This week marks the seventh anniversary of Jimmy Ray Bromgard’s exoneration in Montana, after serving more than 14 years for a crime he did not commit. Bromgard was convicted at 18 and released at 32, losing the prime years of his life behind bars. Participating in a prison program for sex offenders could have led to his early release, but he refused to take the classes. “I would have had to admit my guilt,” he said after his release. “I'd rather sit there in prison for all my life than admit my guilt."
Bromgard was convicted based in part on forensic science misconduct. The prosecution tied Bromgard to the crime by using the testimony of a state forensic hair examiner, Arnold Melnikoff, who claimed hairs found on the victim's bed were similar to Bromgard's, and further argued there was less than a one-in-10,000 chance that the hairs did not come from Bromgard. Melnikoff’s testimony was fraudulent; there has never been a standard by which to statistically match hairs through microscopic inspection.
Unvalidated or improper forensic science has played a role in more than 50% of the 244 wrongful convictions overturned by DNA testing to date. Forensic problems include the kind of fraudulent testimony that led to Bromgard’s conviction, but they also include testimony in fields — such as bite mark comparisons or firearm analysis — that simply have not been subjected to rigorous scientific research.
To learn more about recommended federal forensic reforms and to sign a petition supporting improved support and oversight for forensics, visit
the Just Science Coalition website
Other Exoneration Anniversaries This Week:
, Texas (Served 17 years, Exonerated 9/29/05)
, Texas (Served 24 Years, Exonerated 10/1/08)
, Mississippi (Served 15.5 Years , Exonerated 10/1/08)
, Virginia (Served 17 years, Exonerated 10/2/00)
, California (Served 10 years, Exonerated 10/3/02)