarding and intense career in criminal law. And it’ll be interesting to see what they do next.

 

MA

Yeah, absolutely. I don’t know how you can’t be inspired after going through their clinic. And, you know, having had the the pleasure of working with LPI, on some cases, you know, as the role in the role of a DNA consultant, I’m always really struck with how relentless both the attorneys and the students are, and the drive that they have. And you know, they essentially have to redo the entire investigation of the case, either because the prosecutor didn’t really do their job initially. Or maybe even scarier, is that a defense attorney who may have been paid a lot of money during the trial, didn’t do their job as well. And by the way, this is several years later, which makes it much harder, because now it’s cold, as you mentioned. people’s memories aren’t as good people may have died, records may have been lost, evidence may be gone. I mean, it’s really, really a Herculean task. But you know, what I’ve seen from LPI is that they don’t leave any stone unturned as they battle for justice. And I gotta tell you, Dion that, you know, they’ve rubbed off on me that being you know, around their talented attorneys and motivated students is, is really helped me to up my game.

 

DM

Yeah, I don’t, I don’t see how that can’t be really infectious and push you to, you know, to do it, do whatever you can and work harder at, you know, like you said, you know, work harder at your game, right?

 

 

MA

Yeah. And then you got you really have to personalize it and think of that poor person who is innocent, who has been in jail for 10, 20, 30, 40 years. And just know that you know, LPI may be their very last hope.

 

DM

This has really been an interesting look at the issue of wrongful convictions from all sides on crime redefined. We talked about the common causes and spoke with a exoneree Fernando Bermudez and now we went behind the scenes, you know, of a program that makes exonerations happen.

 

MA

Well, listeners, we will post a link to a video that will show you and tell you more about LPI. And we’ll put that right in the episode description. And I also wanted to point out the very good work that LPI does in advocating for reform of the criminal justice. system. So Also be sure to check out their Instagram account @projectfortheinnocent, where you can learn more about their victories and their fundraising events. If you want to get involved and help out.

 

DM

You know, we really want to, you know, let people know we appreciate our listeners and say thank you to all the wonderful guests we have the honor of talking to on crime redefined. A huge thanks to all of you out there that are also downloading our episodes and following us on social media. Don’t hesitate, we mean that to weigh in and tell us what you think about crime redefined.

 

MA

Yeah, the good and the bad. Should I’ve said that?

 

DM

Yeah, be careful what you ask. And  Halloween is around the corner, so be sure to please visit crimeredefined.com where you can access all of our episodes and do some binge listening to this crazy year of 2020.

 

B

Thank you for listening to the crime redefined podcast, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at crime redefined. Please send us your comments and questions and join us for the next episode.

 

A Conversation With the Hosts-S1-27

Co-hosts Dion Mitchell and Mehul Anjaria take a pandemic-pause to take listeners behind the scenes of the Crime Redefined podcast. They talk about their backgrounds, past episodes, and their views on the criminal justice system.  The origin of Crime Redefined is revealed along with other Zero Cliff Media projects.  The hosts give their takes on hot topics such as equality in the justice system and genetic genealogy. Hosted by Dion Mitchell and Mehul Anjaria.  A Zero Cliff Media production.

Fight or Flight With Cung Le-S1 26

Cung Le is an MMA legend and Hollywood action movie star.  He joins Crime Redefined to discuss his new television project, Fight or Flight , which teaches viewers how to survive life-threatening scenarios. Cung also discusses his background and MMA and film careers. Hosted by Dion Mitchell and Mehul Anjaria.  A Zero Cliff Media production.

 

 

Unofficial Transcript (Explicit Content)

B=Show Bumpers

DM=Dion Mitchell, Co-host

MA=Mehul Anjaria, Co-host

CL=Cung Le, Guest

 

B

Welcome to the crime redefined podcast produced by zero cliff media coming to you from the US Bank tower high above downtown Los Angeles. In our podcast, we drill deep into forensics and criminal investigation from the viewpoint of the defense as well as explore the intersection of the media and the justice system.

 

DM

I’m Dion Mitchell here with my socially distanced co-host Mehul Anjaria. On this episode of crime redefined, we have a special treat for you. We’re talking to MMA legend and Hollywood action film star, Cung Le about his new TV project, Flight or Flight-that just might save your life.

 

MA

Yeah, as a big MMA fan, I’m really looking forward to today’s interview. Cung Le is a former Strikeforce middleweight champion who famously defeated Frank shamrock for that belt. Cung also fought in the UFC and he’s been in the ring with the likes of Michael Bisping, Vanderlei Silva, and Rick Franklin.

 

DM

Now if you’re not as familiar with MMA as Mehul is you may know Cung from the impressive list of movies he’s been in, to name a few, Fighting with Channing Tatum, Pandorum with Dennis Quaid, Dragon Eyes with Jean Claude Van Damme and Puncture Wounds with Dolph Lundgren.

 

MA

Well, I think we’ve established that Cung is a tough guy. And so now that we know his resume, it’s pretty obvious that Cung’s got the right stuff to bring us a TV show about survival. And let’s face it, with all the craziness in the world right now, we really all could, you know, benefit from paying more attention to some basics, like situational awareness, self-defense, and first aid. Like Cung says, you are your first responder.

 

DM

Cung has a sizzle reel out for his new and improved version of Fight or Flight. The timing couldn’t be better in this age of COVID civil unrest and increasing violent crime

MA

Don’t forget the asteroid strike that’s coming as well.

 

DM

Why not? Let’s just get it all in in 2020. Right. Sit back and relax. Enjoy the hour long chat we were privileged to have with Cung Le on a number of topics.

 

MA

Cung, it’s a great honor to have you on crime redefined today.

 

CL

Thanks for having me.  I’m looking forward to this interview and seeing what you guys got for me.

 

MA

Yeah, you know, I’ve enjoyed watching you fight in Strikeforce and UFC over the years and we really do appreciate your time today.

 

DM

We’ll make this fun. So let’s just jump into it. But let’s just set the stage and first of all, tell our listeners what is fight or flight response and what happens to the human body when it occurs?

 

CL

Well, fight or flight basically, you’re in a situation that could be life or death. Your body responds in certain things like your adrenaline kicks in. And it all comes down to how you react to it, you know, and there’s, there’s, there’s a moment when you might have to fight or you decide, you take flight. So, my show, I’ve done this show, but I started this show about two years ago. And I got an investor to fund one episode, I actually ended up shooting two episodes out of the funding, but one of my co-hosts who I paid for both shows, ended up thinking that he was bigger than the project itself. And he said that if I had to use if I was going to use his likeness, then I would have to renegotiate with him for back end ownership. So, I decided to scrap the scrap the project and you know, put it in God’s hand and when it was the right time to reboot it again.

 

DM

You know, those things, those things happen, you know, there is a there’s always a giant ego out there somewhere under a rock

 

CL

Well, in a way, it’s my fault because, you know, when we were doing this show, he was only gonna come on for one episode. And I, you know, we did a gentlemen’s handshake. And you know, now I learned a little. Right, I learned the hard way. So, um, you know, I easily could have won in court, you know, but, you know, he’s a veteran, you know, he served our country and, you know, whether he decides to, you know, you know, be this way and, you know, I think, you know, you know, a part of it is, you know, you know, could be his wife, too. I don’t know, whatever the case is, I just moved on, you know, I moved on, and now we got an amazing team the concept is way better. And, you know, so I’m really excited where we shot the sizzle, we edited him completely out of it. And now, we’re completely redoing the show. So I told the person who invested my show, you know that I apologize, but I don’t want to give him any credit out there. He doesn’t deserve it. And, you know, yeah, sure he served our country but, you know, I’m moving on to you know, someone who, who’s more, you know, you know, a man of faith. And I know that I put in God’s hands, you know, with God for me, nothing can stand against me. So, here we go again, right in the pandemic, right when everyone needs it. And it’s time.

 

MA

Yeah, it’s great timing Cung, I just saw it online last weekend. You know, the reboot is really kick ass. It looks really intriguing. So, tell us about where you’re at now, who are your current cast members and what’s really the goal of the show?

 

CL

Well, um, you know, Chad, He’s, uh, yeah, I don’t want to give everything away. But Chad he’s, you know, 10 year veteran also who instructed for the, you know, seal teams, and, you know, anti- terrorism instructor and did  13 month tours as a, you know, diplomatic protection and and, you know, I got a also someone who’s gonna talk about the PTSD and the facts that what, what what a person will feel before the incident and how they can recover and take steps to recover after an incident and you know, I think, you know, it’s like the three elements of you got your tactical guy you got your martial artist, you know, world, you know, I’ve been on, you know, fighting martial arts, you know, on different platforms, different styles, you know, throughout my whole career. I know what works in self-defense, I know what works in combat and I know what doesn’t work either, you know, so and then then we have our, you know, family therapist that can work with, you know, like a man or woman or even a child because we’re dealing in today’s world, you know, look what’s going on. Kids are going missing. You know, there’s pedophilia going on there’s, you know, you know, obviously right now the COVID is, you know, out shining, what’s happening to our kids. So, you know, how do we protect our kids? How do we protect ourselves? You know, and when do we fight? When do we run? You know, and I believe that show this show will kick ass. You know, think of Ridiculousness, where in the show, it tells you what not to do. And you know, and it shows funny stuff. And in our show, we show you the realness of the world we live in, and what you could do in these incidents with your skill level

 

MA

Well, to that point Cung, I am addicted to your flight or fight official TV IG account. And absolutely one of the most disturbing things on there are the human trafficking scenes. And I understand that Instagram actually shut your site down before Why is that?

CL

I have no idea. You know, we actually pulled a, you know, pull the content off of, you know, other sites, and then, you know, we, we make sure all of our content, you know, is, you know, we, when we post something, it’s facts, and there’s facts behind it, you know, there’s news covering it. So, I don’t know, you know, as you as you hear, you know, certain  people are controlling the media and when they want something to be out, they they’ll let it out when they want when they don’t want something they’ll  red flag you or they’ll shut you down. We’ve been shut down, you know, different times. But with, with all the overwhelming support, you know, I think, you know, and you know, God’s Will we’re always back on so we are very careful on what we’re posting. Now we even have a backup account with 10,000 followers, you know, and I, I feel blessed to, you know, be be the, the the guy behind this, you know the mastermind and putting it all together and I feel really blessed with a great team now, you know, before I felt like, you know, it’s like a two man show and we were gonna bring in victims, but now it’s about bringing in different specialists because, you know, we can’t just focus on one, one person’s, you know, something that happened to one person, but we got to focus on what everyone in the world can do if this happened, and since there’s footage out there, you know, we will take the footage, we will break it down, and then we’ll give you all the different options from, you know, the hand to hand combative, you know, tactical side and then there’s the tactical element of, you know, you know, the gun dynamics and, and military mindset and and then when we bring in our special guests we actually even have someone who was a an expert home invader and looks for all the the weak signs and and what they would go after you know someone who would be an easy victim or if they want to, you know, turn up their you know, adrenaline rush then they go after someone who’s tougher, you know so we, we break down there’s three different kind of predators out there there’s a predator that goes after the weak only the weak they will go after and then there’s a you know, the spontaneous where oh, you know and opportunities, and then you know, the moments right for them, and they don’t care who it is. And then they, you know, they become the predator and they go after the victim. And then there’s the last one, I believe is the most scariest one. Those are the predators that look for a trophy, they look for something hard, they look for, you know, someone to, you know, hurt or rape or kill or, you know, steal from, and those are the ones you know, you put on top of the, you know, on the list of, you know, the predators that are, they hunt for the trophy, they hunt for the thrill, you know, when they don’t have to

 

DM

Cung, that’s a great segue for my next question. In your sizzle reel and on Instagram, you mentioned a number of products that can help people with preparedness and self-defense, such as pepper spray. First of all for our listeners, Is pepper spray legal?

