After 31 Years, Justice Department Files Motion to Exonerate Kirk Odom


The Justice Department has filed court papers stating that Kirk Odom, who spent 22 years in prison and another nine years on parole as a registered sex offender, is innocent of all charges.

In 1981, 18-year-old Odom was identified in a lineup and convicted of breaking into a woman’s home, raping her and stealing hundreds of dollars worth of traveler’s checks. He had been at home with his mother on the day of the crime. His conviction rested mainly on the faulty forensic hair-analysis testimony presented at trial, which claimed to match one of the hairs found on the victim’s nightgown to Odom. However, hair microscopy is an inexact science and cannot yield a “match.” NPR reports:

A jury convicted him after only a few hours of deliberation. The memory causes Odom to groan.

“Justice, justice at the time was just blind,” he says. “I mean they were just, they just wasn’t, I guess you could say, up to date. … It was chaos.”

That changed a couple of years ago, when another inmate from the Washington, D.C., area was exonerated, in part based on faulty hair analysis.

Years after his release on parole, the government found stained bedsheets, a robe, and the previously tested hair from the crime scene. The evidence had never been submitted for DNA testing, and when the results came back they cleared Odom and pointed to another perpetrator.

Odom will become the second D.C. man in recent months to have his conviction overturned due to the exaggerated forensic hair testimony of FBI analysts. In light of these cases, the FBI and the Department of Justice have agreed to a massive review of all cases involving the same kind of hair evidence that wrongfully implicated Odom.

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