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FBI admits flaws in hair analysis over decades

Carjosse

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From The Washington Post. Apparently hair analysis has been found unreliable so innocent people have been locked up in jail potentially for decades and even worse some for those people were put on death row and executed.

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.

This is why the death penalty needs to be abolished, innocent people are dying. A conviction only requires beyond a reasonable doubt, not any doubt, if someone is sentenced to die, there is always a chance they are innocent.
 

azgreg

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It's been things like this that has swayed my views on the death penalty.
 

apdst

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How many people have been released from prison because these tests, "proved", their innocence?

The anti-death penalty and anti-prison folks have jailed these tests. I guess not anymore?
 

radcen

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From The Washington Post. Apparently hair analysis has been found unreliable so innocent people have been locked up in jail potentially for decades and even worse some for those people were put on death row and executed.


This is why the death penalty needs to be abolished, innocent people are dying. A conviction only requires beyond a reasonable doubt, not any doubt, if someone is sentenced to die, there is always a chance they are innocent.
So, if we find out later that a person was convicted primarily or solely on what we now deem to be bogus evidence, should the person be released... or at least get a new trial?

I say 'yes'. At least a new trial.
 

Captain Adverse

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How many people have been released from prison because these tests, "proved", their innocence?

The anti-death penalty and anti-prison folks have jailed these tests. I guess not anymore?

The tests that proved innocence were DNA tests comparing samples of blood or semen left at the crime scene with the DNA of the accused.

What you seem not to know is that HAIR samples do not always contain the types of cells that provide valid material for accurate DNA testing.

Despite the fact that cells do make up parts of the hair, these cells do not contain suitable material for a DNA test.

Challenges in DNA Testing and Forensic Analysis of Hair Samples
 

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Even today a man was released from jail after 24 years because of DNA test revealed that he did not do it.
 

Captain Adverse

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From The Washington Post. Apparently hair analysis has been found unreliable so innocent people have been locked up in jail potentially for decades and even worse some for those people were put on death row and executed.

This is why the death penalty needs to be abolished, innocent people are dying. A conviction only requires beyond a reasonable doubt, not any doubt, if someone is sentenced to die, there is always a chance they are innocent.

This and other examples of biased testing are a problem faced by most defendants in a criminal trial for serious felony offenses. The defense faces many obstacles when trying a case.

There is the normal bias of many jurors that the defendant would not be there is he hadn't done something.

There is the power of the Prosecutor to stack charges even when they know the additional charges have no real merit.

There is the assumption that police witnesses always tell the truth.

And there is the faith that all forensic science is 100% accurate thanks to programs like CSI.

The truth is that Police witnesses can lie and/or embellish, coroner's frequently make mistakes, and forensic scientists are not always correct.
 

Mr Person

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I strongly urge anyone interested in the reliability of forensic sciences to look at the NAS reports from the last several years, in particular 2009 (I believe).

Basically every historically beloved field of forensic science fails the scientific method; it is largely BS repackaged with fancy words and believed by jurors because the expert on the stand says he's been doing it for 20 years. But the fundamental premises of the supposed "science", be it comparative bullet lead analysis or fingerprint comparison or the proposition that every gun leaves unique striations on bullet casings, was never ever proven. Nobody bothered. Jurors accepted it without question. Judges allowed it because legal tests for the viability of expert testimony were highly flawed (and remain so, but less so. A little).

A tremendous amount of innnocent people have been jailed and we just plain don't want to think about it because of the mess it would cause if we faced the fact of its truth. So cross your fingers and hope that nobody says it's 100% certain it's your fingerprint on that knife, even though it was never proven that no two fingerprints are identical.



Bar associations of defense attorneys have only just recently started to make the slightest bit of headway in getting judges to allow defense experts to explain the flaws in the basic science underlying certain prosecution evidence, like eyewitness ID or some of those I've mentioned. Generally speaking, the admissibility of testimony is for the judge to decide, so there is resistance to having the defense be able to tell the jury about why the evidence the judge allowed in is actually complete bunk.
 
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Carjosse

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So, if we find out later that a person was convicted primarily or solely on what we now deem to be bogus evidence, should the person be released... or at least get a new trial?

I say 'yes'. At least a new trial.

I would release them, otherwise it is an issue of double jeopardy.
 

Thoreau72

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In the sense that the FBI has admitted to such errors several times over the years, this is not surprising news.

In the Steven Avery case the FBI lab and its witness in the trial were complicit in framing an innocent man. The cynical view is that this is standard behavior for the feds.
 

mike2810

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One thing to remember is, "The FBI errors alone do not mean there was not other evidence of a convict’s guilt. Defendants and federal and state prosecutors in 46 states and the District are being notified to determine whether there are grounds for appeals. Four defendants were previously exonerated.'
https://www.washingtonpost.com/loca...c8d8c6-e515-11e4-b510-962fcfabc310_story.html

Seems much of the errors were done before mitochondrial DNA testing became the norm.

Hopefully new procedures and reviewing old cases that relied mostly on the hair analysis will be reviewed.
 

Deuce

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It gets worse:

Fingerprinting isn't as reliable as we think it is either.
 
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