 

CL

Yes, well, you know, in most states it’s legal, right I don’t know, in other countries, but now, as you’re living in a pandemic, and you can’t carry a gun or haven’t taken your CCW or don’t like firearms. What are you gonna do? If you’re 120 pound female, and you know you’re about to be attacked. You know, like, what what I say is, you know, don’t you know don’t be that victim, you know, at least give yourself a fighting chance, you know, not only should you have that pepper spray, I suggest get the one that looks like a fire extinguisher. You can punch with that. You know, big ass, you know, pepper spray and you can spray and it has distance. You can walk around with it, pull it out of your purse if you feel threatened. And, and then, you know, you don’t even have to give warnings as soon as someone steps into your into your area of you know, comfort area. and, and if you have that mindset and you are in control of your emotion, then you can say, “You’re making me feel uncomfortable. I have pepper spray, I will use it”. And if they continue, then spray them get off the x and keep spraying them and run.

 

DM

Is there a particular brand that you like? And if so, where can you purchase it at?

 

CL

Well Evoke Tactical they carry Sabre. It’s a brand called Sabre. I’m doing some, you know, product development with some other companies of the military grade pepper spray, you know, like for me, as you see that the Asian communities been, you know, affected really bad by like everything. I’m not saying that, you know, you know, no one else has been affected. I’m saying we have been affected, mostly our elders because you know, you know, we are easier victims because our elders, you know, are you know, self-sufficient. They’ll walk to the store by themselves. They’ll go grocery shopping, they’ll go to the bank. And, and, and they’re just easy targets. They’re just easy target because they’re rolling around with their purse. And as you see, there’s 80% of the things that I I watch is because, you know, these elderly, you know, little elderly, you know, grandmas or granddad’s that are out and getting caught in the crossfire is you know

 

DM

Let’s talk about that. let’s say we’re, you know, giving some advice for the elderly community What are some of the products that people should own in a case of emergency like this, when we’re going through the pandemic?

 

CL

Well, first of all, like before I even stress product, right I stress situational awareness, right? I stress about hey, if you’re if you’re gonna go out right now, in this in this time and age, let’s let’s wait till someone gets home so you can go into you know, traveling in twos, you know, at least there’s two people and, and if someone’s standing in front of you, or you’re getting, you know, your purse or you know, you’re getting mugged, you’ve done everything else wrong already, because you didn’t check your situational awareness, you didn’t see, you know, check your surroundings and you didn’t check for all the people that are in that area and you know, or the cars or been suspicious. So, that’s, that’s one layer that you have to go through and to if they’re in front of you, and they are about to, you know, attempt something to rob you or to, you know, a hate crime. You got pepper spray and use the pepper spray, they somehow got through the pepper spray their eyes, they are blinded, or if you didn’t blind them, right, make sure you have some kind of blade. You know, of course, if you don’t know how to use it, you know, then then that blade could, you know, end up in their hands. So there’s a lot of different elements but for me, if I If I’m going out, if it’s my time, I want I prefer to go out fighting rather than going out on my knees.

 

MA

Well said, Cung. Take us back to your youth. And if you would, paint a picture for us  of what it was like to be a young Vietnamese kid growing up in San Jose, and how that turned you into the warrior that you are today.

 

CL

You know, when I first came to America, I was, you know, first we stopped in three different refugee camps, first in the Philippines. Then after that, in Guam, then in down in the Monterey area, then we got a sponsor, so and took us in in Monterey. And then from there, after almost a year, we moved to San Jose. And you know, we, I’m that Asian, you know, family like fresh off the boat where you’re loaded in a small house, four bedroom house with 13 you know, people, you know, where the first two rooms is dedicated to my grandparents who, who, who got the house and then my great grandma had her own room and then the aunts got one room and the uncles got the others and I was with the aunts because my mom you know, you know, I was the first the first kid you know, in the batch so yeah, it was a it was crazy, you know, living with a bunch of, you know, ants in one room was rough.

 

So, just growing up and you know, being bullied and you know, a lot of you know, kids whether they’re American or African or Mexican, they didn’t understand why their uncle or their dads died in Vietnam. So they definitely had a lot of, you know, animosity and hate and resentment, you know, to the to the boat people. The Vietnamese people came in trying to start over and you know, we lost our, our country, you know, and, and we’re starting over so and, you know, it was it was, it was tough, but I believe through toughness and through the struggles that I endured, it helped me become the person that I am, along with having faith in God. And my mom teaching me right, you know, so I wasn’t raised by my dad, my dad was, you know, stuck in Vietnam, and he came over when I was eight, but you know, they were divorced by time I was a freshman, so it obviously didn’t work out. And, you know, being, being from Vietnam as a refugee and going through what I’ve endured, I believe this is like the American dream, you know, where you can struggle for success. And you know, now we’re in a time of pandemic. This is you you’re living in your own movie.

 

MA

Cung, tell us a little bit about your entree into martial arts and the first time that you were able to shut one of these bullies down physically. And what that felt like

 

CL

When I first started martial arts was when my mom says, that’s enough, you know, I came home with a bloody nose and a black eye and she said, I’m gonna take you to a dojo and, and, you know, we’re gonna find you a teacher to teach you how to defend yourself. But you know, going in she she still had to work two or three jobs to get me in consistently, you know, so, and when she told me, you know, you know, at first she told me, you know, don’t fight you know, it’s not good if you the one thing that you do when you fight is you don’t think one thing that you gain is one more enemy. And so I didn’t fight I just, you know, got bullied and picked on and beat up. And then, like, my teacher told me, you know, you know, sometimes you have to defend yourself so, but he didn’t really I didn’t really go through like, consistency of classes. But what you know, so I continue to get bullied. I, you know, just going through a couple weeks of martial arts doesn’t mean that you can fight so I was still getting my butt my butt whooped. Not until I started joining wrestling and then got, you know, you know, got into it, you know, after, like, after seventh grade, I felt like I can carry my own. I even in seventh grade my first year into wrestling. I, I went to the Nationals I didn’t, I didn’t place but I went, you know, and and I, you know, come eighth grade before I went to before I became a freshman. I remember the last day of school, some freshmen came in, and you know, just because I did, I was in you know, like, you know, You know, I, I did something wrong to one of his cousins or whatever, I don’t know whether I don’t remember exactly, but I did start it. And you know, he came in and he tried to you know, try to pick fight and you know next thing I know I picked him up and double legs I’m down and the fight was over knocked out of him and that was it. And pretty much the whole school saw that and it was like the last day of school. So from there I went into as a freshman in high school everything was who I just competed for the you know, try to compete for the varsity spot which I didn’t get but you know, I had so much great experience and the wrestling journey began you know, really began as a freshman you know, even as eighth grade I actually placed at Nationals but you know, I wasn’t like year round yet. I was still like, you know, like six months and then take a couple months off and then back into wrestling. But, you know, as a freshman I was year-round wrestling. All the time

 

DM

It really sounds like it got a hold of you. And it’s amazing how, with that kind of motivation, what’s what’s possible, I want to ask you about your sizzle reel where you show a lot of advanced tactical weapons techniques and martial arts moves. But what are some of the basic tips that we should all know about survival?

 

CL

The basic tip is stick to the basics. There’s nothing fancy about anything and don’t go to a class a self- defense class for a weekend and believe that now you can defend yourself. This is a pretty much every day, if not five days a week, whether you’re in the shower or whether you’re at home taking a break from your work, or for the kids out there. If you’re taking a work from in between your home studies, and your shadowboxing and you’re doing your basic punches your basic you know headbutts your your basic angles, you’re you’re working, you’re 50% to your zero percent, meaning if someone’s down in front of you, you don’t want to be in front of them that’s been out there hundred percent you you will take on the hundred percent of their power, you take off the 50 you still got your hundred, but they’re only at their 50% so they’re only really, you know, got one good side to attack you from before you guys square up again. So that’s, you know, just you know, those are the basics that I teach and you know your basic jab, your cross your hook, your knees, your low, get your arms and and putting a blade in your hand. If whoever’s done boxing, whoever’s done kickboxing, you know, I’m not going to reinvent the wheel you you put a knife in reverse grip position, and you’re done combos with that you can punch with the fifth, then slice after or you can hit with the blade only and having a blade or two in your hands. I believe that that’s the game changer. You’re not doing any stabbing. You’re not trying to be a knife fighter. You’re not going through your, you know, nine or 10 or 11 different slashes that you learn in a knife, you know, class, whether it’s a saber, knife position or whether it’s a reverse grip, you know, you you are doing what you normally do in a kickboxing class, you don’t combination that someone’s face, and you got a blade in your hand, you know, and, and if you’re, if you’re fighting, you’ve done everything wrong about, you know, again, I always stress that to the people I teach. If, if you’re fighting or you’re confronted with someone, you everything you’ve done with situational awareness, and knowing your surroundings, you, you you failed.

 

DM

So you’re saying you should if your heads up and you’re aware of your environment and in tune with what’s going on and you can, you know, kind of see maybe a situation potentially coming up on you to remove yourself from that. So you’ve lost the battle already. If you found yourself kind of, you know, in that situation where you’ve got to fight is is kind of what you’re saying?

 

CL

Correct, you know, at this level, you know, and if you feel like you’ve been followed here are the things you need to know, the time that you’ve been followed the distance that you’re being followed, and you make that change of direction. And that guy still on your tail you’re being followed, get to a busy, crowded area. And basically, you know, work your elements work your mirrors that when you walk in, and and you know that if you’re in this place, there’s a lot of people and there’s cameras, and that’s, that’s your safer bet. And that’s when you can pull out your cell phone. And if you don’t have one, you can ask the one in there saying that you been followed and you need to borrow their phone. And you know, you, you know, you can, you know, hand them something so they don’t think that you’re going to run off with their phone. And then you make your call and you stay right there until someone gets there and then you can report it. But while you while you while, during the time during the distance, you should try to get the plates you know, you try to get the make of the car and if you’re able to, you know see the person in there, then you should try to get a facial description. You know, right away, make those notes

 

DM

Those are all great tips and advice and I hope people will listen to this several times. So it, it sinks in, it’s great. And it actually sets up another great segue. So, if you don’t mind, I’d like to throw out just a really simple scenario. So how would you apply fight or flight technique to the average person and here’s the scenario, let’s say someone using Kenosha or Seattle or Portland or any of these hotspots right now, who is inadvertently found themselves the wrong place the wrong time. So let’s say for example, a car is too easy because that happens. But let’s say you’re just walking down a city street, you don’t know that anything’s going on, you turn the corner, and all of a sudden, you’re just you’re in it, and then they’ve turned on you. Do you have any suggestions there any tips you can give us?

