New Jersey Criminal Lawyers Schwartz Posnock

A recent headline in the New York Times reads: FBI Admits that Nearly All Hair Comparison Evidence Under Review Was Erroneous. Once again, the Government has been forced to admit that there are significant and systemic errors in its crime lab evidence.

The United States Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported on April 21, 2015 that so-called expert testimony in at least 90 percent of cases the Bureau analyzed as part of its Microscopic Hair Comparison Analysis Review contained erroneous statements. Specifically, the FBI review found that 26 out of 28 FBI analysts provided either testimony with erroneous statements or submitted laboratory reports with erroneous statements. The review focused on cases worked prior to 2000, when mitochondrial DNA testing on hair became routine at the FBI.

The government identified nearly 3,000 cases in which FBI examiners may have submitted reports or testified in trials using microscopic hair analysis. As of March 2015, the FBI had reviewed approximately 500 cases. The majority of these cases were trials and the transcript of examiner testimony was reviewed. Some of these cases ended in guilty pleas, limiting the review to the original lab report. In the 268 cases where examiners provided testimony used to inculpate a defendant at trial, erroneous statements were made in 257 (96 percent) of the cases. Defendants in at least 35 of these cases received the death penalty and errors were identified in 33 (94 percent) of those cases. Nine of these defendants have already been executed and five died of other causes while on death row. The states with capital cases included Arizona, California, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas. It should be noted that this is an ongoing process and that the numbers referenced above will change.

“The Department of Justice has been working to address errors made in statements by FBI examiners regarding microscopic hair analysis in the context of testimony and laboratory reports. Such statements are no longer being made by the FBI, and the FBI is also now employing mitochondrial DNA hair analysis in addition to microscopic analysis,” said Amy Hess, Executive Assistant Director, Science and Technology Branch, FBI. “However, the Department and the FBI are committed to ensuring that affected defendants are notified of past errors and that justice is done in every instance. The Department and the FBI also are committed to ensuring the accuracy of future hair analysis testimony, as well as the application of all disciplines of forensic science. The Department and FBI have devoted considerable resources to this effort and will continue to do so until all of the identified hair cases are addressed.”

For individuals who are facing federal criminal prosecution or sentencing in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, or state criminal prosecution or sentencing in the criminal and Municipal courts of New Jersey, or who are appealing their criminal matters before the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the New Jersey Appellate Division, the Supreme Court of New Jersey, or the Superior Court of New Jersey, it is critical to have an experienced federal, state, and municipal New Jersey criminal defense attorney represent you. Only an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you find the most qualified experts both to support your case and to contest the Government’s forensic evidence. The experienced criminal defense lawyers of Schwartz & Posnock appear in all Federal Courts of New Jersey, as well as the State and Municipal criminal courts in New Jersey, and have convenient locations in Monmouth County (Eatontown), Essex County (Livingston), Union County (Linden), and Middlesex County (East Brunswick). Call us at 732-544-1460 or email us at to schedule an appointment.


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