|Matisse, Self Portrait Jail Shirt, 1906|
Yet forensic laboratory evidence from the FBI has been found to be tainted, unreliable and based on flawed forensic techniques in polygraph cases, fingerprint cases, DNA cases and handwriting cases. Often courts even in Florida will allow expert lab reports to be read to a jury without allowing cross examination of the expert who wrote the report.
The Washington Post notes that American Courts are reviewing questions of innocence in over 21,000 cases of failed expert testimony and lab results just from the FBI's hair and fibers unit. The startling numbers have even more impact when you consider the actual lives destroyed.
Santae Tribble spent 28 years of his life in prison for a murder he didn't commit. New DNA tests established that the 'expert' testimony and evidence from the FBI matching his hair to that of hair found at the murder seen was wrong. In fact the FBI examiner even failed to find that some of the hair examined belonged to a dog.
The Judge signed a Certificate of Innocence stating that the Trial results must be vacated and the Post gives some insight into why:
A hair match also was critical evidence at his trial...Hair analysis was subjective and lacked scientific research into how often hairs of different people might appear to match, and the FBI lab lacked protocols to ensure that agent testimony was scientifically accurate.
The FBI agent testified at trial that the hair from the stocking matched Tribble’s “in all microscopic characteristics.” In closing arguments, the federal prosecutor went further: “There is one chance, perhaps for all we know, in 10 million that it could [be] someone else’s hair.”
Court ordered DNA testing by a private lab confirmed that none of the 13 hairs retrieved from the crime scene shared Tribble’s genetic profile.
One came from a dog; facts over which the FBI-trained examiners disagreed or missed outright at the trial.The exploding scandal in forensic laboratories undermines American Justice. But so does the method by which the lab results were used. As often happens in Criminal Trials, the Federal Prosecutor argued far beyond the actual evidence in the closing argument. Isn't this a clear example of prosecutorial misconduct?
Yet worse where is the voice of our United States Supreme Court on one of the most important issues of our time, that goes directly to America's standards of justice, due process and fairness - the convictions of those who are actually innocent.
Here's Justice Scalia taking the other Justices to task for taking a Defendant's actual innocence into account in Murder Cases:
Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged “actual innocence” is constitutionally cognizable.A Clearwater Criminal Attorney would remind Justice Scalia over a bottle or two of wine that when it comes to 'actual innocence' in criminal cases, the Supreme Court's first duty is finding Justice.