 

CL

Well, you know, if you’re walking, and then you turn the corner, and you’re not seeing everything that’s going on before what happens you can’t just turn a corner and all sudden, you’re right now like missed a battle, right? The battle has people running have people scared. So if you’re not looking ahead and you don’t you’re not seeing one or two people running or you know, you know yelling and you know, gunshots then again you’ve done everything wrong and you happen to turn that corner and you see everything going on, what’s the best thing to do is turn right around and, and turn you know, turn on those, you know, turn on those rockets and and, and sprint out of there

 

DM

You know, and that’s that’s great and you’re actually you know, you kind of did a soft call out to me because you’re right if you’re if your heads down in your phone, and you’re walking down you should be able to hear or you say you, you know, see people or you know walk going the other direction or commotion going that direction. So, what you’re saying is if your head is up, and your eyes are forward, you’re not buried in your phone. That scenario should never happen. You should have your head on swivel your ears open and you should be seeing things coming your way. So, there is not really a scenario where you turn a corner and you should be surprised. Am I understanding you correctly?

 

CL

Correct, correct. You know, if, again, there’s a lot of things 99.9% of time, if you have your head on swivel, and you’re paying attention to what’s going on, you can avoid the whole situation, don’t even go there. Drive all the way around, take a scenic route, whatever it takes, you know, instead of, you know, if you walked into it, then you know, unless you’re, unless you’re a sheep dog, you know, because sheep dogs, they, they tend to run towards gunfire and you know, try to see what they can do. And you know, there’s always the the smart ones and the wise one right sometimes, you know, it’s better to be smart and learn from the wise one and don’t make the mistake that that wise person makes you know, so you have to you know, assess the situation, analyze it. kind of figure out, you know, what, what the risk is, and if anyone’s life is in danger because I, for me, I’m that person, I won’t turn a blind eye, if I can help or save someone, but at the same time, you know, whether it’s a quick phone call to 911 or it’s calling, you know, the police. And of course, you are your first responder. So, don’t put yourself in that situation where you have to respond to yourself. So, if you’re responding to someone else, someone else’s because they’re, they’re in a situation or they’re bleeding out, then you are the second responder because they don’t know what to do. You’re always going to be, the police will always be the second responder or whoever comes there, you know, and sees you for the first time. So, it’s, you need to know what you’re doing. You need a tourniquet yourself. Unless you’re not excuse my Vietnamese unless you’re knocked the fuck out and someone that you can check the pulse see if the person is alive or breathing. And then you know, if you have CPR get to work. If not, call 911 will come.

MA

Obviously as a martial artist you experience fight or flight daily. But I wanted to ask you about a few situations that you’ve been in that I’ve heard you speak about previously. So first of all, in the Michael Bisping UFC fight when you had your orbital broken in the middle of the fight, but you decided to go on how did you dig deep and find the strength to do that? And how did that feel what was going through your head?

 

CL

When Michael hit me with that jab that didn’t really move my head and the feeling that I felt was I had to throw up and take a shit at the same time. Kind of like, yeah, so it wasn’t the orbital bone. It was the bone that held up your eyeball so I was bleeding inside my face. And, you know, it was just the most awkward, painful situation that I was ever in because, you know, at one point, you can actually just stop and say shit, something happened to my eye here, you’re like you got some, you know, some, you know, a top level fighter trying to take your head off and he sees that you’re squinting and because he damaged your eyes so he’s gonna go for the kill. You know, I think at the time right there, you know, for me, I’m in a fight. It’s a, you know, you can call it Bloodsport, or you call it whatever you want. It’s really gonna get that’s the thing that you’ll see you see us and, you know, I just didn’t think of my life or, you know, my well-being because I was in my fight or flight I couldn’t get out. You know, and I’m not that guy who, who’s gonna quit. So I’m gonna go until I until they carry me out on the stretchers or, or the fights over. And you know, when you’re in that situation you, you kind of know who what kind of person you are what you do, if it really came down to a life or death situation, maybe that was a life or death situation. So I was in it. So that was my experience and I know what I would do so I wouldn’t bail out on any of my family or my friends if we’re in that that situation. So, you know, after that I realized, you know, I could have stopped the fight sooner, but, uh, you know, being hard headed and wanting to finish the fight, you know, or get carried out or the referee stops it. Then, you know, that’s the decision that I took in, you know, I took the gamble and you know, I, what I learned from it is, I won’t quit you’ve got to kill me.

 

MA

Yeah, you’ve never tapped out. Have you Cung?

 

CL

Nope

 

MA

Wow that’s incredible and I also heard you recently mentioned that you were able to successfully defuse a potential road rage road rage incident with your family in the car. Could you kind of describe that a little bit and talk about the mindset you used to achieve such a favorable outcome in that tough situation?

CL

Yeah, I was driving and these guys came in and you know, they they took an illegal turn and I then got I saw that so I kind of swerved out and back in but I you know, I didn’t throw open my window or like flip them off or anything. I kept my cool and I was more thankful like that nothing happened to me and you know, like in my car, so they were in a beemer, but right away, I saw you know, like they swerved out too because they almost hit me. And you know, is my right of way, you know? So basically, I right way I saw them. I saw three guys in the car and they and they were like, you know, be pressing hard to come come to my to, you know, to my driver side in their car and I was driving, so I kind of move over and kind of, you know, kind of cut them off so they couldn’t drive by me because I didn’t know what was going on right so, um, so you know I so from that situation they they literally like pull right beside me because I came to a stop sign a stoplight and they were in a like a turning lane now. And they just started saying, hey, go back to China go back to you know,. You know, going off and, you know, I you know, I you know, I you know, and nowadays you know, you know, I might be an MMA fighter but I I’m not you know, but I was prepared. I was prepared. My son was in the car. My wife was in the car. So, but, you know, I, you know, I was ready to take action but at the same time, I was looking on the right and I was looking on the left even though it’s red light was able to, you know speed past that red light without, you know getting hit by another car. I checked my situational awareness and I saw, you know, these guys are just running their mouths and, you know, I didn’t see a threat. So, you know, I, I just kind of got it and, and and kind of, you know, just diffused it by, you know killing them with kindness.

 

DM

That’s great advice because I don’t think that there’s a driver in Southern California or Northern California that has not experienced that. I think every single driver on the road has has, you know, has run into that situation. So that’s some great advice. So hopefully everybody’s paying attention and, and we’ll we’ll follow your advice. So let’s talk about your film career. On top of everything else we’ve discussed, you have an impressive career as well. I understand that on your first film in 2007, in Toronto, you were thrown into the deep end and were acting with some big names like David Carradine. So full disclosure. I grew up on Kung Fu. I’m a huge David Carradine fan. But I’d love to know what that was like.

 

CL

When I first came on, they said, I was actually coaching the US national team. And the event was in Hanoi, Vietnam. And I was the head coach and I had six people in the in the semifinals. And 2 just moved on to the finals. And then, you know, I got a call. And it was my mom. She’s like, hey, you got to call this Russian producer back. He wants to put you in a movie. And I’m like mom. Can you call me like, later on? I’m right in the middle of coaching. And and then she’s oh, no, you have to call this guy right now. Mom, it’s two o’clock in morning your time, what are you trying to, you know, get some sleep mom. And and so I said I promise I’ll call him so I did call him and he’s all I need you over here right now I said sorry I got, you know, fighters going for going for the bronze medal to in the finals, I cannot leave and then he said can you leave tomorrow and said, Nope, that’s award ceremonies. I want to be there for my fighters that you know, because they’re getting their medals. And then then he goes, what about the day after I said, I can travel the day after. So we we made the agreement, I flew out there. And as soon as I got on set, I was like no breaks, they put on makeup and I did my first fight scene. And I thought I was just signing a $20,000 contract to be in the main fight. But when I got there and then I shot my first scene in the weight room. And then the producer says, hey, everyone’s come together. I want to introduce you our new star. I was like holy shit. So they said that, you know, I’m gonna take lead in the whole movie and then, you know, that’s, you know, and then the lady who had the call sheet and then the scripts like the dialogue for tomorrow she’s all here you go. My first scene was with David Carradine. And so I was like, oh, thank thank goodness that I’ve been taking acting lessons and you know, and, you know, from that day I got like, acting lessons from David Carradine. I got lessons from Cary Tagawa

 

DM

That’s really impressive, not many people can say that right?

 

CL

Yeah, well, you know, the next day when I showed up on set, he’s on a, you know, you’re taking over Mark Dacascos’ spot. And so I don’t know how you’re good your acting skills, uh, but uh, you know, make sure, just just go with the flow and, let’s do it. Let’s do a read right now he’s all I don’t do that. Go ahead and start the dialogue he’s all you’re so stiff, relax, right? Am I? Well, you know, I’ve been, I’ve been watching you, you know, so I’m excited. He’s all relax and he kind of gave me his flask and I’m all I don’t drink you know? And then he’s all look I don’t want you to make I don’t want you to make me look bad. So I’m gonna give you these tips he’s all, have you done a job interview? Have you done this? And I said, I answered yes to everything. So okay, you have a great memory bank. Now. You’re here looking for a job and convince me why I should give you this job. Okay? I’m like, okay, and, and he’s all don’t go off that dialogue. Like you’re too stiff.. I don’t want you to read from it and try to remember the lines. Just go on here. We do it like an interview. I said, Okay, cool. That’s kind of like my first lesson from Dave Carradine.

 

MA

I want to go back to your road rage story because we had a little bit of a drop in the connection and I don’t know that we got to your punch line. Can you kind of pick it up with what exactly you said to the guys in the car and how they responded?

 

CL

So when when I pulled up to the stop sign, you know, because I actually cut these guys off. So they, they wouldn’t pull beside me. But there was a turning lane. I knew that they’re going to come right up on me. And you know, my window was already down soon as I soon as they pulled up there were like, swearing cussing, saying go back to China. You know, you Chinese virus, the whole nine yards, and I just said, Okay, I just nodded and I just put my hand like, I waved to them. And they’re like, what you want some of this? I said, No, I don’t. I don’t want I don’t want I don’t want no trouble. And then and then like everything that came out of their mouth was fuck you you fucking gook fucking nip. I just kind of just nodded and I you know, I glanced to the right. I glanced to the left and I made sure that the road was clear in case I had to make a quick exit. You know, I kind of like, looked at my, you know, look at these guys and, you know, I couldn’t judge if they were like just all talk or or anything, but I saw that they weren’t in the best shape and they weren’t, you know, that fit. So I figured you know, it wouldn’t be wouldn’t take much to, you know, you know, if they got the car, I just have to, you know, swing my door around and make sure you know, my kids and everything are safe or speed up, you know, so I just looked at my options, looked at my situational awareness kind of looked at the distance from their car to my car, how fast as soon as they open their door, I had to be ready to either open my door or take off, you know, drive through the red light. So I already had it all, you know, like, okay, plan one, plan two, plan three, and it’s just how quick you put it all together to to, you know, maneuver and take action. So, you know, it’s just a lot of a lot of name calling and and you know, and I just tell them, I’m Sorry, you feel that way, you know, you know, I’m Asian? Yes. But I’m not Chinese. And it’s not the Chinese virus, you know? It’s called COVID-19. So, you know, and, and then they’re like, Oh, you you’ve been a fucking smart mouth. Oh, not at all. I’m just trying to let you know what it is. It’s not called Chinese virus. It’s COVID-19. So, you know, like, that’s, that’s basically how, you know like, giving them that but I never like raised my voice by me keeping the tone I would talk like right now, kind of defuse escalate, you know, defuse the whole situation. Because if I would raise my voice, then ego checks in, right? So I know to check my ego at the door. I know what I can do to these guys, if I drop one of them on their heads, and then  kick the other guy in the face then I’m paying for a dental bill and, you know, a hospital bill because I think the guy in the back of the car he was quite young and you know, my son would have come out and beat his ass you know so i think it was from that day on you know i i decided to get this insurance where if I pull a gun out and I had to use a gun or if I had to take someone out or my dog took someone out or my son took someone else out because of self -defense, we’re protected I got a $2 million policy and you know, it’s you know, I think it’s probably one of my best investments, 50 something dollars each month that I can spend, you know, spend my money on.

