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Thousands of cases that used hair evidence under federal review

In our last post, we discussed the great potential of DNA evidence. It certainly sounds like the dawn of a new age for the criminal justice system. But just like any aspect of the system, there is a human element involved — and that means mistakes can be made and suspects can be wrongfully imprisoned. Some major steps have been taken in the past few years to make people aware of the many injustices that have occurred in the U.S. when it comes to convictions. Some people are convicted on flimsy evidence; others are convicted on evidence that was tampered with, fabricated or tainted in some other way. DNA evidence is supposed to solve this, but there is no guarantee. Still, many advocacy groups are pushing for local and federal law enforcement to review some of their more questionable cases. To that end, some more steps have been made: the FBI will review 2,000 cases where hair evidence was used to secure a conviction. There is nothing necessarily wrong with the 2,000 cases, per se; the purpose of the review is to determine if the importance of hair evidence can be overstated in criminal cases. There have been cases where people are convicted of very serious crimes because their hair matches the hair at the scene of the crime. As a result, it can be hard for investigators to overlook this fact; let alone prosecutors and a jury. This can make a conviction likely, because the evidence is presumed to be airtight. However, there are cases where further DNA testing proved that hair evidence led to the wrongful convictions of many people. Source: Star-Telegram, "FBI announces review of 2,000 cases featuring hair samples," Michael Doyle, July 18, 2013

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