The Schweickart Lecture in Criminal Defense
From Bad to Worse: How a Lack of Independence and Unequal Access to Crime Labs and Coroner Offices Heightens the Risk of Junk Science
November 2, 2023
4:30 PM - 6 PM
Capital University Law School Annex
Erin Gallagher Barnhart, Esq.
This lecture will provide an overview of the reliability and bias problems in forensic “science” and its role in wrongful convictions. The presenters will discuss the unique problem of a feedback loop with a lack of ground truth, Shaken Baby Syndrome theory, and Lamont Hunter’s story. In addition, the presenters will explore why independence and equal access to crime labs and coroner offices are essential including best practices to avoid coercion, implicit bias, and gamesmanship.
Register to Attend
(In-person attendance only)
This program is pending approval of 1.75 hours of CLE credit.
About Our Presenters
Lamont Hunter grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is the proud father of seven children and an involved member of a tight-knit extended family. In 2006, while he watched his infant daughter in another part of the house, his girlfriend’s toddler tragically fell down a flight of stairs, sustaining fatal injuries. Mr. Hunter was wrongfully convicted and sent to death row for this accident. His convictions were the result of junk science, poor representation, and prosecutorial misconduct. For years, he sought to prove his innocence in court. Finally, after the coroner who performed the autopsy in the case viewed evidence she had not considered before testifying at his trial, she changed her opinions about the cause of death and injuries she had observed, concluding they were consistent with the accidental fall Mr. Hunter had reported and accidental injuries sustained from medical intervention in the emergency room. The State of Ohio joined Mr. Hunter’s request to vacate his convictions and death sentence and agreed to a time-served plea that released him from custody in June 2023. Since gaining his freedom, Mr. Hunter has re-entered the workforce and is learning to text, use a smartphone, and navigate Facebook. He spends his free time reconnecting with family and friends, cheering on the Bengals, and sharing the story of his journey over the past 17 years.
Erin Gallagher Barnhart graduated from Ohio University in 2002 with bachelor's and master's degrees in Interpersonal Communication. After earning her Juris Doctorate from the University of Notre Dame Law School in 2005, she clerked for the Honorable Chief Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Erin then practiced general corporate litigation at the Columbus office of Jones Day and joined the Capital Habeas Unit (CHU) of the Federal Public Defender's Office for the Southern District of Ohio in 2009.
As an Assistant Federal Public Defender, Erin represents death-row inmates in federal habeas and civil-rights litigation, as well as clemency and some related state-court matters, and serves as co-coordinator of CHU’s legal externship program. In the past, Erin has taught appellate advocacy to second-year law students and routinely judges student moot court competitions at area law schools. She is also the current Treasurer of the Columbus chapter of the Federal Bar Association, appointed to the Sixth Circuit’s Criminal Pattern Jury Instruction Committee, and a member of the Ohio University Communication Studies Alumni Advisory Council.
The Schweickart Lecture in Criminal Defense is named after Gary Schweickart, L’74, who according to peers, epitomized the criminal defense lawyer. He revered the Bill of Rights above all other things and demanded that his clients be treated fairly and with respect. Gary was perhaps best known for his involvement in high-profile cases. Among his many clients were Billy Milligan and Dr. Edward Jackson. Gary began his legal career as an intern with the Franklin County Public Defender’s Office. Gary remained at the Public Defender’s Office until 1980, at which time he went into private practice. Gary died on January 10, 1990, after a short battle with cancer.
Following Gary’s death in 1990, Capital Law alumni, as well as colleagues and close friends of Gary Schweickart, established the Gary Schweickart Adjunct Chair and Lecture. The Chair was initially established by Max Kravitz, L’74, a fellow classmate of Gary’s, a professor at CapLaw and a criminal defense lawyer. The Schweickart Committee was created to serve as an impetus for fund-raising, chaired by Randy Dana, L’74, members of the Committee include Max Kravitz, L’74, James Kura; Gerald Simons; Julie Van DeMark; and Cath Worley, L’78.
The Schweickart Lecture is presented each academic year by a criminal defense practitioner or legal scholar who addresses a matter of significance to the criminal defense bar.