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Review of FBI forensics does not extend to federally trained state, local examiners
Washington Post ^
| December 22, 2012
| Spencer Hsu
Posted on 12/26/2012 8:14:12 PM PST by Altariel
Thousands of criminal cases at the state and local level may have relied on exaggerated testimony or false forensic evidence to convict defendants of murder, rape and other felonies.
The forensic experts in these cases were trained by the same elite FBI team whose members gave misleading court testimony about hair matches and later taught the local examiners to follow the same suspect practices, according to interviews and documents.
In July, the Justice Department announced a nationwide review of all cases handled by the FBI Laboratorys hair and fibers unit before 2000 at least 21,000 cases to determine whether improper lab reports or testimony might have contributed to wrongful convictions.
But about three dozen FBI agents trained 600 to 1,000 state and local examiners to apply the same standards that have proved problematic.
None of the local cases is included in the federal review. As a result, legal experts say, although the federal inquiry is laudable, the number of flawed cases at the state and local levels could be even higher, and those are going uncorrected.
The FBI review was prompted by a series of articles in The Washington Post about errors at the bureaus renowned crime lab involving microscopic hair comparisons. The articles highlighted the cases of two District men who each spent more than 20 years in prison based on false hair matches by FBI experts. Since The Posts articles, the men have been declared innocent by D.C. Superior Court judges.
Two high-profile local-level cases illustrate how far the FBI training problems spread.
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
KEYWORDS: donutwatch; fbi; forensics; wrongfulconvictions
posted on 12/26/2012 8:14:18 PM PST
From the Washington Post
, last April: Justice Department officials have known for years that flawed forensic work might have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people, but prosecutors failed to notify defendants or their attorneys even in many cases they knew were troubled. Officials started reviewing the cases in the 1990s after reports that sloppy work by examiners at the FBI lab was producing unreliable forensic evidence in court trials. Instead of releasing those findings, they made them available only to the prosecutors in the affected cases, according to documents and interviews with dozens of officials. In addition, the Justice Department reviewed only a limited number of cases and focused on the work of one scientist at the FBI lab, despite warnings that problems were far more widespread and could affect potentially thousands of cases in federal, state and local courts. As a result, hundreds of defendants nationwide remain in prison or on parole for crimes that might merit exoneration, a retrial or a retesting of evidence using DNA because FBI hair and fiber experts may have misidentified them as suspects. Justice Department officials said that they met their legal and constitutional obligations when they learned of specific errors, that they alerted prosecutors and were not required to inform defendants directly.
posted on 12/26/2012 8:16:14 PM PST
("Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!")
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