For decades, an “advanced” technique the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) used to tie suspects to crime scenes was forensically
analyzing hair samples. The results of the analysis would then be presented
in court testimonies from an expert witness. More often than not, these
testimonies and the apparent results of the analyses were not in favor
of the defendant.
Now, in a formal statement, the FBI has acknowledged that nearly every
hair match analysis conducted and subsequent testimony given between 1972
and 1999 was inherently flawed. Further research has indicated that there
is no clear distinction between one person’s hair follicle and another’s.
One hair might be completely different and the next identical. In light
of this updated information, it was deemed that hair match analyses were
simply too unreliable.
Is It Too Late to Apologize?
It has been determined that 26 of 28 examiners overstated the accuracy
of forensic hair matches in trial testimonies in more than 95% of the
268 trials they were involved in. Most of those trials ended with conviction
– it is worth noting that hair match analyses were not the only
forms of evidence presented in the trials. However, 32 of the convicted
defendants were sentenced to death and 14 have already been executed or
passed away while incarcerated. Regardless of whether they did the crimes
for which they have been convicted or not, should any of them have been
convicted at all if the critical piece of evidence was completely faulty?
Currently the FBI is in the process of reviewing around
2,500 cases in total that used a lab’s analysis of a positive hair match
test. 700 case reviews have been put on hold, perhaps indefinitely, as
the FBI awaits response from prosecutors and police forces in the case’s
jurisdiction. There are also more than 18,000 more cases from within the
two-decade-window where hair matches were negative. The sheer number of
times this process was used yet
still remained unreliable is staggering.
As time goes on, the FBI will continue to review cases and some studies
have already led to the exoneration of people who had been convicted based
on hair sample results. Time is certainly of the essence, though, since
14 potentially innocent people have lost their lives so far. Will there
be justice or compensation for their families? This is also unclear at
If you are looking for tenacious defense for your own charges,
contact Berry Law Firm today and request an
initial consultation with one of our Lincoln criminal defense attorneys.