Hair comparison evidence has been used to convict hundreds of people nationwide. Three years ago, the FBI admitted the forensic technique is unreliable.
For many people who were jailed, the realization came too late. In a recent article, The Guardian highlighted the case of George Perrot who spent almost three decades in prison due to the evidence derived from a single hair.
An FBI agent recovered the hair from the sheet of the bed a 78-year-old woman who was raped by a burglar in Massachusetts in 1985.
No physical evidence tied Perrot, who was just 17 at the time, to the crime scene. There was no semen or blood evidence, rendering a DNA match impossible.
Even the victim said Perrot didn’t look anything like her attacker. However, he was put on trial in 1992. An FBI agent proclaimed himself to be an expert in hair evidence. He said a hair recovered from the bed sheet matched that of Perrot.
The agent told the jury he was an expert in hair and textile fibers. His testimony was strong and he presented himself as such a convincing witness that the jury convicted Perrot.
Hair Comparison Evidence is Discredited
Three years ago in July 2013, the FBI admitted a major retreat from “hair comparison evidence.”
For decades its investigators learned the technique and used it in tens of thousands of cases. However, the 2013 statement revealed the evidence is scientifically invalid.
The FBI stated:
- A microscopic analysis of hair analysis is not able to scientifically distinguish one suspect to the exclusion of all other people.
- It is impossible to give any statistical credence to comparisons to that pointed to a likelihood of the hair coming from a specific source.
- The number of previous hair comparison tests carried out by expert witnesses should not be used as a factor in court to demonstrate a case for how a hair belonged to a specific person.
The scale of the miscarriage of justice over hair comparison evidence may be huge. A report in the Washington Post stated there were 28 examiners employed by the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit. All but two overstated forensic matches to favor the prosecution in more than 95 percent of 268 trials. Other are still to be reviewed, stated the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL).
At Peek & Toland we provide vigorous representation for people who have been charged with crimes in and around Austin. Even if the evidence seems to be stacked against you, it may be flawed. A criminal defense attorney will challenge suspect evidence. Call us at (512) 474-4445.