“FBI overstated forensic hair matches in nearly all trials before 2000”

“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.” The overstatement of forensic matches favored prosecutors. “The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death,” of whom 14 have either died in prison or been executed. “The FBI errors alone do not mean there was not other evidence of a convict’s guilt.” [Spencer Hsu, Washington Post]


  • … ranking Democrat, Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), urged the bureau to conduct “a root-cause analysis” Wonder if he meant to deliver the pun.

    But really, this could be a science, if only scientific methods were applied. Just for starters, some considerations.
    1) Establish sensitivity, specificity, and predictive values by running lots of knowns
    2) Strict blinding of examiners. Can’t have investigators whispering in the examiner’s ear their a priori belief in the likelihood of a match
    3) Control samples must be randomly interspersed with day to day work.
    4) all positives must be reviewed by an independent lab. That sample must be transported with 10 other control sets in a blinded manner. A control set is a match or non-match set of hair samples each representing a full examination. The independent lab’s success in identifying the control samples is reported to the jury also.

  • It’s as if the government is trying to destroy any remaining faith in the fair administration of the law.

    • And as usual, the government is a day late and a dollar short.

  • Wow… even after reading it, it just seems unfathomable. If winning is your goal in trial, you should be a defense attorney. Prosecutors’ job is to seek justice and truth, not to win.