Monday, March 30, 2015

Official "Forum video": where's the baby buggy?

The government has published a few post-blast stills of the Forum video as part of the trial. The above picture is one of them, taken 30 seconds after the blast. As blurry as it is, it distinctly shows a big item on the sidewalk directly in front of the entry area of the Forum. It looks like some metal rods composed to a frame. I have highlighted the item within the colored square.
A closer look invites to the conjecture that the item might be a baby buggy. And amazingly, a review of post-blast footage reveals exactly that. Three photos and one video are sufficient to show.

Photo A. You can see a black wheel just left of the tree. It is a wheel typical for a baby buggy. Looking more closely, you can also recognize a part of a second wheel. The photo was shot at about 1:25 minutes after the blast.

Photo B. This Bill Hoenk photo catches a view from the front, just like the Daniel Robert video. The red backrest/headrest is recognizable just left of the tree. Time: about 3:40 minutes after the blast.

Photo C was created only a few seconds before Photo B. It delivers by far the best view, high resolution and full profile. The buggy is between the road sign and the red-jacket runner.

The buggy's location is very close to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's location in the official pre-blast Forum video. So expectations seem to be justified to get to see a buggy in the video, but they are disappointed. Neither at the point of the explosion, nor one minute before, nor in between there is a buggy at the same spot as in the post-blast stills and photos, not even close to it. There is simply no buggy in the official Forum video.

Why is there a baby buggy in the post-blast footage, but no baby buggy in the pre-blast footage?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Kevin Cullen distorts testimony of Bill Richard

Update 9/1/2015: I have to express my sincere apologies to Kevin Cullen for accusing him to report fallacious information about Bill Richard's statement. 

The just published testimony of Bill Richard reveals that he first said that he picked up Jane by the mailbox, but - after having been shown a photograph (exhibit 24) by prosecutor Pellegrini - he corrected himself and said he picked up her at the tree. Bill Richard: And I previously said the "mailbox". I meant the tree. She was closer to the mailbox, but I do see Jane.

Most court reporters report the mailbox version, only Cullen reports the tree. None of them mentions that Bill Richard corrected himself.
I added excerpts of the original transcript in an appendix. Scroll down.

-----  end of update  -----

The Boston Globe's chief reporter in the Tsarnaev case, well-reputed journalist Kevin Cullen, has enjoyed many recommendations for his dense twitter covering of the trial. But on March 5th he made a serious and significant mistake, qualifying as a big blunder at best and a deliberate misreporting at worst.

On this Thursday, the second day of testimonies, Bill Richard, father of deceased 8-year-old boy Martin Richard, entered the witness stand and told the jury the sad story about how his family experienced the second bomb blast. He described how his son Henry pointed him to his heavily injured daughter Jane, and how he walked towards her, picked her up and carried her onto the street.

There's just one problem with these tweets: the location. Richard didn't testify that Jane was by the tree, at least not according to the majority of reporters. Most journalists don't mention the location at all, but some do, and with the exception of Cullen, they locate Jane by the mailbox. This is reported by WCVB's Kelley Tuthill, probably the most reliable source in the courtroom:

Here are the corresponding tweets from Alysha Palumbo and Gail Waterhouse:

Another source is the New York Post:

Here's another article by Danika Fears:

That's 4:1 against Cullen, and court documents will certainly confirm the majority of observers. Yet Cullen went on to plant his fallacious "tree" version into a Globe article:

Pointing out the tree/mailbox discrepancy is not a quibble. The issue comes with a punchline. It is stunning that Cullen, despite blatantly misreporting this detail of the Richard testimony, actually seems to have reported factually correct: that Bill Richard picked up his daughter next to the tree - not "by the mailbox". In other words: Richard's memory seems to have betrayed him, and his wrong recollection was kind of adjusted by Cullen.

These three stills from the Forum video, just published by the Department of Justice as exhibits, show how a man - supposed to be Bill Richard - bends down to the ground near the tree and has a little child on his arm six seconds later - supposed to be Jane Richard.

Exhibit 21-1

Exhibit 21-2

Exhibit 21-47

The man does not walk towards the mailbox, and it wouldn't have made sense anyway, because there is no little child lying by the mailbox, as these photos, shot from a different perspective, show:

photo: Kenshin Okubo

Appendix: pages 22 and 23 of the official transcript

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Official "Forum video" doesn't match Fred Land video

One of the most important pieces of evidence for the Boston bombing is a video shot by Fred Land, a guest of the Mandarin hotel which is located opposite the second bomb site and shifted to the West about 25 meters. So the blast itself is not recorded, but the reaction to it is. The video runs from 1 minute before blast to 7 minutes after blast and shows Boylston street and parts of the sidewalk in front of Abe&Louie's and Crate&Barell, not far away from the Forum. The above snapshot is an exception because it is taken when the repercussions of the bomb reach the camera. That's why for a fraction of a second it doesn't show the entire road, but the entire sidewalk instead.

