FBI Testimony on Microscopic Hair Analysis Contained Errors in at least 90% of Cases in Ongoing Review
If you have been falsely convicted based on false hair analysis testimony, a New York criminal evidence may be able to help you based on new evidence provided by the United States Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A 2015 initiative to re-examine the nature of FBI testimonies and hair analysis in criminal cases could shed new light on false convictions made prior to 2000. The initiative is a collaborative effort between the DOJ, the FBI, the Innocence Project, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. The initiative examined 28 FBI agent and analyst testimonies and found that a minimum of 90 percent of the testimonies involved false statements.
The Microscopic Hair Comparison Analysis Review, launched by the FBI, studied criminal cases that went to trial prior to 2000. The trial transcripts were reviewed in each case, and it was discovered that 26 out of the 28 FBI agents or analysts under review either made false statements in their testimonies or submitted laboratory reports with false statements. Each case involved erroneous statements or reports made related to microscopic hair analysis. In most cases, the testimonies either misrepresented or overemphasized the significance of the laboratory findings in their testimony. This is a significant legal issue because FBI testimony holds significant weight in the prosecution’s case. In the case of false or exaggerated testimonies, the prosecution’s case may be unfairly advantaged.
The cases examined prior to 2000 took place when only microscopic hair analysis was used. After 2000, it became standard procedure to conduct both microscopic hair analysis and mitochondrial DNA testing on hair to ensure greater accuracy in the findings of a criminal investigation. Ideally, the inclusion of both forms of testing would not only increase accuracy but prevent misinformed or exaggerated testing as well. The review may also encourage changes in future procedures involving other forms of testing to avoid the same widespread corruption of evidence. With a false testimony prevalence of at least 90 percent in hair analysis cases, the Innocence Project has questioned whether the problem is specific to that form of testing or to more general standards in the analysis and testimonial processes.
The DBI, DOG, NACDL, and Innocence Project have collaborated on the Microscopic Hair Comparison Analysis Review in an attempt to examine why false testimonies are made in court. By examining the nature of these misinformed and misrepresented testimonies, the initiative hopes to prevent such problems in the future to preserve the integrity of the American justice system. The Innocence Project is an organization that is dedicated to providing justice for those who were falsely convicted in the past as well as preventing such false convictions from happening in the future. The agencies involved are hopeful that the evidence provided through the review will encourage lawmakers to make changes necessary to ensure the fairness of forensic testimony in court. The DOJ and the FBI have both devoted resources to the effort and demonstrated a commitment to correcting the mistakes that were made in the past, according to the Co-Director of the Innocence Project. Peter Neufeld, the Co-Director also acknowledged that both departments were responsible for bringing the erroneous testimonies to light and contacting many of those who were falsely convicted or otherwise affected in court.
The Scope of the Issue
The scope of the findings in the Microscopic Comparison Analysis Review is significant for several reasons. At least 90 percent of agents and analysts involved in the review gave erroneous testimony in one form or another. This indicates a widespread, systematic problem with the way in which testing was performed and utilized in court. The review gives the FBI and DOJ the opportunity to examine why such patterns of erroneous testimony developed among its employees so that similar misrepresentation does not happen again in the future. The Co-Director of the Innocence Project called the large scale findings an epic miscarriage of justice that requires rigorous review. The four-decade period of time that the erroneous testimonies were allowed to continue is also significant and has led experts to question why it took such a long time for the problem to come to light.
Neufeld has called for Washington lawmakers to take a stand based on the evidence provided by the DOJ and FBI. While the review is a sound beginning, the Innocence Project has called for further research to be done into false testimonies in general crime lab analysis. While this review focused specifically on false testimony related to hair analysis, further research is needed to determine the various other ways in which crime lab analyses could be misrepresented or exaggerated on the stand. Neufeld also called for an investigation into the false reports that were written in addition to the in-court testimonies. Even if the agent on the stand is not delivering an erroneous testimony, their testimony may be based upon a false or exaggerated report. If you have been involved in such a case, a New York criminal lawyer may be able to argue against the false report provided against you and have your case reviewed.
Beyond the Review
While the Microscopic Comparison Analysis Review was significant, Norman Reimer of the NACDL has warned that it will take months before the full consequences of the false testimonies are known. It is unclear how many people involved in cases before 2000 were wrongly convicted based on erroneous evidence or testimony. He also noted that although the evidence was false, it was highly persuasive in court at the time. While the Executor Director acknowledged that lawmakers are a significant part of resolving the injustice that occurred, courts must play a significant role as well. He explained that lawmakers can ensure that future systematic miscarriages of justice do not take place, but it is also necessary for courts to retroactively examine these false cases. Re-examining the evidence is the first step to overturning false convictions that were made based on erroneous microscopic hair analysis testimony. Both the FBI and the DOJ have agreed to review all criminal cases involving microscopic hair analysis after three men were falsely convicted and exonerated. In each case, the FBI hair examiner involved gave testimony that was scientifically inaccurate. Advocates of the falsely convicted have made it clear that the only way to truly resolve the injustice that occurred is to provide all cases involving hair analysis prior to 2000 with a fair secondary review. In some cases, if a judge reviews your case and determines that false testimony was made which the prosecution’s arguments were based on, your conviction may be overturned.
Compensation for False Conviction
While incarceration based on false evidence is impossible to reverse, further review of such cases may grant many falsely convicted people their freedom as well as compensation. A New York criminal lawyer may be able to help you receive compensation for time lost while incarcerated for a conviction that was based on erroneous evidence. You may also be able to seek damages for lost earnings and the emotional damages that come with false imprisonment. A prison sentence leads not only to the loss of time and progress in your professional and personal life but the loss of your freedom and personal assets as well.
Contact a New York Criminal Lawyer
Hair analysis testimony based on scientifically inaccurate statements can lead to incarceration and have a devastating effect on your life. While erroneous testimonies were allowed to continue for four decades, there is evidence that the FBI and the DOJ are changing policies to work against similar corruption in the future. While it may take a significant amount of time for laws regarding these erroneous testimonies to change, you may be eligible to have your case reviewed and a false conviction overturned. While there is no widespread plan to review each case based on hair analysis testimony at the court level, the progress that the FBI has made towards examining such cases may pave the way for individuals who seek to have their case reviewed. Contact The Law Office of Frederick L. Sosinsky at (212) 285-2270 today for more information on how you can potentially challenge a criminal case that was based on erroneous hair analysis testimony. When dealing with a high-stakes matter such as a false criminal conviction, it is important to have a New York criminal lawyer you can trust to represent your needs.