The Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, announced that it will review over 2,000 cases. These cases all have one thing in common: the conviction was based largely on the use of evidence gathered from hair samples. The FBI is taking the time to review these cases because the use of hair samples can lead to wrongful conviction. The reviews will focus on cases that occurred between 1985 and 2000 and will examine the accuracy of the reports issued by the analysts.
If an investigation leads to a finding of error in a criminal case, exoneration may be issued. This was the case for one young man who was convicted of rape in 1981. His conviction was based primarily on hair samples that were taken from the scene of the crime. During the trial, the analyst responsible for reviewing the hair samples stated that the samples were “indistinguishable” from the defendant’s. It is likely that this testimony played a large role in the defendant’s conviction. In 2011, further DNA testing found that the hair found at the crime scene was not a match to the defendant. This determination was made after the defendant served over 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
The defendant has since been released. This is only one example of how the use of hair samples may have led to a wrongful conviction that led to the review.
Significance and basics of the review
Those serving prison sentences whose cases are up for review by the FBI will be notified. They will receive free DNA testing which will be used in the review of the case. A spokesperson for the FBI was careful to note that the technique and use of hair samples in investigations remains a useful tool in criminal convictions, but that in some cases the analysts may have exaggerated the significance of these findings. The agency will review both the potential exaggeration and whether or not the DNA actually matches.
The FBI is teaming with the Innocence Project, an organization that works to free those who are wrongly convicted of crimes they did not commit, to provide an independent review of the government’s findings.
Impact of the review on current criminal charges
Those who are charged with a crime should take the charges seriously. This review provides an example of how the innocent can be convicted of crimes that they did not commit. If you are charged with a crime, you should contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer to present a strong defense and increase the chances for success.