In its continuing saga of systemic identification forensic failures, the FBI promises to join forces with the Innocence Project and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to uncover criminal convictions that used the FBI’s brand of hair analysis which they promoted for decades as another “smoking gun” in identifying criminals. The 2009 NAS Report on “Strengthening Forensic Science….” had admonished the FBI promoted hair comparison “science” as faulty in its untested use, misleading, and over stated by prosecutorial experts.
WASHINGTON — The FBI will review thousands of old cases, including some involving the death penalty, in which hair samples helped secure convictions, under an ambitious plan made public Thursday.
More than 2,000 cases the FBI processed from 1985 to 2000 will be re-examined, including some in which execution dates have been set and others in which the defendants already have died in prison. In a key concession, Justice Department officials will waive usual deadlines and procedural hurdles that often block inmates from challenging their convictions.
“This will be critical to giving wrongly convicted people a fair chance at a fair review,” said Steven D. Benjamin, a Virginia attorney who’s the president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
The defense lawyers’ association joined with The Innocence Project, based at New York City’s Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, as well as pro bono attorneys to press for the review.