Get Our Newsletter



Links

Columnists



Site Search


Entire (RSS)
Comments (RSS)

Archive Calendar

November 2019
S M T W T F S
« Oct    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930

Guides

How to Become a Bounty Hunter



Tag: hair evidence

Reason.com Editorial: FBI Cuts Constitutional Corners, Breaks Law

Editorial
reason.com editorial

Does the FBI manifest fidelity, bravery, and integrity, or does it cut constitutional corners in order to incriminate? Can the FBI cut the cable television lines to your house and then show up pretending to be the cable guy and install listening devices? Can FBI agents and technicians testify falsely and cause the innocent to be convicted, incarcerated and, in some cases, executed?

In 2014, FBI agents in Las Vegas were on the trail of Wei Seng Phua, whom they believed was running an illegal gambling operation out of his hotel room at Caesars Palace. Instead of following him, asking questions about him, and using other traditional investigative techniques, a few agents came up with the idea of planting a wiretap in Phua’s hotel room.

They bribed a hotel employee, who gave them access to a place in the hotel where they could disable the cable television wires to Phua’s room. When he called for repair, they showed up pretending to be cable guys, and he let them into his room. They repaired what they had disabled, but they also illegally wiretapped the phones in the room. Then they overheard his telephone conversations about his illegal gambling, and they arrested him. A grand jury indicted him based on what was overheard.

The grand jury was not told of the wire cutting and the con job, but a federal judge was. Last week, he criticized the FBI for conducting an illegal search of Phua’s room, in direct contravention of the Fourth Amendment, which the agents swore to uphold, and he barred the government from using the tapes of the telephone conversations as evidence against Phua. If the government can get away with this, he ruled, then constitutional guarantees are meaningless.

These lawless agents should have been indicted by a state grand jury for breaking and entering by false pretense, but Caesars declined to seek their prosecution. No surprise.

It was surprising, however, when the FBI was forced to admit last week that in the 1980s and 1990s, its agents and lab technicians who examined hair samples testified falsely in 257 of 268 cases that resulted in convictions. Of the convictions, 18 persons were sentenced to death, and of those, 12 have been executed.

Some of these cases were federal, but most were state prosecutions in which state and county prosecutors hired the FBI to perform lab tests and compare hair samples from a crime scene with a defendant’s known hair sample. The faulty lab work and erroneous testimony destroyed the freedom of hundreds and the lives of 12, squandered millions in tax dollars, and impaired the constitutional values we all embrace.

To read more click here. 

How a Single Hair Led to 39 Years in Prison on False Conviction, Faulty Science

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A single hair has put George Perrot behind bars for nearly 30 years.

Perrot, then 17, was tried and convicted of rape and burglary based on a piece of hair found on the bed sheet of a 78-year-old woman who had been raped, The Guardian reports.

There was no blood or semen. Just the hair.

An FBI agent named Wayne Oakes testified that he knew with certainty that the hair belonged to Perrot.

Trouble is, Oakes was wrong, and Perrot is still hoping for a retrial.

Oakes is among an elite FBI unit that gave faulty testimony in hair evidence cases for two decades, a discovery recently made public. The news is expected to spur retrials for many people.

 

Chilling Questions Raised about FBI’s Flawed Testimony on Microscopic Hair

By The Charlotte Observer
Editorial Board

In a chilling admission last week, the FBI and Justice Department acknowledged that examiners in an elite FBI microscopic hair comparison unit gave flawed testimony in more than 95 percent of trials over approximately two decades before 2000.

What’s more chilling is what we don’t yet know about additional cases across the country, including in North Carolina.

The Washington Post reports that more than 200 trials have been examined thus far in which the elite forensic unit overstated the link between hair found at a crime scene and a defendant’s hair. In cases where such testimony was given, 32 defendants were sentenced to death, and 14 were executed or have died in prison. At least 1,200 cases are still awaiting examination.

Tucked away at the bottom of the Post’s report is another disturbing note: These same FBI examiners taught 500 to 1,000 state and local crime analysts to give microscopic hair comparison testimony in the same ways. That could affect more cases in North Carolina and throughout the United States.

North Carolina, at least, is already taking steps to examine the impact. The state is one of just a few across the country that already has investigated cases involving the FBI forensics unit. Thus far, there are just three FBI cases involving North Carolina defendants, probably because the State Bureau of Investigation did its own hair analysis in state cases.

To read more click here. 

 

Elite FBI Forensic Unit Gave Bad Testimony in Cases Involving Hair Evidence

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI and Justice Department admitted for the first time that forensic unit for the bureau provided false testimony in nearly every trial that involved hair analysis, The Washington Post reports. 

All but two of the 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit “overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far” in a 20-year period before 2000, the Post wrote, citing the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Innocent Project, which are helping the government review sketchy forensic evidence.

Of those cases, 32 defendants were sentenced two death, and 14 have been executed or died in prison.

Whether the errors will force retrials is unknown. The government is alerting defendants in 46 states of the flaws.

The Washington Post wrote:

“The admissions mark a watershed in one of the country’s largest forensic scandals, highlighting the failure of the nation’s courts for decades to keep bogus scientific information from juries, legal analysts said. The question now, they said, is how state authorities and the courts will respond to findings that confirm long-suspected problems with subjective, pattern-based forensic techniques — like hair and bite-mark comparisons — that have contributed to wrongful convictions in more than one-quarter of 329 DNA-exoneration cases since 1989.”