News 04.28.15

Former FBI Whistleblower Fred Whitehurst Weighs In on Hair Analysis Allegations

In an interview published last Friday, FBI whistleblower Dr. Frederic Whitehurst talked to the

 Marshall Project

in the wake of last week’s announcement that 26 out of 28 FBI crime lab analysts overstated conclusions of hair analysis evidence in at least hundreds of cases before 2000. Whitehurst is a former FBI forensic scientist who went public with concerns about inadequate crime lab practices in the mid-1990s. In 1998, Whitehurst left the FBI and is now co-chair of the National Whistleblowers Center, writes the

Marshall Project.



In the interview, Whitehurst expressed that it only makes sense that the FBI analysts gave erroneous testimony about scientific results; many of the analysts he knew during his tenure had no scientific experience or education. “When I was at the FBI, we had people with English degrees, history degrees, doing complex chemical analysis. Our chief chemist didn’t have an undergraduate degree in chemistry. They were not scientists. They weren’t out to hurt anyone. They believed in their work. They believed what they were saying when they said it. Those people gave misleading testimony in courts of law but they believed it, and they taught it to thousands of state hair examiners all over the U.S.”

When asked why more FBI scientists don’t speak out about questionable practices, Whitehurst told the

Marshall Project

that FBI employees face many obstacles in speaking out. According to Whitehurst, whistleblowers risk losing their jobs and compromising their careers, and rarely receive support from their colleagues. “You have to be insane to tell the truth at the FBI, absolutely insane,” said Whitehurst.

The

Marshall Project

also asked Whitehurst about how these problems

can

be fixed.  Instead of hoping that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies will finally take measures to correct the problems, Whitehurst expressed the need to establish a National Defense Forensic Institute.

“Let the FBI and states and local law enforcement have their own labs. Let them slant their results. And then let defense counsel be assisted by real scientists from the Defense Forensic Institute, an organization of scientists who can publish openly, criticize openly, do research openly with the sole end of questioning government forensic lab science,” said Whitehurst.


Read the full interview.

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