Innocence Blog

National Post-Conviction Case Review to Examine Forensic Flaws

Posted: July 11, 2012 5:20 pm




The FBI has launched its largest post-conviction review ever to determine if hair and fiber analysts presented flawed or exaggerated forensic results in criminal convictions. The review, a joint effort of the FBI and the Justice Department, comes just months after The Washington Post reported that Justice Department officials had known for years that flawed forensic work might have led to wrongful convictions but had not performed a thorough review of the cases. Many prisoners who were affected by the flaws were never notified by prosecutors, according to The Washington Post.
The review, which will be aided by the Innocence Project and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, will target hair examinations that resulted in positive findings and a conviction. The Washington Post reports:
Steven D. Benjamin, president-elect of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, called the review “an important collaboration” and a departure from one-sided government reviews that left defendants in the dark.
“Mistakes were made. What is important now is our working together to correct those mistakes,” Benjamin said, adding that his organization will “fully assist in finding and notifying all those who may have been affected.”
The 2009 National Academy of Sciences report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, was critical of the use of hair microscopy because it hasn’t been scientifically verified and there are no uniform standards for what constitutes a match. The report calls for independent crime labs, separated from police and prosecutors’ control, and to strengthen the science and standards underpinning the nation’s forensic science system. 
Read the full article.
Read about a DNA exoneration case that involved exaggerated testimony from an FBI hair and fiber analyst. 
Read the National Academy of Sciences report calling for widespread reform of the forensic sciences.