The Washington Post recently reported about a massive investigation which started in 2012 into problems at an FBI lab. The new inquiry involves 2,600 convictions and 45 death-row cases from the 1980s and 1990s in which the FBIs hair and fiber unit reported matches to crime scene samples before DNA testing became common.
This is at least the second round of inquiries into these issues. The first inquiry was in the 1990s when the problems then were attributed to a single rogue agent.
The problems are compounded because courts and law enforcement authorities are generally reluctant to allow individuals to challenge their convictions using newer and more accurate science. Whether or not there are solid legal arguments the courts and law enforcement authorities who take these positions undermine the public’s confidence in the justice system.
According to the Post, the Department of Justice announced they will drop procedural objections to appeals of convictions based on FBI reviewed hair and fiber evidence that occurred before 2000. The DOJ has also offered new DNA testing if requested by either a judge or a prosecutor. The DOJ is certainly taking steps in the right direction which may result in the exoneration of an untold number of wrongful convictions.
The full story can be found at the link below.
The Innocence Project and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers are advising the DOJ and the FBI on this inquiry. Both the Innocence Project and NACDL have reached an agreement with the government that they will not talk about the review. The specific terms of the agreement are unclear but the involvement of two organizations dedicated to protecting rights of criminal defendants and exonerating the innocent suggests the government is taking the review seriously this time.