The FBI and U.S. Justice Department have acknowledged that almost all of the experts in a forensic unit dedicated to microscopic hair comparison gave flawed testimony against defendants before 2000, the Washington Post said.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Innocence Project found that 26 of the 28 examiners in the FBI's microscopic hair comparison unit overstated evidence in more than 95 percent of 268 trials that the groups have examined so far, the Post said.
Defendants and prosecutors in 46 states, along with the District of Columbia, are being advised of the findings, which could result in appealing of convictions, the newspaper said. The cases with overstated evidence included 32 that resulted in death sentences, and 14 of those defendants have been executed or died in prison.
The Post first raised the question of flawed testimony in 1980s and 1990s trials in a story in July.
Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, said the FBI's hair analysis in that period was “a complete disaster” but praised the bureau and the Justice Department for collaborating in the review.
In a statement to the Post, the FBI and Justice Department said they “are committed to ensuring that affected defendants are notified of past errors and that justice is done in every instance. The Department and the FBI are also committed to ensuring the accuracy of future hair analysis, as well as the application of all disciplines of forensic science.”
Neufeld told the Post “We need an exhaustive investigation that looks at how the FBI, state governments that relied on examiners trained by the FBI and the courts allowed this to happen and why it wasn’t stopped much sooner.”
Al Jazeera with Reuters