Criminal Law – FBI Hair & Ballistics “Experts” – Death Penalty

Want to know why the death penalty should NEVER be allowed in criminal law? Here’s a perfectly terrifying reason: Yet another death row inmate was just added to the growing innocence list compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), after he was cleared in the murder of an elderly woman and her daughter – but he’s still sentenced to die for the murders of two college students. Think Progress.Org has published this expose of FBI pseudo-science claims in criminal law trials that have out too many people in prison who don’t belong there, and many on death row, some of whom have already been executed for crimes they Did Not Commit.

The FBI admitted flawed hair compairson testimony was used to convict Willie Manning. In 1994, FBI “science” experts testified that the defendant’s hair matched hair found at the crime scene. A ballistics expert from the FBI, who also testified against Mr. Manning, argued that a tree in Manning’s mom’s yard was used as target practice, and that bullets found inside were fired from the same weapon used to kill the victims (even though the firearm was never found). The testimony was based on a microscopic comparison of tool marks on the bullets. Additionally, witness Earl Jones, who was serving jail time, said Manning confessed to killing the two students and co-conspiring with a second person.

Two years later, Manning was convicted in the murders of 90-year-old Alberta Jordan and Emmoline Jimmerson, who were killed in 1993. He subsequently received two more death penalty sentences, but was absolved of all charges in February 2015, after a key witness recanted his testimony and the police failed to turn over additional evidence.  Just hours before Willie Manning’s scheduled death on May 7, the execution was stayed by the Missippi Supreme Court. While an official reason for the stay was never provided, Manning’s defense attorneys are confident that FBI failures were responsible. Days before his execution for killing the college students, the FBI sent three letters to the district attorney’s office, admitting that the experts who testified against Manning presented flawed evidence.

Federal authorities are now conducting DNA tests of the physical evidence collected at the scene, but the FBI’s findings of flawed evidence in Manning’s case barely scratches the surface of a larger problem. Just last month, the FBI acknowledged its use of flawed forensic evidence to convict people over several decades – and that many of of the cases resulted in death sentences for the defendants. Specifically, comparisons of hair belonging to the defendant and hair found at respective crime scenes were scientifically erroneous. In 2012, the Bureau launched an investigation into the use of flawed hair analysis, the FBI found that hair matches were used in 2,500 cases. As of mid-April, the FBI reviewed 342 of those cases, and found that FBI forensic experts presented flawed evidence 257 trials. Robert Dunham, the executive director of DPIC, says the FBI has discovered 33 capital cases in which hair analysis was used.

Read the whole article here: