Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Review of FBI Expert Testimony Finding Serious Trouble

The July 29, 2014 Washington Post reports that a federal government review of FBI crime lab "expert" testimony is finding really, really serious problems:
Nearly every criminal case reviewed by the FBI and the Justice Department as part of a massive investigation started in 2012 of problems at the FBI lab has included flawed forensic testimony from the agency, government officials said.
The findings troubled the bureau, and it stopped the review of convictions last August. Case reviews resumed this month at the order of the Justice Department, the officials said.
U.S. officials began the inquiry after The Washington Post reported two years ago that flawed forensic evidence involving microscopic hair matches might have led to the convictions of hundreds of potentially innocent people. Most of those defendants never were told of the problems in their cases.
I first became aware of how severe the problems at the FBI's much publicized crime lab when reading the transcripts of the McVeigh trial.  There were really, really serious problems.  The bomb range was adjacent to the lab where they were doing nanogram level detection of explosives on evidence--and people could and did walk from the bomb range, where they had been handling explosives, into the room where the gas chromatographs were supposed to be doing this very sensitive testing of evidence.  Some of the evidence from the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City was placed in the same paper bag as some of the evidence taken from McVeigh's person, with no serious attempt to separate these items.  And yet we were supposed to take seriously their evidence?  Worse, it made me wonder how accurate some of the other "expert" testimony involving lock cylinders and tool marks were.

1 comment:

Allen Cogbill said...

Standard joke about the FBI: the letters actually stand for Famous But Incompetent.