 

MA

Cung, didn’t you also tell those guys in the car something like hey, if you get road rage, you’re gonna get a heart attack and it’s not good for your health?

 

CL

I actually did. thanks for bringing that up. Hey, you know, you guys are really upset right now. road rage. It’s actually not healthy for you and they’re like, they were like right there confused. Right? I said, it can give you high blood pressure and give you a heart attack and they’re just like tripping out. And then as soon as the light turns, you know, turn green for them as they’re turning away, I can still hear them, fuck you, you know, it’s just like, and actually my son says, hey, Dad, you know, what would you have done? I said, what I just did. Nothing, nothing. There’s no, you know,  you didn’t have to see me come out and beat someone or them pull out a gun and now we’re, you know, we’re all dodging bullets you know. So, you know, God is good, right? This is what should happen and you know, God will help those who help themselves right so we were able to avoid a conflict or avoid able to avoid any injuries happening to us, especially any injuries happening to them because I’m a professional fighter. I still do it. I still train on a regular basis and you know some guys could have really got hurt we, we would end up with the hospital bill.

 

MA

And doesn’t it seem like the biggest assholes are usually the guys who are not in good shape whatsoever?

 

CL

Yeah, yeah, you know, I think I think, you know, these are the guys that prey on like the victim so when they saw me you know I was in my car you know so they didn’t see like the whole my whole body right so right like just me carrying myself like, like when when I told them I don’t want no trouble and stuff like that I wasn’t nervous at all I was calm, I was collected. And I think, you know, I saw the driver. He was kind of like, you know, like, kind of like he assessed that, like, you know, like kind of like you looking at your opponent checking them out, seeing you know, you know, where, you know where the where the weak spots are right and I saw the driver like, he was definitely scoping the whole situation out, you know, so in a way, maybe these guys are, you know, they like to find trouble and they they look for the weak, like the weak victim because I did nothing wrong I just, you know, like when I glance over the right, you know, they almost hit me so I just served out back and I know they’re like pulling, trying to pull right beside me so I just cut them off, you know, trying to pull up to me, you know, I don’t know what they’re gonna do. You know, I don’t know if they can pull out a gun. So I just played it safe. If they if they were to pull to my, my passenger side, I would have took that left, you know.

 

MA

I want to go back real quick. I wanted to ask you something about your film career. Can you take us through some of the struggles you’ve had with, of course being asked to portray Asian stereotypes like a triad member in movies, and where you think the industry is today in that regard?

 

CL

Well, I think the industry for me I’m a big physical Asian, I can speak English. So, you know, I can act. So I think I was getting a lot of those roles as the villain. And I actually got two roles as the hero in Dragon Eyes and in Puncture Wounds, which was should have been called a certain justice, but, you know, they decided to change the name and, you know, for whatever reason it is but, and then, you know, like in Pandorum, you know, it was like, you didn’t know if I was a good guy or bad guy, but in the end, I saved the whole, like, you know, mankind, you know, during during the end end scene, so I felt like, you know, two years ago, , I also got the most votes as the best villain. So, I don’t want to continue to be that villain guy, you know, so I just figured what I need to do. You know, so I just started learning how to write my own scripts and look for my own funding and, you know, figure it out. Unless it’s a really good part, I’ll take it. If not, then then I won’t, you know, I just figure, you know, I just didn’t want to play the bad guy and you know the gangster anymore. And, you know, I’d  rather do something that’s, you know, worthwhile, you know, with with, you know, where the audience can really enjoy and get a good message out of it.  I’m going to produce and get financing for my own film, you know, so. And that’s what I decided. So, you know, it’s been two years since I, you know, since I got, you know, you know, got on, got on set because I’m turning parts down because I don’t want to be the villain.

 

DM

Yeah, I thought that was a really positive take that you’re controlling your own destiny, and developing your own content. I was reading some other stuff about you that had comments about the portrayal of Asians in film and TV and I just thought your take on it was really positive and there was a lot to take way from for other Asian actors. I thought it was really great advice.

 

CL

Yeah, I’m glad you saw that, you know, I think a lot of people, you know, they have their own mixed views on it, you know, and, and, you know, now that you saw, you know, Crazy Rich Asians where the movie did great in the box office, and there was a huge interest from the Asian community. I think now, you know, I’m doing I’m writing scripts, you know, that will, you know, kind of, kind of, what’s the right word? Kind of marinate with the pop culture of today what people are into, you know, come talk about, like, you know, like end of day stuff, you know, give a good message. You know, I got this great assassin script that I put together and it’s kind of like, like, an Asian John Wick meets 28 days later and it’s basically like, talks about the dead will rise and and you know, the choices that this assassin makes, is like, you know, he’s he knows, you know, to, you know, to kill people. And the reason why he was trained to do this because he thought that whoever he’s killing was the ones that killed his family.

 

Long story short, you know, his sister who also works on the same team with them gets killed and leaves, leaves, leaves our son behind. So I, my character has a choice to continue to do what he does or quit and take them and, you know, get off the grid and train them in mountains and train them how to survive. And, and, and basically, during this whole time, you know, like, you know, we saw that what drugs do it turns people into these crazy 28 days later, you know, creatures or humans that you know, go crazy and then we eliminated that we, you know, got the, the, the the formula back off, you know off this guy who betrayed the guy who was raising us and then then then, you know, my sister finds out that, you know, the guy who’s raising us was the guy who killed our, you know, our real parents and so, you know, now all all barrels are pointed at us and, you know, it’s, that choice of an antihero who who’s the villain in the movie who’s killing people, he makes a choice whether he gets saved in you know, and say save from, you know, his sins or not, you know, so, is he gonna continue to sin because he knows that he’s kind of like doomed or is he gonna do the right thing and, you know, take care of the you know, his nephew and, and do the right thing. And so that’s what he has choices to do. And then there’s all kinds of twists and turns with

 

DM

I’m gonna cut you off because I don’t want you to give away too much.

 

CL

Don’t worry. There’s a lot more

 

DM

That’s great, yeah, I’m in, I want to ask you real quick about your website and I noticed that you’re offering online fighting and fitness training in this era of COVID. First of all, it’s a great idea. And I want to know how that how that works and how it’s been going?

 

CL

I got really busy so I pulled it off, but I started putting a whole bunch of stuff on my YouTube page. And now I’m gonna do it on my Facebook I just gonna give away basic self-defense and, and basic tips on fight or flight situations for people to you know, kind of understand if the people who are like, say that they don’t have time to do it, well, maybe one lesson might give them like a spark to spark their interest to learn more because it’s free online, you know, so it’s something that I can give back and, you know, maybe save someone, you know, down the line and, you know, and hopefully, hopefully people realize how serious these times are right now.

 

DM

Currently obviously everybody’s kind of shut down but do you currently have a physical training center and if you do where is that at and once we get past this this endemic here you’ll you know, take people on and train them in person?

 

CL

Well you know, everything’s closed right now but I do have a key to the gym that I merge with Smash gyms San Jose, but there’s a lot of people that you know, invite me to their gym, I can train there anytime I want but you know, I trained at Smash gyms or I train at Bay Area Tactical. And then you know, I’m doing some privates here and there with like, more like, firearms training because I did get my, my NRA, you know, you know cert to to train people in firearms. So, you know, I’m helping out Bay Area Tactical with that, and, you know, they were overwhelmed with so much business. So I figured, you know, I learned more when I taught in martial arts than when I when I did it then I turn around and I’m able to apply it better, right? But now that I’m, you know, teaching firearms, I’m learning so much about gun safety, you know, how to manipulate the gun and just by teaching, it’s helped me become a better, you know, better at that, you know, the art of it, you know

 

MA

Well Cung, for my last question. I want to shift gears a little bit. In my line of work, which is forensic science, specifically DNA analysis. There’s a lot of problems in the industry with shoddy scientific practices and techniques. And these are in cases where there’s high stakes, you know, people could be facing the death penalty. They could have life in jail. And I thought what was a good parallel was your experience with the HGH blood test. So, if you don’t mind, could you tell us a little bit about how you were kind of screwed over and what the problems were with that testing?

 

CL

Yes, I can totally tell you about that. So basically, before that even happened, right, I was two weeks out from the Michael Bisping fight. And I was gonna spend my last two weeks in, Vietnam, to kind of acclimate to the, to the time change and then you know, and also Saigon Sports Club always sponsored me so they have me come out and do all my media and my press at the, at their 80,000 square foot gym. And so the lawyer from UFC called me and says, Hey, did you you know, you know, we need you to sign a you know, another 18 month contract six fight deal and, you know, I I looked it over but my lawyer didn’t get a chance to look it over and he was on. He was on vacation. So I, I wasn’t gonna risk risk, you know, you know, signing it. So I told him, my my lawyers out and I’ll sign it, I’ll have a look at it if I sign it and they wanted to me to sign it that day because I was leaving the next day to, to to Vietnam and I didn’t sign it and, you know, during during, you know, during the fight as you know, with any anabolic or drug tests, when when you do it, you have to be fasted, your resting heart rates got to be you know, when you wake up, you can’t be exercising, especially not after a fight and you’re bleeding your HGH levels will be at the max, you know, output. And, and so after they said I was my, my HGH level was elevated. You know, I re did my blood test I asked him to, you know, give me a retest on that blood. And you know, I want to see what about, you know, my opponents blood work and somehow, you know, magically it got destroyed so I was you know, confused by that and luckily, Dr. Caitlin got on social media and says hey you’re messing with my 10 year research, you know Cung Le actually his levels are normal because he didn’t try to protect me because like we knew each other he is protecting his 10 year research. So from the 10 year research, whenever you test for someone with elevated HGH levels, you got to test them fasted and you have to test them when they just woke up from you know, their, their resting heart rates got to be at rest. And you know, when they did that, it was 15 minutes right after I fought. And I was you know, as you saw my face I was kind of banged up, but you know, so I want to see my opponent’s blood work. But it was it was destroyed

 

MA

And on top of that, the lab that they used to do the testing, were they like not accredited or not really set up to do that type of testing?

 

CL

Yes. They they basically used not a, you know, what are those labs called the, the official lab that is, you know, for for performance enhancing drug testing, it was just a regular lab that they that they use for, like, you know, like if you own a company and you have to get your, you know, employees checked out, that’s what they used.