The authenticity and genuineness of the video is beyond question. It is in accordance with all acknowledged footage on the public market and has a clear and correct time signature. When Mr. Land put it online, it received little attention at first until I detected it accidentally in September 2013 and spread it further. It is most useful in determining the time stamp of photos and videos in the aftermath and has gained access into the prosecution's video compilation of the bombings, which has been presented recently at the trial (because it shows Dzhokhar Tsarnaev running away after the blast).

Another part of the compilation is the Forum video which shows Dzhokhar entering and leaving the area in front of the restaurant. This video falls however short of showing how he “can be seen slipping his knapsack onto the ground”, as promised by the prosecution. I personally can't confirm that observation, and I have collected other points of objection here.

The Fred Land video is an excellent tool to check the authenticity and genuineness of the government's Forum video. And when it comes to the Marathon runners, the videos match 100 percent. I've made several tests, all of them were positive. The Forum video is verified so far.

But there are more people to see than the runners, and they have to match, too. Both videos show a segment of the sidewalk, Boylston Street, North side. The following diagram illustrates that there is only a small gap on the sidewalk which is not covered by either video (in front of Crate&Barrel):

The hachured area is covered by the Forum video. The video shows spectators and a stream of pedestrians on the sidewalk. The walkers enter the screen abruptly at the lower left border and leave it slowly via the upper border – or vice versa. The “2-meter line” defines the boundary where a leaving walker's head is “cut off” – if the head is not visible, but his back still is, he is in the non-hachured area, i.e. the gap between the two videos. It turns out that the gap is only about 6 meters wide. So with an average speed of 1 meter/second, a walker bridges the gap in 6 seconds. He needs about 20 seconds to cross the Fred Land video and 15 seconds for the Forum video.

With this information, it can now be examined if the two videos match. A cursory comparison already reveals an astonishing different traffic density on the sidewalk in the last minute before the explosion. The Forum video shows entire strings of walkers in both directions, passing each other, almost causing congestion. Strikingly opposed to that, the Fred Land video shows little traffic and much, much space on the sidewalk. Compare the title photo with this snapshot from the Forum video, taken at the same moment, i.e. the first explosion:

Simply said: there seem to be much more people in the Forum video than in the Fred Land video. With a little work, the suspicion that the Forum video is not legitimate can certainly be verified or falsified. Every person leaving the Forum video towards the upper side should – in general – appear in the Fred Land video, entering from the right side about 6 seconds later, and vice versa. The fact that the Fred Land video shows only the legs or feets of the walkers is hindering, but doesn't make it impossible to compare the in- and outgoing traffic on both videos. For someone who is commited to check the veracity of the Forum video this is certainly a smaller problem.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

FBI Special Agent Daniel Genck - witness for the defense

The government has now finally released the notorious Forum video which is supposed to show Dzhokhar dropping and leaving his bag on the sidewalk in front of the Forum restaurant. The video has been played to the jury and is available online (the actual Forum video clip starts at 3:35 and ends with the explosion):

Unfortunately, the video clip raises way more questions than it answers. For start, it doesn't match FBI SA Daniel Genck's report in the criminal complaint:

So what does the video show?

1 - Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is not standing "near the metal barriers". He's standing directly behind the tree, and it is beyond comprehension how anyone watching the video, let alone a trained FBI specialist, would take the metal barriers, which are not visible in the video, as a reference point - instead of the tree - to pinpoint Dzhokhar's location.

The diagram illustrates the situation:

2 - Dzhokhar Tsarnaev can not be seen slipping his knapsack onto the ground. At 3:45 in the video (corresponding to 14:45:47) he seems to make something with his left hand. But to slip the knapsack to the ground, he didn't need his left hand, all the more because he had still his cellphone in it. Additionally, he's still walking and has not reached his final position at this point - this is 2 seconds later. But according to Genck, he slips the bag to the ground after he can be seen standing among numerous spectators. Afterwards, no "apparent slipping" can be observed either. Genck's narrative fundamentally differs from the video.

