Thousands of court cases could be up for review as the Department of Justice and the FBI made the shocking acknowledgement on Friday that virtually every case in which an FBI forensic expert testified on hair matches prior to 2000 contained inflated credibility numbers. The issue was found to be rampant, with over two decades of testimony affected.
26 of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors. This amounts to more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are helping the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.
The revelations highlight a shocking disregard for due process and show a callous attitude within the Federal Bureau of Investigation towards fairness and justice. The agency was found to have an ‘ends justifies the means’ mentality, treating any suspects as criminals regardless of the fact sets behind the cases.
The cases examined, a small sample of those affected by the rampant fraud, include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. 14 of those individuals have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to publish the results after the review of the first 200 convictions.
The investigation is ongoing and is nearly certain to affect more than the small group of individuals currently being held to account. The revelations raise troubling questions about the impartiality of the FBI and accountability standards within the organization. On the heals of the string of scandals at the Secret Service perhaps it is time Americans ask more questions and demand more accountability from those sworn the serve and protect.