 

DM

So Cung besides launching flight or fight soon, what are the media projects are you currently working on? I understand that you are now the Shadowcast Chief Content Officer. What does that involve?

CL

Yeah, you know, he’s got to get his, his, uh, his software to, you know, kind of catch up to the speed of like, you know, his, what he wants to achieve before I can start, you know, developing, like storylines for him you know, so you know, there and then I’m just writing my own scripts and then getting my own projects funded through, you know, through investors, that’s that’s what I got going on right now and I’m working with the Bay Area Tactical whenever, you know, because with this COVID it’s hard to get group classes going. So you either you know, do, you know, small classes, which, you know, I, I feel like you know, it’s a little bit difficult because, because, you know, it’s with the small class, you can’t, you know pay like, all your instructor so everyone’s rotating.

 

MA

Well Cung, I know we took up too much of your time, but thank you so much for joining us today and just for being an all-around inspiration.

 

CL

Thank you for having me. And, you know, I appreciate it. Maybe the next time I get on we can we can chat about my my wife’s case, because there’s a lot of stuff that you can answer for me. And I think that would be a big one because, you know, this is the, this is the corruption side of fight or flight.

 

DM

Man we really got a lot of survival tips from Cung Le that I thought will help all of us to be better prepared for almost anything. You don’t have to be an MMA beast or tactical weapons expert to walk away from dangerous situations unscathed. But if you are, of course that helps

 

MA

Yeah, it really does. Cung’s fight or flight show is I think really going to be a great public service. And I found it interesting that how it’s not all about physical actions. Sometimes it’s just how you present yourself, or how you use your voice or even just having a calm and prepared mindset. And one of the tips that Cung gives in the sizzle reel has to do with pepper spray. And I think you know, we typically think of pepper spray of something that you use when you’re in close quarters with somebody if you’re being attacked, but it could prevent an attack as well. So like Cung said, in the sizzle reel, let’s say God forbid, you’re involved in a home invasion, you’re upstairs in the bedroom, you hear them downstairs, well go out your bedroom door flood the zone with pepper spray, which will either block them from getting to you slow them down, or when they do get to you, they’re going to have red eyes. And again, it just buys you enough time to call 911 to lock yourself in somewhere to get a weapon, whatever, but it’s just about getting that couple of seconds or whatever can make a difference.

 

DM

Yeah, I just thought it was a really smart, easy to apply tip. You know, I was really also excited Mehul to listen to Cung talk take us behind the scenes of his MMA and film career. I thought that was a very cool anecdote about him getting acting tips from David Carradine on set. Sounded like he gave us a scoop a TMZ scoop there about here’s a few tips and a flask

 

MA

Well, I mean that that proves that Cung takes care of his body you know,as if we didn’t know that

 

DM

You know he did decline You heard him decline it right?

 

MA

Absolutely. Yeah, I thought it was just gracious of Cung to spend so much time with us today. And I think it was cool that we got to go deep on a number of topics. So, you know, we will definitely take Cung up on his offer for a follow up episode.

 

DM

Yeah, absolutely. You know, you can catch the sizzle reel for flight or fight at Cung’s YouTube page and we’ve also posted a link with the description of this episode. Also check out Cung’s IG accounts @cungle185 and @fightorflightofficialtv,  for all things Cung Le check out his official website at cungleofficial.com.

 

You know, we really hope our listeners are staying safe and healthy and we truly appreciate all the downloads, follows and feedback. Please check out all of our episodes at crimeredefined.com and feel free to hit us up on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

 

B

Thank you for listening to the crime redefined podcast, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @crimeredefined. Please send us your comments and questions and join us for the next episode.

Use of Force-S1 25

Timothy T. Williams, Jr. is a nationally renowned expert in police procedure, use of force, and wrongful convictions.  He joins Crime Redefined to discuss his timely book A Deep Dive:  An Expert Analysis of Police Procedure, Use of Force, and Wrongful Convictions, as well as George Floyd, Elijah McClain and high-profile cases he has worked on.  Hosted by Dion Mitchell and Mehul Anjaria.  A Zero Cliff Media production.

FBII-Fernando Bermudez Is Innocent!-S1 24

Fernando Bermudez is an inspirational exoneree and criminal justice educator and activist.  His nightmare began in 1991 when he was arrested for a murder he did not commit. He suffered a wrongful conviction and 18 years of incarceration as a result. In 2009 he was found actually innocent and began the fight for his rightful compensation. Mr. Bermudez is a distinguished international public speaker.  Hosted by Dion Mitchell and Mehul Anjaria.  A Zero Cliff Media production.

The Lost Family-S1 23

Libby Copeland is an award-winning journalist and author of The Lost Family:  How DNA Testing Is Upending Who We Are.  After penning an article in the Washington Post about a “just-for-fun DNA test” gone wrong, Libby immersed herself in the fascinating world of consumer ancestry DNA testing. She joins Crime Redefined to discuss her book, the application of genetic genealogy to criminal investigations, and privacy issues surrounding DNA testing.  Hosted by Dion Mitchell and Mehul Anjaria.  A Zero Cliff Media production.

 

The Lost Family

Unofficial Transcript

B=Show Bumpers

DM=Dion Mitchell, Co-host

MA=Mehul Anjaria, Co-host

LC=Libby Copeland, Guest

B

Welcome to the Crime Redefined podcast produced by Zero Cliff Media coming to you from the US Bank tower high above downtown Los Angeles. In our podcast, we drill deep into forensics and criminal investigation from the viewpoint of the defense as well as explore the intersection of the media and the justice system.

DM

I’m Dion Mitchell here with my cohost Mehul Anjaria. We hope all of our listeners are faring as well as can be expected during this historic pandemic and that our podcast is providing you with some escape. On this episode of crime redefined, we have the privilege of speaking with Libby Copeland, author of the new book The Lost Family: How DNA is Upending Who We Are.

MA

Libby is a former staff reporter and editor for The Washington Post. She now writes for a variety of publications including the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and Smithsonian magazine. Libby has appeared on CNN, MSNBC and NPR. In 2008, she presented a talk entitled A Secret In the Blood at the Jewish Genealogical Society of greater Boston’s conference.

DM

Libby’s book is an unflinching look at the sometimes-unintended consequences of submitting your DNA to consumer ancestry sites. It features some heart-wrenching stories as well as an excellent discussion of the legal, ethical and moral issues surrounding this new DNA age we find ourselves in.

MA

Dion, I think that this book should be required reading for anyone who is involved in investigative genetic genealogy in criminal matters. And I say that because it does a great job detailing the history of consumer DNA testing, as well as genetic genealogy. And in the book, you see the slow evolution towards its use in criminal investigations, and on top of that, it’s a wonderful primer of all of the issues, ethical, privacy, what have you that using genetic genealogy raises. As they say, there’s nothing new under the sun. And forensics is just now adapting this technique that has been used for other purposes for a very, very long time.

DM

You know, Mehul, I’m going to go a little bit further with you. I think anyone remotely thinking about, and I’m going to use Libby’s terminology ‘spitting in the tube’ should read this book, because it’s literally it’s an overused phrase- will make your head explode by what’s in there. So with all of that, and I think we’ve got everybody set up. Let’s get on with our discussion with with Libby.

MBA

Welcome to Crime Redefined, Libby.

LC

Oh, thank you so much for having me. I’m thrilled to be here.

MBA

Well, we’re so honored to have you on today to discuss your, what I think is, a very well researched and thought-provoking book.

LC

Thank you so much. Yeah, I really enjoyed writing it. It was just an incredible experience. And I learned so much from writing it.

MBA

Well, to get our listeners into the world that you paint in this book, I want to have you first define some terms for us. So, the first one is what is a seeker?

LC

Yeah, so a seeker is a term that I used to describe the categories of people that I was writing about. So it’s not an official term. You won’t see it in any genetic genealogy handbooks. But it was the term that I came up with to describe the kind of obsessive and you know, wonderfully rich, searching for self and for family that happens to a lot of people, either because they do DNA testing, and they realize there’s a question kind of in the results like a question they never could have foreseen that they now need answered or because they go into DNA testing with a question for instance an adoptee looking for birth family. And so it kind of could work both ways. And very often, there’s a kind of process of tumbling down a rabbit hole where you’re, you’re finding out things that you never could have conceived of, you’re understanding your own origin story, you’re coming to know who your genetic kin are. So that’s that’s how I think of a seeker.

MBA

So in the book, you mentioned how a seeker will often work with a search angel to assist in this process, kind of tell us what a search angel is and how they help the seeker out?

LC

Yeah, so search angels have been around for some time. They’ve been working with autosomal DNA for 10 years. And one of the largest groups that they have traditionally worked with have been folks who are adopted. And so search angels typically are volunteer, they’re all very often women. And they’re kind of driven by a sense that, you know, that it’s everyone’s right to know their own genetic identity if they want to know it, and so they will work with a person in terms of getting their DNA tested and understanding the results. So looking at those lists of genetic relatives and trying to piece together who that person’s birth parents might be, or if they’re searching for, say, a half sibling or cousin, who, you know, how do you figure that out? And they work with those genetic segments that the seeker has in common with relatives and they work on creating as well, family trees. And in that way, put the information together to understand whatever it is that the question the question is, that the person is trying to have answered.

MA

So sometimes a search angel will help the seeker find out that there is NPE. Now what is that?

LC

So an NPE traditionally has been for non-paternity event, that’s the kind of you know, wonkish term that you see used in academic articles. And by genetic genealogists traditionally, and now it’s sometimes known as not parent expected, but you know, non paternity event means essentially an interruption in the male line. And colloquially as people use it when they’re talking about DNA, it means finding out your dad’s not genetically related to you, or more broadly, perhaps that your mom’s not genetically related to or both parents if, for instance, as you know, one book I one story, I tell them the book, a woman discovers that she’s adopted through DNA testing, so she discovers that neither of her parents is genetically related to her. But traditionally, the way it plays out is, is that a person discovers that their father’s not genetically related to them. And that’s a pretty profound piece of information to find out especially if you’ve embarked on DNA testing sort of on a lark, just because you will curious to get an ethnicity estimate and then you have this really weighty result waiting for you when you click through to your results on the computer.

MA

So final definition, I want to shift gears and go into the philosophical aspect of your book. Libby, how would you define genetic essentialism?

LC

So the way I’ve looked at it in my book, and with regard to the way that people use commercial DNA testing is that they tend to read too much into their genes and how much their genes get to have a say in predicting their future. So it’s this sort of sense that genes can be fate. And that, and also, when you think about things like ethnicity and race, there’s a sense that, you know, that everything that has to do with our differences from one another all boil down to biology, and that these rules are sort of very strict and really delineate great differences from one another. So you know, it’s a kind of a problematic way of thinking and it’s a very binary way of thinking and there are times when the marketing that you see the ads that you see around commercial DNA testing and how it talks about ethnicity can be kind of a reinforcing of that sense of genetic essentialism in ways that some people find troubling.

DM

Another question and kind of more about you, you wrote an article when you were with the Washington Post- Who Was She-A DNA Test Only Opens New Mysteries that inspired this book. I’m wondering if you had any personal experiences prior to writing the book in your own testing and genealogy.

