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Facial Profiling 

Will face-recognition technology get an accused killer off the hook?

Wednesday, Jul 14 2010

Page 5 of 5

Nobody expressed any doubt as to whether prosecutors had charged the right man. To the contrary: Barrett's relatives said the streets had been abuzz with rumors that Heard had been the killer.

Exactly one week after finding him guilty of first-degree murder, Heard's jury hung on allegations that he was a gang member. A separate deliberation for these charges took place; if convicted, he could have faced a stiffer minimum prison sentence.

Nevertheless, the case was a clear victory for the D.A.'s office. Even without the gang charges, Heard faces a sentence of 26 years to life.

"The jury convicted a person that is a very violent person, and the community is a lot safer because of their actions," Swart told SF Weekly.

Safire said he would appeal the guilty verdicts. He plans to argue that the case's outcome was flawed because the jury both rejected the prosecution's theory that Heard was the shooter and found him guilty of murder.

"The defense prevailed, and lost anyway," he said. "You can't find as a jury that he shot the guy and didn't shoot the guy."

In the end, did the biometric evidence matter? Did the jury turn to the felony murder doctrine because Bavarian's techniques planted a seed of doubt as to whether Heard was the hooded man in the grainy videotape?

One juror who spoke to SF Weekly following the verdicts said the opposite was true. The juror, who did not want his name published, said that based on his own scientific background — a computer programmer by profession, he also majored in mathematics in college — he didn't find Bavarian credible, and had given more weight to Vorder Bruegge's countertestimony.

"We had two experts," he said. "One was believable and one wasn't. ... It was really a reach for what [Bavarian] was trying to do."

Without speaking to the other jurors, it's impossible to know how the biometric analysis may have influenced them. But it seems possible that Heard's case has opened the door to a controversial form of scientific evidence that could prove more consequential in the future, whether used to set people free or put them away.

About The Author

Peter Jamison


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