The Science Is Settled: Not So Much Edition

The forensic evidence that led to your execution was, er, um, how shall we say, perhaps not quite as compelling as we led the jury to believe

FBI overstated forensic hair matches in nearly all trials before 2000

By Spencer S. Hsu April 18 at 5:44 PM
The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.

Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.

The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions.

…The review confirmed that FBI experts systematically testified to the near-certainty of “matches” of crime-scene hairs to defendants, backing their claims by citing incomplete or misleading statistics drawn from their case work.

In reality, there is no accepted research on how often hair from different people may appear the same.

And of course there will be no consequences for these people whose actions led to the incarceration of hundreds for many years, and the death of at least 14.

Good lord.

5 Responses to “The Science Is Settled: Not So Much Edition”

  1. Rob says:

    I’m not a soft-on-crime guy but I think it’s time to abolish the death penalty. It cheaper and a mistake would be a little less unbearable. As far as punishment goes, I think life in prison is tougher on criminals.

  2. Greg Newsom says:

    There was a book released in 1998, ‘Tainting Evidence’ about the corruption of the FBI lab. I would also agree that the death penalty should be abolished, but the states that have abolished it, throw around “Life with No Parole” like pizza at a Frat party.In England there are 40 people currently doing life without parole. In the USA it’s more near 100 thousand- If you take into account only 50 people in California serving life sentences have been paroled in the last 10 years.

  3. Syd B. says:

    Now what happens to all those people who were found guilty on seemingly tainted evidence?

  4. Syd B. says:

    As for the death penalty, perhaps it should be retained, but applied only to rogue prosecutors and FBI experts.

  5. major dad says:

    I’ve always been suspicious of these experts and the hair analysis. As for the death penalty, I say keep it but it should be for only the most heinous crimes and there has to indisputable physical and or video evidence, no fibers or hair, no informant or circumstantial evidence. Like that Boston bomber. They need to lift the protections from prosecutors and so called experts. Send a few of them to jail and that might cure some of this.

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