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The FBI Has Faked an Entire Type of Forensic Evidence!

In the wake of the soon to be released IG report on FBI and FISA abuse during the Trump campaign, there have been reports that the once well-respected law enforcement agency has faked the resulting evidence of an entire branch of forensic science, which could result in the overturning of hundreds of convictions.

The Washington Post was the first to break this horrifying story, and it is something you really need to pay attention to!  The Post wrote, “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.”

What went wrong? The Post continues, “Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far.”

The shameful, horrifying errors were uncovered in a massive, three-year review by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project. Following revelations published in recent years, the two groups are helping the government with the country’s largest-ever post-conviction review of now questionable forensic evidence.

As the Post shockingly continued, “the cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of these defendants, 14 have already been executed or died in prison.”

The massive review raises questions about the veracity of not just expert hair testimony, but also the bite-mark and other forensic testimony offered as objective, scientific evidence to jurors who, not unreasonably, believed that scientists in white coats knew what they were talking about. As Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, put it, “The FBI’s three-decade use of microscopic hair analysis to incriminate defendants was a complete disaster.”

This study was launched after the Post reported that flawed forensic hair matches might have led to possibly hundreds of wrongful convictions for rape, murder, and other violent crimes, dating back at least to the 1970s.

In 90 percent of the cases reviewed so far, forensic examiners evidently made statements beyond the bounds of proper science. There were no scientifically accepted standards for forensic testing, yet FBI experts routinely and almost unvaryingly testified, according to the Post, “to the near-certainty of ‘matches’ of crime-scene hairs to defendants, backing their claims by citing incomplete or misleading statistics drawn from their casework.”

These Flaws Have Been Known About For a Long Time

NACDL executive director Norman Reimer said in a recent interview, that the flaws in the system had been known for years. “What we were finding was that the examiners… wouldn’t just simply say that there was a microscopic similarity [between the two hairs], but they would go beyond that and say it was a 100 percent match, essentially misleading the jury into concluding that the evidence had a certain value that it didn’t actually have,” Reimer said.

This problem doesn’t stop with the FBI labs or federal prosecutions. The review focuses on the first few hundred cases, involving FBI examiners, but the same mistakes and faulty testimony were likely presented in any state prosecutions that relied on the testimonies of between 500 and 1,000 local or state examiners trained by the FBI. Some states will automatically conduct reviews. Others may not, as much of the evidence no longer exists.

University of Virginia law professor Brandon L. Garrett, who has been studying DNA exonerations and wrongful convictions for years now, had this to say about the shocking reporting by the Washington Post, “When I looked at forensics in DNA exoneree trials, I found more often than not that the testimony was unscientific and flawed. We know that whenever we look at old criminal cases we see flawed forensics wherever we look. And yet hardly any crime labs have bothered to conduct audits. Nor is the problem limited to bad hair cases—much the same type of eyeballed comparison is done on bite marks, ballistics, fibers, and even fingerprints.”

What do you think of law enforcement officials faking evidence to increase convictions? Do you think that innocent people have been put to death because of flaws in the system? Do you support the efforts to reexamine these cases?