Skip to main content

The Washington Post has two disturbing articles from yesterday and today about how hundreds of prisoners nationwide remain in jail for crimes they may not have committed and that Justice Department officials knew that flawed forensic work might have led to the convictions of innocent people.

So much for English jurist William Blackstone's axiom it's "better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer."  That was so 250-years-ago.

Innocent people went to jail, and at least one (Benjamin Boyle) was executed.  And how did we first learn of this? A whistleblower named Fred Whitehurst, a chemist and lawyer who worked in the FBI's famed crime lab, who complained back in 1995 about the lack of impartiality and scientific standards.

We've all seen CSI on t.v.  Forensic evidence is better than ever and supposedly results in greater sureness in convictions.  But not if it came from the FBI crime lab when you have the tragic convergence of:

1) The Justice Department became aware of sloppy forensic work by examiners at the FBI lab, but reviewed only a limited number of cases, focusing on the work of one scientist (Michael Malone), despite warnings that the problems were widespread.

2) A Justice Department task force investigated for 9 years, but made the findings available only to the prosecutors in the affected cases.

3) Prosecutors failed to notify defendants or their attorneys in many cases they knew were troubled.

The Justice Department's excuse?

[Officials] said that they met their legal and constitutional obligations when they learned of specific errors, that they alerted prosecutors and were not required to inform defendants directly.
 News flash for the government: Prosecutors are part of the Justice Department.

This is inexcusable.  Innocent people went to jail.  Properly-tested DNA evidence clears Santae Tribble and Kirk L. Odom, both of whom have completed their sentences, are on lifelong parole. Key evidence at each of their trials came from separate FBI agents (and not Malone) who swore that their scientific analysis proved with near certainty that their hair was at the respective crime scenes.  Donald Gates was exonerated by DNA testing after serving 28 years--a third of his life--for a rape and murder he did not commit.Benjamin Boyle, who would not have been eligible for the death penalty without the FBI's flawed work, was not so lucky.  He was executed in 1997.

These defendants who remain in prison or on parole for convictions resulting from key DNA "matches" based on hair and fiber experts done by the FBI lab merit retesting of the DNA evidence, and possibly a retrial or exoneration.

Originally posted to Jesselyn Radack on Wed Apr 18, 2012 at 05:03 AM PDT.

Also republished by Whistleblowers Round Table.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site