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Significance of hair evidence central to FBI review

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is launching a review of 2,000 criminal cases that resulted in a conviction. What the FBI will be looking for is the impact that hair evidence, present in all of these cases, had on the ultimate result of the case.

It is possible that these reviews could result in overturned convictions or reduced penalties; but the main purpose of the review is to examine the significance of hair samples. Many cases have been reported where people are convicted of a crime because their hair sample matched hair evidence at the scene; only for DNA evidence found later to prove their innocence.

It is a complex criminal defense matter that brings up a couple of key points. The first is that sometimes the evidence of a case can hold too much importance. This doesn't mean that the evidence in any given criminal case should be inadmissable -- instead, the point is that sometimes prosecutors, investigators and the jury may misinterpret the importance of a piece of evidence. It is merely a byproduct of our criminal justice system. A case is made that a suspect's hair matches the evidence found at the scene: and boom, you've got yourself a conviction.

What about the many other wrinkles in the case? They become irrelevant, or at least far less important than the hair trump card.

This review aims to uncover the flaws of understanding evidence. In the end, it could be a springboard for many convicts to file an appeal.

Source: Star-Telegram, "FBI announces review of 2,000 cases featuring hair samples," Michael Doyle, July 18, 2013 

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