Nearly every criminal case the FBI and US Justice Department has reviewed during a major investigation that began in 2012 regarding an FBI lab unit has involved flawed forensic testimony, The Washington Post reported.
The review – originally spurred by a Post report
in 2012 over flawed forensic testimony by Federal Bureau of
Investigation lab technicians that may have led to convictions of
hundreds of innocent people – was cut short last August when its
findings “troubled the bureau,” according to the Post. The review was ordered by the Justice Department (DOJ) to resume this month, government officials said.
Most of the defendants in cases that involved possibly-botched
testimony over microscopic hair matches were never told that their case
was part of the review, which includes 2,600 convictions and 45
death-row cases from the 1980s and 1990s. In these cases, the FBI’s hair
and fiber unit claimed it found a match to crime-scene samples prior to
the age of DNA testing of hair.
The FBI reviewed around 160 cases before halting the investigation 11
months ago, officials said. The probe resumed once the DOJ inspector
general lambasted the FBI for the delay in this investigation and another involving the same forensic unit.
A DOJ spokesman said that by last August, reviews were completed and
notifications offered for defendants in 23 cases, including 14 death-row
cases, that FBI examiners “exceeded the limits of science” when linking hair to crime-scene evidence.
Yet the FBI restarted the review given concerns that forensic errors applied to the “vast majority”
of cases. This restart caused major delays in the investigation,
leading to objections by the DOJ in January. The FBI and DOJ standoff
was finally resolved this month.