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FBI will review thousands of convictions involving hair evidence

In this day and age, many crime scene investigations involve forensic science. While much of the public here in New York tends to think that forensic evidence is foolproof, this actually is not the case. A number of forensic techniques are not a perfect science, in part, due to human error. This is why we sometimes hear about wrongful convictions in cases that involved seemingly tight evidence--such as hair samples.

For example, a number of people who were convicted of crimes based on hair analysis were later exonerated as DNA testing evolved. In fact, of the 310 people who were ultimately exonerated due to DNA evidence, 72 of them were initially convicted in part due to hair evidence. In light of this, the FBI has recently announced that it is going to look back at thousands of convictions that involved hair sample evidence.

According to the FBI announcement, more than 2,000 cases that the FBI processed between 1985 and 2000 are going to be re-examined.

The announcement comes after the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and pro bono attorneys joined forces with the Innocence Project of New York City's Cardozo School of Law to demand a review of such cases.

The plan is for the FBI to study whether any analysts exaggerated or inaccurately reported hair analyses.

The Innocence Project hopes that state crime labs will also decide to review their previous lab tests and analyses.

The FBI's study is very significant, as it is absolutely critical for existing wrongful convictions to be righted.

This study is also a reminder that wrongful and unfair convictions do sometimes occur in criminal cases. In addition to this, people are sometimes convicted of overly harsh charges that do not fit the crime, or they face penalties that are too severe. People who face criminal charges here in New York should seek legal guidance as soon as possible to ensure that their rights are protected and that their cases proceed in the best ways possible.

Source: Star-Telegram, "FBI announces review of 2,000 cases featuring hair samples," Michael Doyle, July 18, 2013

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