Nonprofit Group Reports That Flawed FBI Hair Analysis Was Used to Convict Defendants

Law Firm Newswire



St. Peters, MO, (Law Firm Newswire) September 24, 2015 – Faulty testimony contributed to at least 35 guilty verdicts, with nine executions resulting.

The Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization based in New York, announced on April 21 that the FBI erroneously testified about hair samples in six criminal cases in Missouri, including one that resulted in the execution of the defendant. And now the executed man has been identified as Jeffrey Ferguson, who was convicted in St. Louis County last year for the 1989 murder of Kelli Hall.

In a joint statement that was released the previous weekend, the FBI, Justice Department, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Innocence Project declared that in an overwhelming number of cases — 96 percent of 268 trials — the FBI hair examiners’ testimony used against the defendant was flawed. Furthermore, the review found that 26 of 28 hair examiners overstated the scientific certainty of their hair matches when they either wrote lab reports or testified.

In addition to Jeffrey Ferguson, eight other prisoners convicted in trials in which faulty hair testimony was admitted have been executed and another five prisoners died while awaiting execution. Overall, at least 35 defendants who were convicted in trials with erroneous hair testimony received the death penalty.

“People finding themselves charged with a crime are already at a serious disadvantage against the phalanx of legal resources that the state uses against them,” said Charles James, a prominent criminal defense attorney in St. Peters, Missouri. “The admission of botched hair sample testimony is not only unjust but also tips the scales against the defendant even more.”

In the Ferguson case, the Missouri State Public Defender’s Office has documented that the FBI analyst involved, Michael Malone, made several errors and that he “exceeded the limits of science” when he claimed that the hair “could be associated with a specific individual to the exclusion of all others.” The office further stated that Malone erred in providing a statistical probability to his assertion and in citing other comparisons done, all in order to support his findings.

However, Tom Dittmeier, the prosecutor who handled Ferguson’s two murder trials that led to his execution on March 26, 2014, has insisted that there was plenty of incriminating evidence to convict Ferguson and that not admitting the faulty hair analysis would not have mattered in his case.

“The prosecution may have had compelling evidence in the case of the executed man from Missouri, but the revelation about the faulty hair analysis has now cast some doubt on that assertion,” James said. “And it begs the question of just how many innocent people have been wrongly convicted based on erroneous testimony.”

Learn more at James Law Group, LLC 14 Richmond Center Court St. Peters, MO 63376 Phone: 636.397.2411 Toll Free: 800.229.7112