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FBI Admits To Two Decades Of Flawed Forensic Testimony

In a stunning revelation the FBI has admitted that it provided flawed forensic testimony on hundreds of cases in the two decades prior to the year 2000. The FBI forensic experts falsely stated forensic matches that favored prosecutors 95% of the time in the over 200 cases reviewed so-far.

In 14 of the cases the FBI experts offered that flawed testimony in the defendants have either died in prison or been executed. Four previous defendants have been exonerated so far thanks to new reviews of FBI forensic testimony.
The problematic evidence presented typically was hair and bite-mark comparisons which, upon further scrutiny, were often overstated. Hair match analysis in particular is cited as being much less reliable than FBI examiners testified to in court.

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…

Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, commended the FBI and department for the collaboration but said, “The FBI’s three-decade use of microscopic hair analysis to incriminate defendants was a complete disaster.” 

Before 2012 the FBI did not have written standards for how hair forensic analysts should and should not present evidence in court leading to many experts making false and misleading testimony. 2,500 cases have been targeted for review as to whether testimony in the cases did not meet scientific standards.

The use of forensics has become a staple of criminal cases and sparked considerable cultural interest in forensic science in television shows like CSI. But rather than being the smoking gun much of forensic science is clouded in subjective evaluation and bias. Given the results so far the extensive review may prove justice may have been better served without the FBI forensic experts testifying at any trials.

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Dan Wright

Dan Wright

Daniel Wright is a longtime blogger and currently writes for Shadowproof. He lives in New Jersey, by choice.