Just as our understanding of science has grown exponentially over the past few decades (and continues to advance), forensic testing, too, has come a long way. New techniques often call into question the results of older, outdated methods. One such example may be the past and widespread use of microscopic hair comparisons. While many prosecutors in past cases championed these tests, recent studies tell a different story.
According to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), a national review of FBI testimony regarding hair microscopy evidence found that hair samples in numerous cases were falsely reported as positive matches. This discovery is largely due to the advent of DNA testing. Previously, a sample in question would be compared for similarities using a microscope with a sample from the defendant. More recent DNA testing methods reveal that similarities in hair samples are not conclusive evidence of matches.
How Big Is the Problem?
More than 21,000 cases handled before the year 2000 are now subject to review as a result of this scandal. While the true damage of the faulty evidence may never be truly determined, at least 70 defendants have been exonerated of their crimes as a result of discovered incorrect hair samples. Unfortunately, this review did not come in time for many prisoners. Of the dozens of defendants in related cases that were sentenced to death, at least 14 died in prison or through executions.
While a flawed test does not automatically prove a defendant's innocence, it does serve to call into question the reliability of certain forensic evidence and related testimony. For example, some defendants, faced with the seemingly scientific evidence against them may have taken plea deals. For many who have gone through the system, justice may not have been handed out fairly.
Aggressive Criminal Defense Attorneys
Stories such as the one above emphasize the importance of exploring every facet of a case using the latest and most up to date methods of investigation. At Foley Griffin, we are dedicated to staying current with the changes and innovations surrounding the field of criminal law so that we may provide our clients with the best service. If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime, our Nassau County criminal defense attorneys are only a phone call away.
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