Fifty-one people currently serving sentences in Colorado are having their cases reviewed due to concerns over hair samples. Similar to using DNA to overturn or confirm convictions, a collaboration between the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and law professors at the University of Colorado Law School’s Korey Wise Innocence Project will examine whether there was erroneous hair analysis that led to wrongful convictions of cases between 1976 and 1995. The review will focus on prisoners still alive and serving sentences.
What does this entail?
The attorneys will review court transcripts, looking for inaccurate testimony revolving around the hair microscopy. They will determine if the evidence was central to the inmate’s conviction. If there are signs of inaccuracy, the lawyers can then pursue DNA testing to get a more definitive analysis.
“There have been vast technological advances in forensic science, and DNA in particular,” said John Camper, CBI Director. “This review is an opportunity to ensure accuracy in scientific conclusions and testimony, no matter the age of the case.”
Scientific advances bring new forensic evidence to light, or it can prove that old evidence was inaccurate. This work can help ensure that law enforcement in today’s investigations is accurate. The lookback started in 2013 when the FBI first admitted that DNA testing found that were inaccuracies in previous hair analysis. The bureau then encouraged all states to review cases whose conviction hinged on hair analysis by FBI hair examiners.
Reviewing other forensic evidence
it is essential that that law enforcement and the courts get their facts right. This review applies whether it is examining hair samples, DNA, forensic chemistry, trace evidence examination fibers, paints and polymers, glass, soil, etc., fingerprints, firearms and tool mark examinations, handwriting analysis, fire and explosives examinations, forensic toxicology, or digital evidence. Reviewing the cases enables the innocent to be vindicated, and better ensures no mistakes in prosecuting those charged.