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FBI and DOJ: poor forensic science impacted thousands of criminal cases

Readers are well aware that the standard of proof for evidence in criminal cases is that of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The highest standard of proof in the legal system, it requires prosecutors to present evidence that would convince a reasonable person that there is no serious reason to doubt that the defendant committed the crime.

In building a strong criminal defense case, it is critical for defendants to work with an experienced advocate in carefully scrutinizing all evidence to be presented by prosecutors at trial. Although this is an important task, it isn’t always easy for a defendant to see all the potential flaws with any given piece of evidence. A good example of this kind of thing is seen in an ongoing investigation into the accuracy of hair forensic analysis provided by the FBI. 

The FBI and the Department of Justice recently admitted that the testimony provided by forensic examiners in thousands of cases over two decades was overstated and hence inaccurate. According to the admission, 90 percent or more of the 500 cases that have been reviewed involve the faulty testimony. Somewhat shocking is that 32 of the cases have resulted in the death penalty.

This isn’t to say that faulty hair analysis was the deciding factor in each of these cases, but only that such evidence played a part. Prosecutors and defense attorneys are still in the process of being notified and determining whether the outcome of their cases was the result of the flawed testimony. There are bound to be a lot of appeals that come out of the process. 

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