GIST: "Last week The Washington Post revealed that in 268 trials dating back to 1972, 26 out of 28 examiners within the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit “overstated forensic matches in a way that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent” of the cases. These included cases where 14 people have since been either executed or died in prison. The hair analysis review — the largest-ever post-conviction review of questionable forensic evidence by the FBI — has been ongoing since 2012. The review is a joint effort by the FBI, Innocence Project and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. The preliminary results announced last week represent just a small percentage of the nearly 3,000 criminal cases in which the FBI hair examiners may have provided analysis. Of the 329 DNA exonerations to date, 74 involved flawed hair evidence analysis. While these revelations are certainly disturbing — and the implications alarming — the reality is that they represent the tip of the iceberg when it comes to flawed forensics. In a landmark 2009 report, the National Academy of Sciences concluded that, aside from DNA, there was little, if any, meaningful scientific underpinning to many of the forensic disciplines. “With the exception of nuclear DNA analysis … no forensic method has been rigorously shown to have the capacity to consistently, and with a high degree of certainty, demonstrate a connection between evidence and a specific individual or source,” reads the report. There is one thing that all troubling forensic techniques have in common: They’re all based on the idea that patterns, or impressions, are unique and can be matched to the thing, or person, who made them. But the validity of this premise has not been subjected to rigorous scientific inquiry. “The forensic science community has had little opportunity to pursue or become proficient in the research that is needed to support what it does,” the NAS report said. Nonetheless, courts routinely allow forensic practitioners to testify in front of jurors, anointing them “experts” in these pattern-matching fields — together dubbed forensic “sciences” despite the lack of evidence to support that — based only on their individual, practical experience. These witnesses, who are largely presented as learned and unbiased arbiters of truth, can hold great sway with jurors whose expectations are often that real life mimics the television crime lab or police procedural. But that is not the case, as the first results from the FBI hair evidence review clearly show. And given the conclusions of the NAS report, future results are not likely to improve. What’s more, if other pattern-matching disciplines were subjected to the same scrutiny as hair analysis, there is no reason to think the results would be any better. For some disciplines the results could even be worse. Consider the examples below:

1. Bite-mark analysis is based on two falsehoods and has wrongfully convicted at least 24 people; (Elaboration);

 2. Dexter lied to you about blood splatters; They sew chaos and confusion. (Elaboration)'

 3. Worn shoes and tires can land you on death row, but there’s no evidence they’re unique.  (Elaboration); 

4. No two fingerprints are alike? That is the question; (Elaboration)

5. The FBI trained an army of local hair-analysis charlatans:  "Although it is certainly a good thing that the FBI agreed to undertake a review of the work of its hair examiners — and then to clearly and publicly declare the miserable results — there is a deeper and even more troubling truth about the hair analysis revelations: There are potentially tens of thousands of additional cases out there that will not necessarily ever be reviewed. That’s because the FBI examiners for 25 years provided training to hundreds of hair examiners across the country — training that included the demonstrably, scientifically-flawed language that has been exposed in the current, and ongoing FBI case review. Whether all of the state cases will ever be identified let alone reviewed, remains to be seen.  For Timothy Bridges, the stakes couldn’t be much higher. Bridges was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the beating and rape of an 83-year-old woman in Charlotte, NC, in the spring of 1989. The victim (who died of unrelated causes before Bridges trial), variously described her attacker and denied that she was raped. Ultimately, Bridges, who had wavy shoulder-length hair — which is how the victim once described her attacker — was charged with the crime. There was no DNA to connect Bridges to the crime and he was not a match for a bloody palm print found at the scene (that print was never matched to anyone). But there were two hairs collected that an FBI-trained examiner testified not only were “likely” Bridges, but also that there was a very low chance they could belong to anyone else: The “likelihood of two Caucasian individuals having indistinguishable head hair is very low,” expert Elinos Whitlock testified — the very sort of language unsupported by science and found in the faulty cases identified in the current FBI review. Bridges appealed his conviction, arguing in part that there was no scientific basis to Whitlock’s testimony. In 1992, the state appeals court disagreed: “We find no reversible error,” the court ruled, concluding that testimony by a “properly qualified witness on hair identification” was admissible. Bridges is currently seeking a new trial and the state is reportedly reviewing the matter. "

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