Martin & Kent, L.L.C. Martin & Kent, L.L.C.

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FBI hair analysis described as "complete disaster" Pt.2

Most people, most attorneys and most judges are not trained scientific researchers and therefore do not have the technical knowledge to determine the validity of many elements of scientific testimony. This is why experts are important, and it is vitally important that those experts are trustworthy and that the process is handled with scrupulous integrity.

This is why the discussion of "junk science" is important. In many courts throughout the last fifty or more years, testimony has been allowed in criminal cases that results in convictions and in some cases, defendants being sentenced to death and being executed by the state, based on testimony that carries the veneer of science, but is illusory.

The Texas execution of a man convicted of the murder of his two daughters by arson is seen by many as the poster child of junk science. The conviction obtained in 1992 was based on testimony of a fire marshal who had no formal scientific training and based on a flawed understanding of how fires propagate.

What is sad, aside from the fact that a man was potentially killed by the state after suffering the horrible tragedy of having his daughters die before his very eyes, but that the State of Texas, as embodied in the prosecutors and judges seemed more interested in covering up this gross miscarriage of justice by insisting all the more loudly that the conviction was correct and that he was guilty.

The use of microscopic hair analysis by the FBI is worse than it looks, because the FBI "standards" were used to train workers in other crime labs, with between 500 and 1000 state crime lab analysts. And who knows how many analysis they may have trained.

The legacy of this type of junk science may have tainted thousands of trials across the country. That it took this long for the FBI to admit the flaws is equally troubling.

Washingtonpost.com, "FBI admits flaws in hair analysis over decades," Spencer S. Hsu, April 18, 2015

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