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 this time.
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.