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FBI and State Law Enforcement Agencies Used Flawed Forensic Hair Matches in Almost All Criminal Trials Prior to the Year 2000

April 19, 2015  |  Posted by: JammedUp Staff
FBI and State Law Enforcement Agencies Used Flawed Forensic Hair Matches in Almost All Criminal Trials Prior to the Year 2000

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The Washington Post is reporting that the Department of Justice and the FBI are acknowledging the use of flawed forensic testimony in almost all criminal cases over the span of three decades.

The report confirmed that almost every expert from the elite FBI forensic unit gave erroneous evidence in almost every criminal trial against defendants prior to the year 2000.

A total of 26 out of 28 experts from the FBI’s microscopic hair examination unit exaggerated forensic matches that favored prosecutors. According to the National Defense of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NDCL) the flawed testimony occurred in over 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far.

The NDCL is assisting the government in the largest post-conviction review of the questionable forensic evidence.

Cases include 32 defendants who were sentenced to death. Out of the 32 convictions, 14 were either executed or ended up dying in prison. The group and the government agreed to release results after the review of the first 200 sentences.

The faulty testimony by the FBI alone did not correlate in the convictions of the defendants; other evidence were presented to prove many of the convict’s guilt. However, four defendants have been previously exonerated, and others are being contacted along with federal and state prosecutors in 46 states to discern if there are grounds for appeals.

Legal analysts say the confirmation of the flawed depositions is a landmark moment in what is being called the largest forensics scandal in U.S. history. The scandal calls to attention the systemic failure of the nation’s courts decision to withhold false scientific information from selected juries,

Now experts are asking how will state and federal courts respond to the admissions that confirm what many have long argued are flawed forensic techniques. Those include hair and bite-mark testing that has contributed to the wrongful convictions in over twenty-five percent of the 329 DNA-exoneration cases since 1989.

The FBI and Justice Department said in a statement that both agencies vowed to continue to devote assets to review all cases. “Both agencies are committed to assuring all defendants who have been affected are alerted of past transgressions, so that in every case justice is done.

The FBO and DOJ said in the joint statement that they are “committed to making sure that all future procedural applications of forensic science techniques, including hair and nail analysis are secure and accurate.”

Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, hailed the collaboration by the FBI and DOJ. But said, “The FBI’s three-decade use of microscopic hair analysis to incriminate defendants was a complete disaster.”

“We need an exhaustive investigation into how the courts allowed faulty testimony by examiners used by the FBI and state governments, trained by the FBI. And we need to know why wasn’t it stopped sooner,”
Neufeld said.

Norman L. Reimer, the NACDL’s executive director, said, “Hopefully, this project establishes a precedent so that in future situations it will not take years to remediate the injustice.”

Although many unnamed federal officials have acknowledged the wide-ranging problems, the FBI until now has not commented due to the fact their findings might not be representative.

Former prosecutor and current U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), has demanded the FBI and DOJ notify all defendants in the 2,500 cases involving the flawed FBI hair match about the problem, even if the review of their case is not yet completed. Blumenthal called on both agencies double their efforts in the three-year-old study to all thesalvage information on each of the targeted cases.

“The findings of the review are appalling and is a chilling indictment of our criminal justice system, not only for the possible innocent defendants who have been wrongly imprisoned and even executed, but for prosecutors who have relied on fabricated and false evidence despite their intentions to faithfully enforce the law,” Blumenthal said.

According to the Washington Post, the FBI sources said they will first complete the reviews before it assesses the causes, but did admit that until 2012, hair examination experts lacked written guidelines determining what would be deemed a scientifically appropriate and erroneous process to explain findings in court. The FBI expects by the end of the year to have in place similar guidelines in place for testimony and lab reports for an additional 19 forms of forensic testing.

Federal law enforcement agencies launched the investigation in 2012 after The Washington Post reported that flawed testing of the forensic hair matches might have led to the convictions of hundreds of potentially innocent people since at least the 1970s. The majority of cases involved murder, rape, and other violent crimes nationwide.

Law enforcement agencies in the states of Texas, New York and North Carolina are reviewing their hair examiner cases, in addition, 15 other states will begin conducting reviews.

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