The Justice Department and the FBI admitted that almost all examiners in an FBI forensic unit gave inaccurate testimony in nearly every trial it was involved in for more than 20 years, the Washington Post reported.
From The Post:
Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.
The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions.
The admission of error means that parties involved in cases in 46 states and Washington DC “are being notified to determine whether there are grounds for appeals.”
The FBI and Justice Department said in a statement that they “are committed to ensuring that affected defendants are notified of past errors and that justice is done in every instance. The Department and the FBI are also committed to ensuring the accuracy of future hair analysis testimony, as well as the application of all disciplines of forensic science.”
The federal investigation started in 2012 after The Post “reported that flawed forensic hair matches might have led to the convictions of hundreds of potentially innocent people since at least the 1970s, typically for murder, rape and other violent crimes nationwide.”
The investigation confirmed that FBI experts had testified to the the “near-certainty” of “‘matches’ of crime-scene hairs to defendants,” despite the fact that there is “no accepted research on how often hair from different people may appear the same.”
“These finding are appalling and chilling in their indictment of our criminal justice system,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a former prosecutor, “not only for potentially 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.”