Tag Archives: FBI

Hair evidence analysis is not so great

I came across this very interesting press release which stated that in many FBI cases hair analysis’ reliability was exaggerated when making a positive identification in FBI cases.  These include 27 capital cases.

According to the press release, the FBI labs reports have consistently asserted that hair analysis can’t be used to make a positive identification.  However, some FBI agents asserted that hair analysis led to near-certain matches.

In other words, the practice of using hair analysis was deemed “highly unreliable” by the National Academy of Science.  Even though it is possible to conduct hair microscopy and find similarities among various samples, “in many cases the FBI analysts were overstating the significance of these similarities, often leaving juries with the false impression that a hair recovered from the crime scene must have come from the defendant and could not have come from anyone else.” (italics and underline added).

The FBI and the Justice Department uncovered the cases in a review of more than 20,000 lab files that was undertaken in consultation with the Innocence Project and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the story says.  So far, about 15,000 files have been reviewed, turning up about 2,100 cases in which hair evidence was used and 120 convictions that could be problematic, including the 27 capital cases.

The Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld made the following statement:

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.

The Justice Department will notify prosecutors, convicted defendants and their lawyers if a review panel finds FBI examiners made excessive claims. In such cases, the Justice Department will waive rules that restrict post-conviction appeals and will test DNA evidence upon the request of judges or prosecutors.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under civil rights, courts, discovery, federal, Privacy Rights

Update on NYPD’s surveillance and infiltration of Muslim groupds

Are Muslim communities being unfairly targeted by law enforcement?  This is the conversation being raised after the New York Civil Liberties Union sought to revisit a 41-year old case.

You may have heard about news articles discussing NYPD’s surveillance and infiltration of New York-based Muslim groups.  Last year, the Associated Press confirmed the existence of a program, called the Assessment Program, formerly known as the Demographics Unit, which spied on Muslims.

As way of background, in 1985, a Manhattan federal judge ordered a consent decree (known as “Handschu guidelines”) whereby the police is barred from investigating political and religious organizations without “specific information” linking the group to a crime.  In that case, Handschu v. Special Services Division, the police had extensive dossiers on a large array of political groups, including the Black Panthers.

After 9-11, the judge loosened the Handschu guidelines to give police wider powers to investigate political groups in the war on terror.

The New York Civil Liberties Union released a memorandum, submitted to the court, seeking to end the NYPD’s Assessment Program.  In the memorandum there is testimony stating that an informant was paid as much as $1,500 a month to take part in the NYPD’s alleged “create and capture” program.  The informant stated,

This meant I was to pretend to be a devout Muslim and start an inflammatory conversation about jihad or terrorism and then capture the respond to sent to the NYPD.

I did this on numerous occasions with people I met at the mosques and other locations.

The question to be decided is – how much latitude law enforcement given when conducting surveillance of political and religious groups?

As a side note, you may have also come across the story regarding the FBI’s surveillance on Muslims groups, known as “Operation Flex.”  That story has been reported in many news circles, including the Business Insider here.

via Courthouse News Service.

Leave a comment

Filed under civil rights, Privacy Rights