LC

I hadn’t. My family had been into genealogy for a while, my father in particular had been doing his genealogy going back to the 80s when there was no DNA and there was no internet that he could use. And both my parents had done the National Geographic DNA test, which was something that was kind of popular in the early 2000s. So we had dabbled in it. I had some familiarity with it, and I actually had just been gifted DNA kit from my dad and it was sitting on top of my microwave. And I was thinking about doing this. It was sitting there as I was starting to do this article, and then I realized I should really test it and see what the experience is like so that I was ready for that knowledge.

DM

So the article, The Washington Post article was really the kickoff thing, essentially, the kickoff for this book.

LC

Yeah, it was the kickoff because I’ve been writing for a long time about the intersection of science and culture and technology and culture, right? How does technology sort of shape who we are and how we behave? And I was very interested in how DNA testing can provoke surprises, can provoke revelation of identity. And so that’s sort of how I came into it with that those questions about, you know, how DNA can inform who we are?

MA

Well, Libby, the consensus in the book seems to be that if you take a DNA test, and as a result, you learn of a family secret, that in the end, it’s best to just tell the affected party. Why ultimately, is that the better route to take?

LC

Um, you know, I think people differ on this. I think the upshot is that maybe five years ago, you could have gotten into a really good debate about sort of what’s the right way to handle this information? And the best way, you know, should you withhold it? Or should you have a kind of a big family transparency conversation over the, you know, kitchen table and talk about it? And those questions are still really important. The problem is that in the last five years, the databases have grown so much, that it’s now almost a question not of if, but when a secret comes out. And so it’s, it’s putting a lot of people in a place where they have to kind of get ahead of the information and they have to disclose before say the other person decides to test and find out on their own that they’re information that you held back. So you know, the question, it’s almost like a question of a practical matter if you know the other person is going to find out a long standing family secret by testing possibly themselves or through the grapevine at some point in the future, would it be better that it come from you from your lips, than that they find out and then find out you’ve kept it from them? So that’s, sort of why a lot of people are saying now better off to have those conversations earlier rather than later.

MA

And to follow up as you did your research for the book, did you find any differences in receptiveness to genetic surprises along religious lines?

LC

Oh, that’s a really good question. Um, you know, I’m so interested in that. I don’t think I did, but I’m really curious why you ask that.

DM

Well, I actually I noticed it. I kept reading and seeing the different you know, the Jewish religion and the, the Catholic religion and I started to see actually a trend or at least I thought I saw a trend between the different groups on who was more receptive. And so I just thought it was going to be an interesting question to ask you to see if you had to take.

LC

That’s really interesting. You know, I didn’t notice it, but I kind of wasn’t looking at it through that lens. So now I’m curious, I’m going to start thinking about the people who I interviewed and whether that was the case.

DM

Well, you know, yeah, actually, it wasn’t really it wasn’t trying to make, like a religious question or statement, but I just started to see a trend. And I’m just wondering if there was a particular group that was, you know, like I said, more receptive. And then actually, I want to build on that a little bit. Your book makes it clear that consumer DNA testing can reveal, obviously, hidden family secrets. What sort of support resources are out there for the seekers and the seekees that are impacted by this, you know, disturbing DNA test results?

LC

Yeah, that’s one of the most important questions right now. And it’s a question unfortunately, without a whole lot of answers because there isn’t a whole lot of support for people. It’s one of the things I’ve been thinking a lot about and talking a lot about is the need for psychological support for people in these situations. There’s a handful of psychologists who’ve started specializing in, you know, helping people who say, uncover a DNA surprise and the particular trauma that can go along with discovering, for instance, that you’re not related to one of your parents. There’s, for instance, 23andme, maybe about six months ago put up something called a navigating unexpected relationships page, where they directed people to a few resources, like there’s a genetic counselor that they could talk to. One in particular specializes in this. And they also talked about, you know, directing people to like online therapy programs, but basically there isn’t really much and for the most part to support that has grown up for people has been in Facebook groups. So there are many, many Facebook groups that are dedicated to all kinds of genetics surprises and different types of surprises and different kind of emotional aspects or are you interested in the logistics of figuring out the answer to your own mystery? Are you interested in discussing the emotional ramifications? Well, there’s a group for each of those. And so, you know, it’s kind of like a homegrown thing. And it’s in my in my opinion, it’s one of the greater bioethical issues right now is how do we support people? How do we help them have conversations with one another? How do we help them have conversations with the people that they are seeking out or may or may not want to be found? And there’s not there’s not a whole lot out there yet that exists for the literally millions of people who are being affected by this.

DM

That’s a great answer. And it actually kind of leads me to my next comment. I wondering going forward legislatively if they’ll mandate any new companies or retroactively put that in because it felt like to me reading this that they built a really fast car and didn’t give you any brakes?

LC

Yeah, they did build a really fast car. That’s a good point at the same time. I mean, sort of it almost feels like too late for that. And what I know about I don’t know the culture around this and American culture and our taste for regulation, that doesn’t seem like something that would be likely to happen. So I have a feeling that it’s going to be private industry that steps in. So for instance, psychologists who decide that they’re going to specialize in there’s going to be a new subspecialty. And it’s going to be you know, the trauma of discovering that you are the product of an NPE and that like literally that is already starting to exist specifically psychologists who specialize in just that.

MA

Well, speaking of psychology, just the other day, I saw an article that you had written in Psychology Today, entitled On Its 20th Anniversary, DNA Testing Reaches a Tipping Point. And I thought that was just really an excellent distillation of a lot of the issues that you brought up in the book.

LC

Yeah, I mean, it literally the first tests were sent out exactly 20 years ago, there’s a company down in Houston called Family Tree DNA and they sent out their first test kits in April of 2000.

MA

I’m just gonna have you kind of continue that timeline. So since the first consumer kit was available, can you kind of walk us through the history in the last 20 years of consumer DNA testing and some of the major milestones that have been hit?

LC

Sure. And keep in mind, I’m talking here about commercial DNA testing for ancestry purposes, not necessarily for other things like proving paternity with like the kit you get in Walgreens, if you’re going to take it for a legal paternity test. I’m not necessarily talking about medical testing, like 23andme, although they are bundled in with that because they also offer ancestry testing. But the first million kits or the first million tests that were taken happened around 2013. So from 2000 to 2013. It takes 13 years to even get up to 1 million. So think about that we’re now at over 30 million. So we went from about 1 million in aggregate in 2013 to over 30,000,000 7 years later, that’s like an astonishing rise. The bulk of the kinds of testing the commercial DNA testing for ancestry purposes between 2000 and 2010 was primarily Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA was much less useful for the average genealogist and certainly for the average non genealogists who just looking to find out their ethnicity estimate. It’s really not that helpful unless you’re really serious family historian and you have a very specific question, say along your paternal line then Y DNA might be helpful. autosomal DNA and makes it sort of starts out really being useful in 2009 and 2010. And ancestry offers its own test in 2012 Then you start to see things really coming along. few other milestones I like to think about are 2018. When you see the Golden State killer case, which was a case that was solved through the use of genetic genealogy and quasi-public DNA databases. And more recently, you’ve seen a sort of a slowdown in sales. And that’s kind of an interesting topic too. And you’ve seen a pivot from some of the companies to it from away from just doing ancestry towards bundling ancestry with testing for like, health related risks and traits and things like that things that 23andme long offered, now companies like ancestry and my heritage are moving into that space.

DM

You know, one of the other, I guess, big points that I took away from your book was the issues with DNA testing that helped unearth when babies are accidentally switched at birth in the hospital. And I was wondering how often did, and does that actually occur?

LC

There are no statistics. I would love to know, there have been a number of cases from the 40s that I’ve seen in the news and some going further back. And there are some that are more recent. You even see them in, you know, the last few decades. I think I saw some from the 80s there may have been some more recent I’m not sure. So, you know, it’s definitely something that would be fascinating to research and I tried to find out the answer to myself and I couldn’t find any good data on it.

DM

You know, two quick follow up comments on that one.  Reading that story, you know, Alice’s story was heartbreaking, you know, of the what ifs and could have been, if that didn’t take place and to the visual mosaic that you get reading that about the hospital in 1913 in the Bronx is incredible. I mean, you really painted a great picture of what care and in birthing looked like in that time period.

LC

Yeah, thank you so much. The history research for this book was really fascinating because the protagonist of the book, Alice, the woman who I wrote about for The Washington Post, and then I revisit her story for the book and tell it in much greater detail. She tested in 2012, the dawn of the consumer genomics era and found this mystery would she was not expecting she thought she was almost entirely Irish American, she turned out to be half Ashkenazi Jewish, and she couldn’t understand why. And as I recount in the book, you know, it takes her two and a half years to understand why and it’s not any of the expected explanations. It’s not it’s not the more common explanations. It’s not, for instance, a non-paternity event in her case. And as it turns out, the beginnings of her genetic mysteries go back 100 years. And so that allowed me to look at, for instance, certain themes that played into the explanation of her story like some of the immigrant groups that were living in a certain area in the Bronx 100 years before and maternity wards and things like that. And that was just absolutely amazing. I live not far from the Bronx. So I was really interested in understanding, you know how immigrant culture was like the immigrants who are leaving the tenements downtown and moving up into the Bronx because it was the place to be you could afford it and there was space. So that was like one of the most fascinating things to dig into.

MA

Libby you recounted a study in the book, where researchers at the Arizona State University, were looking to see if there was a genetic component to diabetes in the Havasupai Native American population. Talk to us about what went wrong with that study. And as a consequence, what issues were raised with regards to informed consent and privacy?

LC

Yeah, that’s a really good question. This is a case that I thought kind of presciently predicted some of the themes that we’re now seeing and it happened you know, quite some time ago. Over a decade ago, this was a case where researchers were helping this Native American group understand whether there might be a genetic component to diabetes, which was very common within their community. And there’s been disputes over what really happened and it’s been the subject of legal issues and ultimately a settlement. But the Havasupai said that they gave consent for research into diabetes, and that and that’s it and nothing else. And what ultimately happened was that the researcher started to look into issues, genetic issues within the blood samples that they had from the Havasupai, you know, pertaining to other issues, among them, the origins of their people, so where they have come from how they have gotten to where they lived in the Grand Canyon. And one of the problems with that, from the point of view of the people who had given their their DNA was that they had never consented, to use of their DNA to study something that really conflicted with their spiritual beliefs. They had a spiritual belief that they had arisen from that area. And science was being used to basically negate something that was incredibly sacred to them. And what was interesting to me about that, in addition to everything, it tells us about issues of, you know, having to get consent and say, here’s how I’m going to use your DNA. And are you are you on board with all of this, but it also has to do with things that you can’t foresee. And we’re in a situation now where you might test at a company. And you might agree with their privacy policy, but 20 years down the line, they might go sold to another company with a totally different consent and privacy policies. And then what does that mean for your DNA and how it’s used and will you even have the opportunity to say yes, I agree to this or no, I don’t, I think so.

DM

Yeah, but that’s a really great point because  that opens up a whole another you know, can of worms because you can’t forecast in 10 years if the company is sold, and where that could lead to,you kind of just don’t know where it’s going. And you also don’t know if there could theoretically at some point be some sort of a breach that causes an information hack that causes your information to be revealed in some way.

