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Thousands of cases between 1985 and 2000 relied on hair samples, and the study will focus on "whether analysts exaggerated the significance" of the samples, or in some cases reported the results inaccurately. Free DNA testing will be offered in any cases where the FBI is found to be in error. Peter Neufeld, a co-director at the non-profit Innocence Project, tells McClatchy that "the government's willingness to admit error and accept its duty to correct those errors in an extraordinarily large number of cases is truly unprecedented."
FBI Special Agent Ann Todd says "there is no reason to believe the FBI Laboratory employed 'flawed' forensic techniques," adding that microscopic hair analysis is "a valid forensic technique and one that is still conducted at the lab" alongside DNA testing. Todd notes "the purpose of the review is to determine if FBI Laboratory examiner testimony and reports properly reflect the bounds of the underlying science." Defense attorneys claim that laboratory analysts "overstated the significance" of the evidence.
Today the Innocence Project, the National Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and its partners announced a groundbreaking and historic agreement with the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to review more than 2,000 criminal cases in which the FBI conducted microscopic hair analysis of crime scene evidence. The agencies agreed to undertake the review after three men who had served lengthy prison sentences were exonerated by DNA testing in cases in which three different FBI hair examiners provided testimony which exceeded the limits of science and contributed to their wrongful convictions. The review will focus on specific cases in which FBI Laboratory reports and testimony included statements that were scientifically invalid.