3 - A photograph taken from the opposite side of the street would not show his feets and the knapsack beside them on the ground. The view would have been blocked by the people in front of him, the barriers and the tree. The photos inserted in the video clip (which are of dubious origin and authenticity, by the way) show that it's impossible to catch a view on the knapsack - given that it is placed behind the tree:

It is incomprehensible how Daniel Genck arrived at his description. He must have seen a different video. The defense ought to consider to summon him as a witness.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Prosecutor Weinreb's bizarre misinterpretation of Zhou Danling

In my previous blog entry I posed the question Did Officer Lauren Woods mix up Lingzi Lu with Zhou Danling? based on Woods' testimony at the Tsarnaev trial. Prosecution attorney Weinreb had already quoted Zhou Danling in his opening statement the day before, but because I didn't follow it in detail,  I missed a truely graphic and bizarre passage:
She looked down to see if her own legs were still there, and she saw that her insides were coming out of her stomach, so she used her hands to push them back in.
Is this supposed to say that Zhou's belly was sliced open by shrapnel and viscera were pouring out? And that she pushed them back into her belly with her hands?

The source of Weinreb's information is unknown; but at least in part it might be a video interview with Zhou conducted by independent journalist Lindsey Mastis. In the week after the bombings, presumably on April 24th, 2013, she visited Zhou at Boston Medical Center and recorded an interview at her hospital bed.

Here's a transcript of what Zhou said:
She's a beautiful girl ((Lingzi Lu)), she really is, and lots of people love here. I saw her injured by her leg, the upside of the leg and I think she's better than me at that point. So I'm not really very worried. It's like I never pass out, just always wake up and I check like my arms and my legs are still there and at first I thought maybe I'm not injured but I feel like something comes out from my body and there I saw it and I just say ((rolling eyes)) "Oh my God" ((smiling)) and I'm just trying to push it back and I stayed there quietly and waited for help.
Lyndsey Mastis interprets this as if her belly was "split open":
She was seriously injured in the second blast. She described looking at her limbs to make sure they were there. She noticed her belly had been split open and she told me she tried to push it all back in. I can’t imagine what that was like.

From this, it's only a short way to Weinreb's "she saw that her insides came out of her stomach". But is this really what Zhou wanted to say?

In order to answer this question, one has to scrutinize her wording closely. She's lying on the ground in a kind of semi-sleep state, sometimes dozy, sometimes awake. She doesn't know if she's injured and checks her arms and legs - has she overlooked a gaping wound in her belly? Hardly imaginable. Then she "feels" that "something" is "coming out of her body" and later sees it. Does she say that she literally watched how her bowel poured out through the sliced belly?

Something doesn't add up here. But looking at her body language - or better, face language - delivers a solution. When she narrates the story how something came out of her body she rolls with her eyes and then smiles shortly.

I just say...

..."Oh my God!"

Her face language doesn't fit the shocking and painful experience of witnessing how her own viscera came out of her belly. Instead, it fits perfectly an embarassing, but harmless body reaction: she had vomited!

Lyndsey Mastis writes incorrectly that Zhou tried to push "the stuff" back in. This is not was Zhou said. She said she tried to push it back, without the "in". This is another distinct hint that the stuff that came out of her body was not her viscera, but what she had eaten before.

So Weinreb has obviously been fooled by a grotesque misunderstanding. But it is more than that. It matches what Officer Woods testified with regard to Lingzi Lu

and corroborates that the young Chinese woman was not Lingzi Lu, but her friend Zhou Danling.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Did Officer Lauren Woods mix up Lingzi Lu and Zhou Danling?

Update: A follow-up article on Zhou Dangling is here

Boston police officer Lauren Woods testified today at the Tsarnaev trial. She describes how she arrived at the Forum about one minute  after the blast and became a first responder for Lingzi Lu.

According to the tweets, the exact place where she found the girl was presumably in front of the little Forum fence. And there is indeed a photo with an Asian looking young woman lying on her back at this spot, apparently unconscious, who receives CPR by first responders:

Here is a rotated cut-out to have a better view on the woman:

Officer Woods has testified that she found an ID card which identified her as Lingzi Lu. However, the woman might also have been Lu's friend Zhou Danling, who was with her at the Marathon. Here are two pictures of Zhou Danling:

And here are two pictures of Lingzi Lu:

The woman at the Forum much more resembles Zhou Danling than Lingzi Lu. According to the records, Zhou had abdominal injuries from the blast and was in the coma for two days:
Robert Hill, dean of Boston University's Marsh Chapel, who visited Zhou in hospital, said she had undergone surgery on Monday and Tuesday. 
"She is doing well," Hill told BU Today, the university newspaper. "She has her friends around her, and she will soon have family around her." 
According to Xinhua News Agency, Zhou was still very weak on Tuesday but could speak a few words and smile. 
"Zhou had abdominal injuries from the blast. She came out of the coma today and is in stable condition now," said Owen Zhang, 21, from Shenzhen, who is also studying at Boston University.

Judging from the photos, Officer Woods has treated Zhou Danling, not Lingzi Lu. It seems that Zhou carried Lingzi's ID card for some reason and was therefore misidentified by Officer Woods.

Here are some crucial tweets from Woods' testimony: