Julie Amero case, part II: May the farce be with you

Even Cringe blows one occasionally -- like maligning a computer expert who was only trying to help a school teacher escape a wrongful felony conviction. Read on for yet more Kafkaesque details of the Amero case.

The Julie Amero case has stirred up a lot of emotions, including some from Cringe readers who feel I was less than fair in my description of the expert witness hired by Amero's attorney, Herb Horner. You know what? They're right.

My information came from a single source who declined to speak on the record. His main point was that though Horner had impressive credentials as a computer expert, he wasn't a licensed forensic investigator in a case that desperately needed one.

I never contacted Horner himself. It was strictly "type first, think later" journalism.

Bad Cringe, no more Little Debbie snack cakes for you.

J. S. writes:

Robert, you really need to check your facts here about Herb Horner. He is hardly "little more than a guy who played with computers" (he operates a computer consulting firm) and was hardly "shredded on the stand" (most of his prospective testimony was barred by the trial judge).... Herb may not be as sophisticated in his knowledge as some of these very best in their field, but your characterization of him was entirely inappropriate, unfair, and way off-base.

G. M. weighs in as well:

... while Herb may not be a professional computer forensics expert, his 35+ years in his profession gives him more credibility than anyone else in this case. His inability to present his expert testimony was strictly an issue of the defense attorney's failure to disclose Herb's finding during pre-trial evidence discovery procedures.

I contacted Horner via e-mail and asked for his side of the story. He told me he had intended to bring laptops into the courtroom to re-create the pop-up porn storm that engulfed Julie Amero on the morning of October 19, 2004. But the court would not give him unfettered access to the Net, and prosecutor David Smith objected to the introduction of evidence he was unfamiliar with. Horner writes:

I arrived at the court house with two laptops. Smith was not happy when he realized what I was going to do. I started the presentation in the form of a narrative, and Smith objected, stating he did not know of the malware defense that I had prepared.... I mentioned to the judge that I would give Smith everything I had. A milk crate full of Microsoft documentation on how the Internet Explorer worked. The file layouts of Internet cache. A copy of the programs I used and the reports.... The judge refused and mentioned that there was no time for that, now the trial must go on.... So with that I was only able to show a couple of slides to indicate what happened. One of most important things that happened here is that there was a REDIRECT to the initial porn hair site. I still stand by that.

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Robert X. Cringely

InfoWorld
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