Saturday, August 02, 2014

FBI accused of dragging feet on hair and fiber review; Texas plugging along

As the Forensic Science Commission this week in Fort Worth discussed Texas' nascent review of convictions involving possibly erroneous hair-and-fiber testimony, the FBI drew fire for dragging its heels on similar reviews at the national level, especially in death penalty cases, allowing three inmates including one in Texas to be executed without coming forward to say testimony in their cases was flawed. See the recent 146-page report (pdf) from a DoJ Inspector General at the center of the recent controversy.

New Scientist mentioned that New York and North Carolina have also launched state-level reviews and that, "of the 10 per cent of cases reviewed so far, the 'vast majority' contained errors. As a result, 136 defendants, including two on death row, will receive letters informing them of their right to DNA testing as a means of proving their innocence. This is in addition to 23 letters that went out last year, including to 14 people on death row." The magazine reminds us that:
hair analysis is just one of many forensic disciplines that hinge on using a microscope to visually compare two samples and declare a match. Ballistics, fibre analysis, tyre and shoeprint comparison and tool and bite-mark analysis all take a similar approach. All came under heavy criticism in a landmark report on the state of forensic science published in 2009.

"This review is likely to have an effect on any discipline where they didn't have a statistical reference to estimate the chances of another person being a match," [national Innocence Project cofounder Peter] Neufeld says. He believes it could even filter across to disciplines with a more robust statistical basis such as fingerprinting, but which have been exposed as flawed in recent years.

1 comment:

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Grits, it seems that Police Incident Reports, Booking Photos, Photo Arrays, Live Show-Up procedures and subsequent conversations with crime victims after declaring an identification & Case Files (both State & Defense Team files) along with seized computers and phones would 'all' qualify as worthy of inclusion. When taking into consideration that we have been lead to believe that gross Eye Witness discrepancies are the major factor regarding certain false arrests allowed to morph into wrongful convictions.

Anyone that knows why they aren't currently worthy of being considered as a discipline by so called - Innocence Projects & the Texas Board of Pardons & Paroles - pray tell? Until then, it's still Cherry Picking for Justice when it can be shown that some disciplines are actively being ignored & that's wrong. Mr. Neufeld knows it because I called bullshit years ago, when I asked him why he ignores non-DNA claims. Thanks.