July 13th, 2012
The Justice Department and the FBI will begin reviewing thousands of old cases that contain potentially faulty forensic evidence including hair and fiber analysis. The Washington Post published a story in April revealing that the Justice Department knew for years that many people had been convicted on potentially flawed forensic evidence analyzed by the FBI as far back as 1985, but had not done a thorough review of those cases. Hair and fiber analysis is subjective to the examiner who is performing the comparison. The technique is not grounded in scientific research and can have a high error rate. You can read more about the accuracy of various types of forensic science here.
In 1978 Santae Tribble was convicted of killing a taxi driver. Three years later Kirk Odom was convicted of a sexual assault. In both cases FBI hair analyst testimony wrongly linked the men to the crime scenes. Tribble’s conviction was vacated this spring and prosecutors moved this week to overturn Odom’s conviction. The upcoming review will examine cases involving hair and fiber experts from the FBI and focus on cases where their testimony resulted in a conviction. The goal of the review will be to identify other potentially innocent people who were convicted based on unvalidated forensic science.