News  |    |  August 19, 2021

How AI powered tech landed man in jail with scant evidence

News article by By Garance Burke, Martha Mendoza, Juliet Linderman and Michael Tarm. Published by AP News.

Excerpt:

Michael Williams’ wife pleaded with him to remember their fishing trips with the grandchildren, how he used to braid her hair, anything to jar him back to his world outside the concrete walls of Cook County Jail.

His three daily calls to her had become a lifeline, but when they dwindled to two, then one, then only a few a week, the 65-year-old Williams felt he couldn’t go on. He made plans to take his life with a stash of pills he had stockpiled in his dormitory.

Williams was jailed last August, accused of killing a young man from the neighborhood who asked him for a ride during a night of unrest over police brutality in May. But the key evidence against Williams didn’t come from an eyewitness or an informant; it came from a clip of noiseless security video showing a car driving through an intersection, and a loud bang picked up by a network of surveillance microphones. Prosecutors said technology powered by a secret algorithm that analyzed noises detected by the sensors indicated Williams shot and killed the man.

“I kept trying to figure out, how can they get away with using the technology like that against me?” said Williams, speaking publicly for the first time about his ordeal. “That’s not fair.”

Williams sat behind bars for nearly a year before a judge dismissed the case against him last month at the request of prosecutors, who said they had insufficient evidence. [ . . . ]