Bumps in the Road for Hair Microscopy Case Review
One year after the Innocence Project and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers announced its partnership with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to review microscopic hair analysis cases, the review was stopped after finding forensic errors in nearly every case spanning the past two decades.
reported that the DOJ ordered case reviews to resume earlier this month after the inspector general criticized the department and the FBI for unacceptable delays and inadequate investigation in a separate inquiry from the mid-1990s.
“I don’t know whether history is repeating itself, but clearly the [latest] report doesn’t give anyone a sense of confidence that the work of the examiners whose conduct was first publicly questioned in 1997 was reviewed as diligently and promptly as it needed to be,” said Michael R. Bromwich, who was inspector general from 1994 to 1999 and is now a partner at the Goodwin Procter law firm, according to the
Before the review was halted last August, officials notified defendants in 23 cases, including 14 death-penalty cases, that FBI examiners “exceeded the limits of science” when they linked hair to crime-scene evidence. When errors were found in nearly all of the cases, the FBI and the DOJ started to butt heads.
The FBI said the investigation was stalled due to a disagreement with the DOJ about what scientific standards to apply when reviewing past FBI lab examiner testimony, but the issue has since been resolved and notification letters will be going out in the next few weeks regarding cases where a hair match may have contributed to a wrongful conviction.
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