LC

How damaging that would be is an open question. They might, you know, might be the case that somebody having your social security number actually has, you know, more information that’s useful to them and harmful to you than having your genetic information. But, you know, obviously, that is a concern. So having your information out there. The other thing that interested me about the Havasupai story is that we all have kind of sacred truths, things that things that we cling to because they mean a lot to us because they’re part of our origin story, our personal origin story, or the things that we really, really value and there are times when DNA can seem to be in conflict with that DNA tells you that, you know, your father had a relationship outside of marriage and had another child and you have a half sister, and what does that mean to you in terms of relationship with their father and everything it says about your father’s relationship with your mother, and now you have to have this conversation. It’s, it’s really painful. And it’s not always painful it can be. It can be life affirming. It can be wonderful. It’s just that it depends on the circumstances and everyone sort of can be affected within a family in a little bit of a different way. So it’s just incredibly profound information that we can now get for the cost of $99 for very, very little investment, sort of testing on a lark, and people are not always prepared for the ways that those results can upend everything that they believe up to that point.

DM

That’s an interesting way of putting it for $99 you can turn your life and everybody around us life upside down. How accurate are the so-called ethnicity percentages in consumer DNA testing. And what differences between the companies are there? I know sometimes they are even amended?

LC

Yeah, they’re good, but they’re not perfect. They’re getting better. If you’d asked me five years ago, I would have said they’re okay. But you know, they’re, they’re not great. And now I can say they’re good, but they’re not perfect. I mean, they’re getting better all the time. Um, there was a speaker that I saw at a conference a few years ago from one of the companies who said that it’s a young and evolving science. And I think that’s, that’s the case. I mean, you’re, you’re pretty much can count on their continent level predictions, and very often, their country level predictions are pretty good, but there are things that they can’t always see. And that’s why you’ll get slightly different results depending on the company. There’s all sorts of issues having to do with borders changing and borders being porous and more and migration that make it difficult to say whether for instance, your you know, your genetic ancestry is French or German and so they’ll have to kind of lump it into a big category and as consumers, we are usually expecting you know, very neat and simple answers and and we just can’t get there with the way that history is so complicated. We can’t always get there at this point in time. But pretty much if you’re, you know, if your test gives you a very high percentage of ancestry from Europe, and Western Europe say you can pretty much count on that being the case. And same is true for the other large continent level predictions, but the predictions are much better for people of white European descent, than for those from other places, Africa, Asia, Latin folks of Latin descent, the results are often not as granular so you get sort of wide swaths, rather than specific territories or countries.

MA

Well, Libby, I’m gonna put you on the spot just a little bit here. If you were to write the click wrap terms and conditions on the website of a consumer genetic testing firm, what would be some of the key language that you would include in terms of the warnings?

LC

Yeah, that’s good. Um, you know, one of the things that they do tend to warn about and in some cases, some of the companies could maybe make this warning more than they do is just to kind of give you a heads up that you may discover unexpected relationships, or there may be things that change your perception of your family. How helpful those warnings are. You know, I think they’re very important to give, although I’m not sure if anyone ever thinks that it will happen to them, which is one of the problems. But I do think it’s important to get that out there. I also think that, you know, it’s important for people who are taking these tests to think about the ways in which they don’t know what will happen to their information. So for instance, you may want to read through a long privacy policy and then realize that it’s 10,000 words long and you can’t, and so to the extent that a company can kind of take those key points and some of them do a better job of this than others and kind of bullet point them. That’s very helpful. I found that I read a number of these privacy policies, which took me hours and was incredibly confusing there, they use legal terminology, they use terms that they say are going to be find in another document, you have to go look them up. So I mean, if you’re wondering, for instance, like how protected your data is, that’s something they can sort of say in a bullet point, and they could also very say, this could be changed at any time and we, you know, we will notify you by email. And if we get bought by another company, at some point down the road, that company may have a different policy and some of the companies do, like I said, a better job and some a less good job of kind of spelling out basically the unknowns of things that you can’t possibly know at this point in time about the future and how your genetic information is going to be used.

DM

I was reading some of the comments in some of the chapters in your book about that, and it, it really made me because I was thinking about, you know, jumping into this game and it made me really nervous of know, the downstream, what will happen to my information?

LC

I think one of the other questions is genetic discrimination. There’s a big question for some people about how your information could be used against you if you decide that you want to get purchase like life insurance or disability insurance. So there’s there is federal protection for certain things. But that federal protection has loopholes. So for employment and for health insurance, that you know, your DNA information, your genetic information is not supposed to be used against you, although even that I mean, there’s, there’s all sorts of loopholes that could theoretically be a problem, but at the same time that we haven’t seen that play out yet, so it’s it’s an abstract concern at the moment, and it hasn’t been an issue yet, but it could there could be a point in the future where you go and want to purchase life insurance and the company asks you Have you taken a DNA test either at your doctor’s office or through a commercial testing company? And, you know, you have to say, Well, yes, actually, I took an ancestry test a few years back, and then they can ask you what the results are. And if you declined to tell them if you decide to not tell them truth that you took it, in theory, that could be considered fraud. And again, this is a lot of ifs. But this is definitely a concern. I’ve heard from some consumers about why they’re not testing us because they just don’t know how that information could be used and possibly against them. At some point in the future.

 DM

Yeah, I don’t see how you could ever 100% lock that down today, next year, or10 years from now

LC

Yeah, I mean, from the other side of things, like I’ll just tell you I have tested I’ve tested it multiple companies, you know, and so I you know, I do think i think that DNA can also be  the ability to test and to find out your genetic relatives and your own genetic ancestry can be an impressive incredible gift. And that’s why it’s been so popular, not just for family historians and people who’ve been doing this going back to the 1970s. But for, you know, just mainstream people who are kind of casually interested, it’s been a great gift. And I have personally found genetic relatives I would never have found otherwise. And it’s been great. You know, it’s really helped us understand our family history. And so, you know, what I’ve tried to do in the book is really understand both, you know, where the dangers may lie where the precautions are, that we need to voice but also like, why is this? Why are so many people doing this? And what is it that that DNA testing can give us? Otherwise, people wouldn’t be doing it if it didn’t have anything to offer. And it does, it has quite a bit to offer. It’s just that for some people, the results don’t kind of play out as expected. And that’s a very interesting thing that I think we need to look at and we need to be talking about.

DM

That actually is a great segue to my next question. In the book, it describes some of the work of the top genealogist and even some amateurs with amazing skills. During your research, did you uncover any hack, or even just plain fraudulent genealogists?

LC

Um, no, although there I did discover that a lot of people who are good at this, sometimes will say that somebody else isn’t so good at it. So there’s there’s a certain amount of competitive spirit. And I think some of that comes out of the fact that there isn’t any kind of, like certification for genetic genealogy or for an or for investigative genetic genealogy, which is, you know, when you’re doing it for crime solving, typically with cold cases, which has become popular since the Golden State killer. You know, there’s no, there might be informal vetting, but there’s no formal process for saying this person’s really good and this person doesn’t know what they’re doing. And it’s all like word of mouth and proving yourself through skill and working on cases until you get good enough. Some people will be really good with working with people of Jewish ancestry and some people will be good with people of African ancestry. And, you know, maybe they’re really good on those and and they’re not good in something else. And someone else is really good with Irish. And so it’s, you know, it’s really an interesting thing. And there’s some there’s some sharp elbows, I’ll say, a few when you talk to people, oh, I, you know, I know that person’s not that great or that person isn’t. She thinks that she is.

MA

Well, I’ve always had the itch to submit my dog’s saliva to a few of the major consumer testing labs. It’s kind of a cross check or a proficiency test. In your research, did you uncover any problems with poor quality or out and out fraud with the actual testing laboratories?

LC

Not with the majors, so the major companies I can’t say I’ve seen that. the major companies are ancestry, and this is an kind of from greatest size database to lowest so there’s ancestry and then just beneath them, they have 16 million 23andme has 10 million My Heritage has somewhere in the three or 4 million and Family Tree DNA has one or 2 million. And for the most part, there might be an occasional problem in the lab, particularly going back to the early days that you hear about, but for the most part, they seem to have their have their stuff together. And you know, they’re not mixing up samples or, you know, getting dog DNA and pronouncing it human. But there are like fly by night companies, for sure. And those companies do operate really fraudulently at times. And in fact, there was a case of a company that was given dog DNA and did treat it as if it were human and did pronounce the you know, the dog to be a certain percentage Native American. And, you know, this clearly seems to be like a mill for producing results along the lines of what people were testing for Native American ancestry by people who were not Native American who possibly wanted to claim benefits fraudulently. And they were basically just handing people what they wanted. And that was a really interesting case that was written about in I believe in a Canadian newspaper. So when you do see that sort of on the margins of the industry.

DM

What are your thoughts on the 23andme COVID-19 study to investigate whether there is any link between the severity of symptoms and the genetic makeup?

LC

I think that the more I think we need to study right now, right, I mean, we’re all we’re all sort of feeling very much behind behind the eight ball. This disease is horrifying and seems to grow more horrifying every time I read about it. I think, Oh, it’s worse than I thought every time. The latest news was about children with symptoms similar to Kawasaki syndrome. We’re being hospitalized in New York State. I mean, it’s just part of So I feel like any kind of research, you know that can be done is probably a good thing in terms of getting us maybe more on pace with the disease and eventually being able to understand it better.

MA

So for my last question, I want to focus on investigative genetic genealogy in the criminal investigation world. And I want to give you a hypothetical, Libby if a criminal defense attorney had a client, who had been identified as a perpetrator of a serious crime through an investigative genetic genealogy hit, and let’s say he or she approached you for advice on how to vet and potentially attack that investigation. What would your recommendations be?

LC

Well, first, I would say I’m not a lawyer. And I would probably point them to some privacy experts who are and so when I was researching this for one of the chapters in my book, I talked to a number of people including Erin Murphy, who’s at NYU and Natalie Ramm who is in Baltimore I’m thinking University of Baltimore. And, you know, I have to say this hasn’t been tested yet. Right? It hasn’t really, it hasn’t really been tested in a court in terms of somebody, a defense attorney attacking the methods, the forensic genealogy methods used to, to identify a criminal or to help identify a criminal. But one of the interesting things that that some legal scholars raise as a concern is this idea that when you go into a database with a criminal sample, looking for relatives to that criminal sample in hopes of identifying, you know, that family and then winnowing down the identity of the criminal, they would suggest that it’s it’s almost like a fishing expedition that you’re that you’re, you’re casting suspicion on this. Ultimately, this criminal without having evidence for that specific person, and that that is a violation of of, you know, of all the constitutional protections that, you know, that the fourth amendment would, would otherwise provide. So, I will say that that is an interesting argument. But I’ll also say that, I don’t know whether it would hold water if it were tested. I mean, even the people who talk about it and who are very concerned about privacy issues and civil liberties issues, say that, you know, it may be it may be that forensic genealogy violates the spirit of the Fourth Amendment, but it’s not clear that it violates a letter of the Fourth Amendment. And so, you know, without it having ever been tested, it’s hard to say how strong an argument that would be.

MA

Well, I appreciate your input, Libby, because this is an issue that I’m going to have to deal with in my own practice. Very quickly.

LC

Oh, well, I hope I hope you have actual real lawyers to talk to and not just some journalist.

DM

Listen, thank you so much, Libby, we really appreciate your time today. And it’s a great, great read. And it had a tremendous impact on I think both of us.

