FBI Examiners Gave Flawed Forensic Testimony In 96 Percent Of Cases Where Hair Forensic Evidence Was Used To Convict, According To FBI Analysis
Of The 257 Prosecuted On Faulty Evidence, 32 Defendants Were Sentenced To Death, Of Which 14 Have Died In Prison Or Been Executed
Investigation Ongoing, Approximately 2,500 Cases Still to be Reviewed
(Hartford, CT) – This morning, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) joined world-renowned forensic expert Dr. Henry Lee, leaders from the Innocence Project, and former prosecutor and Quinnipiac Law professor, Elizabeth Marsh, for a roundtable discussion on forensic evidence standards.
The discussion followed the bombshell admission from the Federal Bureau of Investigation that faulty forensic hair matches dating back to the 1970s were used to convict 257 people for rape, murder and other violent crimes prior to 2000. While experts at the time testified to the “near-certainty” of matches, a review of the cases found serious, systemic flaws. In one 1978 case, experts said the odds were “10-million-to-one” that hair strands could match anyone but a single individual, a teenager charged with the murder of a taxi driver. Decades later, DNA testing proved the hair came from a dog.
Of those convicted, 32 were sentenced to death—14 of whom have already died in prison or been executed. The Innocence Project is working jointly with the FBI, Department of Justice, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers on the ongoing review of 3,000 cases prior to 2000, when mitochondrial DNA testing replaced the more subjective microscopic analysis.
Blumenthal has called on the Department of Justice and FBI to correct all injustices caused by the use of flawed hair analysis, to identify any other forensic science disciplines that warrant similar review, and to require stronger standards and additional research into forensic science.
“These findings are an appalling indictment of our criminal justice system, 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,” Blumenthal said. “We need to understand how this grave injustice occurred—both to prevent it from happening again and to determine how to provide justice for the hundreds of individuals who have been wronged."