Flawed Forensics: No One Tells Defendants


The Washington Post is reporting today that hundreds of defendants may be in prison or on parole in cases that merit exoneration, a retrial or a retesting of evidence using DNA because the FBI hair and fiber experts could have misidentified them as suspects. However, while officials have known for years that flawed forensic work might have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people, prosecutors in many cases failed to tell the defendants or their attorneys about the problem.


The Washington Post reports:

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.

In one Texas case, Benjamin Herbert Boyle was executed in 1997, more than a year after the Justice Department began its review. Boyle would not have been eligible for the death penalty without the FBI’s flawed work, according to a prosecutor’s memo.

Read more at the Washington Post.

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