LC

 Thank you so much. I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to talk to you. And you know, I think this topic is what we’re going to be talking about for a long time. So I’m so thrilled to be able to talk to you about it.

DM

 Will we be looking at a follow up down the road?

LC

 Oh, possibly. Maybe.

DM

 Yeah. I’ll be calling my mom again.

LC

 Yeah, right. Exactly.

MA

 Thank you, Libby. Really appreciate it.

DM

 What a great discussion Mehul. It really comes through that Libby is a journalism pro, and that she did a ton of homework for this book. I would really like to see her do a follow up.

MA

Yeah, no doubt Libby was great to talk to. And it’s my hope that our episode stokes interest in her book. I mean, with 30 million or more consumer genetic tests being completed. Let’s face it, almost all of us are going to be potentially affected by the results of these things. And we’re going to need to know how the heck deal with that.

DM

I’m going to do a shameless plug for our podcast, listeners take a look at a few of our past episodes that dealt with genealogy, ‘Golden State killer-A New Era of DNA Investigations’. and ‘When Genealogy Reveals Evil’, that’s the episode with Jeff Mudgett. When you talk about shocking family secrets, just imagine finding out that your great, great grandfather was America’s first serial killer, H.H. Holmes.

MA

Yeah, that’s a that’s a terrible Thanksgiving dinner topic of conversation.

DM

Unfortunately, with the addition of DNA testing to classic genealogy, more people are going to receive the shocking news that somewhere in their family, there’s a criminal.

MA

 Absolutely true. And there’s plenty of examples of that. So let me just give you one- Brandy Jennings from Vancouver. She uploads her DNA to GEDmatch, and her purpose of doing that is to learn more about her father and his relatives after he died. So she uploads her DNA doesn’t think about it. Sometime later, investigators start messaging her on Facebook, asking her if she knows someone by the name of Jerry Burns. Well, Mr. Burns happens to be a suspect in the 39 year old Iowa case of Michelle Martinko’s murder. So unbeknownst to Brandy, the police had uploaded crime scene DNA into GEDmatch, and boom, it showed an association with Brandy. And ultimately through the genealogical research, they found out that Brandy was a second cousin once removed of the killer. Now, Brandy Jennings was happy to talk to the media about this. She was happy that she could contribute to solving a crime. And she actually said that she was into true crime. And so just to give you a little background on how this case ended, the genealogy narrowed down the suspect pool to three brothers. So they took covert samples from two of them and eliminated them. For the third one, Mr. Burns the investigators followed Mr. Burns and his son into a pizza restaurant. Now, Dion, I gotta tell you, there’s a common thread here. It seems like they always nab the guy at a pizza restaurant. I mean, you take the Grim Sleeper, he was at a pizza restaurant, and what do they do? They take you know, DNA from half eaten pizza or a drink cup, or something like that. So I’m starting to wonder if pizza is really the main tool here and solving these cases.

DM

Well I think we’ve been going around profiling all wrong. I think we just need to start with serial killers who eat pizza.

MA

I think so. I think you start taking random samples from different pizza parlors.

DM

That’s a really a crazy coincidence, though.

MA

 Yeah, it is. So in another episode, Crumbs of Evidence, we talked to Jared Bradley of M-Vac systems and one of the things we discussed was the use of the  M-Vac in the Angie Dodge case. Now there’s a lot of twists and turns in that case that have to do with genealogy. We had false confession, leading to a wrongful conviction. We had the use of the M-Vac in a really cool way that led to an exoneration. And we had genetic genealogy that ultimately led to the real perpetrator. Now there was a bit of a stumble along the way. And Libby refers to this that some of the early testing in genealogy was based on the Y chromosome, which was not as specific as the current autosomal DNA. So in the Angie Dodge case, in 2014, the police decided that they wanted to use this early genetic genealogy. And when they did that, they actually got a hit to a man named Michael Usry. Now he was in Louisiana. Now check this out. He had visited Idaho once where the crime took place. And he was a filmmaker. And guess what one of his projects was, he made a film about a woman’s brutal murder called Murderabilia. So let me just stop there, right, we’ve got all the ingredients for confirmation bias. We have, quote, DNA, which we’re going to find out was actually weak in this case, but we have these other factors that can definitely lead to tunnel vision. Well, ultimately, they resolved that Mr. Usry was not a match using this early Y chromosome testing. Few years Later, technology is better, they want to have at it again, so now they do the autosomal DNA testing, boom, they get the true perpetrator, Brian Dripps, but I want to contrast this with the previous case I talked about with Brandy Jennings. Here. I was looking at a newspaper report, and they talk about the court affidavit. And they say that, you know, the laboratory developed the hypothesis that the unknown DNA donor was a male descendant of, and they name a person who is deceased. And his his wife’s name-and they give the name.. She’s also deceased. Here’s my question to you, Dion. Why in a newspaper article do you have to name the people that the killer descended from? What utility is there in that? I mean, I know it’s in the genealogical report. I know it’s in the court record, that probably should have been redacted. And even if it didn’t, why did the media feel the need to name those people in the article?

DM

 You know, I’ve been thinking about that. I think it’s kind of a guilt by association, even though they weren’t involved. They’re still looking for, you know, they’re still hunting for heads, so to speak, of people that they could pin it on, you know, can’t be just the one guy maybe the whole family. It’s it’s just the, you know, I just think they got swept up in the media rush to start you know, start to point fingers at people. What doyou think?

MA

Yeah, therein lies the problem. I mean, if I were to submit my DNA and it helps to solve crime, that’s great. But guess what? I don’t want anybody mentioning my name.

DM

No. And I think that goes to Libby’s comments that she mentioned that the consumer DNA testing is actually on the decline. And the two reasons that have been cited are saturation of the market, which is no shock there. But I think more importantly, privacy concerns.

MA

 Yeah. So one of the early illustrations of the privacy concerns that Libby discussed in her book was the Arizona State University study

DM

 That one was actually just kind of disturbing to read, because I really felt for them because it it rocked the core of who they are.

MA

 Well, it was disturbing. And it was several years ago. So we’ve got that ironed out by now. Right? So this study that she talked about, you know, just to go back to Havasupai Indians, they were interested in studying diabetes. So they looked at the genetic component. Well, they started studying other stuff as Libby described. So I think it’s not worth mentioning the so-called GEDmatch opt in controversy from last year because it’s somewhat of a parallel to the ASU study. So, after the Golden State killer, of course, genetic genealogy was all the rage. And there was a case in Utah where an A 71-year-old lady was practicing organ inside a locked church. Some young man broke a window, leaving some blood at the crime scene came in and for whatever reason, started choking this poor older lady. He didn’t kill her. But she was obviously injured. And then there was DNA evidence, the blood from the broken window. Well, police, you know, they ran out of leads, and they wanted to use genetic genealogy, specifically the GEDmatch database. Well, there was a problem in the terms and conditions for GEDmatch. It specifically says that we’re only going to use this for the crimes of rape and murder. And while this assault of the 71-year-old lady is horrible, it’s just that it’s an aggravated assault. So apparently, the police sweet talked GEDmatch into being able to use their database. Lo and behold, they solve the case. Well, happy ending, right? You know, what’s the issue here? Well, there was violation of informed consent. So in the terms and conditions for GEDmatch, which by the way was only seven pages, it’s not one of these, you know, things you got to click through for three hours, just to to read all of it. It’s specifically said, listen, you cannot use this in an aggravated assault case. And that’s what people signed up for and agreed to. So the issue here is that if firms are gonna start changing the rules on us, then what do these terms and conditions really mean? And I think people then are going to get skeptical of sharing their genetic information, and what’s going to happen like you refer to, the databases are going to shrink, and we’re actually going to have less power to solve crimes using this type of technology. So GEDmatch came up with the famous opt in which means that by default, all users would be opted out of being eligible for law enforcement searches. And they would have to specifically opt in if they wanted to be included in that type of search. So naturally now the number of profiles that are searchable, went down. And now you see this campaign on Twitter, you know, hashtag opt in, help solve a case, all of that kind of stuff. Right? Those numbers, of course, are gradually going up. But that was a setback in genetic genealogy.

DM

 Well, not only do the terms and conditions, I believe they just don’t mean anything on any site anymore. I mean, look at how many you know, big hacks we’ve had with Facebook or not a hack but finding out on the back end that they’ve been selling the information and now you’ve gotta take into consideration the, the shrinking of the market and the condensing of people buying other companies are those terms and conditions gonna follow the user on to the next company and I don’t believe they will.

MA

 Well it’s interesting you bring that up as a matter of fact, in 2019 GEDmatch was sold to Verogen, which is a genomics company. Now I read I pulled the terms and conditions, it’s still seven pages. It’s still straightforward. You just drop Verogen in there and a couple places, but who knows what the future holds? Okay, that’s all pretty heavy.

DM

 Yeah, you were really dropping your, your DNA nerd on me in those last couple of ones

MA

 I know. Okay, so let’s lighten it up a little bit here. Okay, so in the book, Libby talks about CeCe Moore she’s sort of now the face of investigative genetic genealogy. And you told me and I want you to share this with our listeners about a unexpected connection that you had with CeCe in terms of crossing paths with her back in the day?

DM

 Yeah, this is crazy. So I’m seeing her name repeatedly. And I just thought that because at some point time we were developing a show we wanted to bring her in as a consultant. And then I kept looking in the name and then in Libby’s book, she, she’s actually interviewing her and talking about how she got into, you know, her current field, and she mentioned that she was a kind of a struggling model and actress in Los Angeles and then it hit me. And so I looked I went to look them up online. And sure enough, we have a history going back to working on a couple of productions back in the day for Stu Segall down in San Diego. How about a small world?

MA

Are you saying that you were also a struggling actress?

DM

 Struggling actor.

MA

Yeah. Wow. I mean, What a small world. It’s funny how that ultimately you both ended up working in crime one way or another.

DM

 I think it’s fair to say that Mehul and I got a lot out of Libby’s book, and we encourage our listeners to get a copy. Visit libbycopeland.com to purchase the book and learn more about Libby. You can also follow her on Twitter @libbycopeland. Thanks to all of our listeners and social media followers. It’s exciting to see our download numbers increase. Please catch up on all of our past episodes at crime redefined.libsyn.com and please follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and on Instagram, and stay safe out there.

B

 Thank you for listening to the Crime Redefined podcast, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @crimeredefined. Please send us your comments and questions and join us for the next episode.

 

 

No Truth Left To Tell-S1 22

Michael McAuliffe is a formal federal prosecutor in the Washington, DC civil rights division of the Department of Justice, and author of ‘No Truth Left To Tell.’ The novel centers around a disturbing re-emergence of the Ku Klux Klan in 1990’s Louisiana and the twists and turns of a resulting investigation and trial. Hosted by Dion Mitchell and Mehul Anjaria.  A Zero Cliff Media production.

Coronavirus Redefines The Justice System-S1 21

The coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc on the criminal justice system. What can possibly be done to prevent the deadly virus from spreading like wildfire through our jails and prisons?  As the justice system grinds to a halt in Los Angeles and around the world, existing issues of fairness and efficiency have been exacerbated. Hosted by Dion Mitchell and Mehul Anjaria. A Zero Cliff Media production.