When forensic testing first came onto the scene, the science and technology was significantly undeveloped from where it is today. Mistakes were made in history that led to great injustices when a number of people were wrongfully convicted based on forensic analysis such as DNA testing involving hair samples.
While underdeveloped technology played a role, it was not the only cause of wrongful convictions. In many instances it was the combination of the science and the testimony concerning the evidence. Lab tecnicians would often overstate their authority, the tests or the results, leading the jury to give more weight to this evidence than was due.
The Innocence Project has been devoted for years to exonerating those who were wrongfully convicted, finding that the testimony about hair samples played a role in several cases. With the increasing awareness, the FBI recently announced that the agency would be taking steps to right wrongs involving hair samples.
The FBI said that they will be re-examining approximately 2,000 criminal cases in which a defendant was convicted largely in part to hair evidence and related testimony.
Not only will these cases receive review, including retesting of hair samples, but the Justice Department is also helping to speed up the process. Often, a defendant will have to jump through hoops to challenge their conviction and suffer delays caused by strict deadlines and procedure. The Justice Department is removing some of these hurdles in the reviewable cases.
For those who are currently facing charges or could in the future, part of an attorney’s job is to protect against inflated testimony and unreliable results.
Source: Star-Telegram, “FBI announces review of 2,000 cases featuring hair samples,” Michael Doyle, July 18, 2013