FBI Admission of Crime Lab “Errors” In Hair Cases Vindicates Whistleblower

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FBI Admission of Crime Lab “Errors” In Hair Cases Vindicates Whistleblower

WASHINGTON - Yesterday, the Washington Post published a front-page article reporting that the FBI has finally admitted the FBI Lab’s forensic hair analyses used for decades in state and federal criminal cases were flawed and inaccurate more that ninety percent (90%) of the time.

These systemic problems at the FBI Lab were first raised by FBI whistleblower Dr. Frederic Whitehurst more than 20 years ago.  The latest reviews reported by the Washington Post are also the direct result of Dr. Whitehurst’s initial whistleblower disclosures between 1995-1997.  Although Dr. Whitehurst was highly criticized and subjected to severe retaliation by the FBI for raising these concerns more 20 years ago, yesterday’s admission by the FBI demonstrates that he was right.

After Dr. Whitehurst left the FBI in 1998, he continued to investigate and research FBI misconduct in cases that used hair analysis by filing numerous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.  As head of the National Whistleblower Center’s Forensic Justice Project, Dr. Whitehurst also compiled data from cases in which the FBI had given flawed testimony on hair analysis and compared that to the information that was released by the FBI and DOJ under FOIA. 

Dr. Whitehurst’s FOIA requests also revealed that the Justice Department had failed to keep its 1996 promise to review these cases impacted by the FBI Lab scandal and DOJ also failed to notify defendants whose cases were adversely affected after DOJ became aware of forensic evidence problems. These subsequent reviews of the FBI Lab scandal were kept secret for years until Dr. Whitehurst obtained the DOJ’s review under the FOIA.

In 2012, the Washington Post, working with the National Whistleblower Center and Dr. Whitehurst, published an extensive review of the FBI and DOJ failures to properly review the cases impacted by the FBI Lab scandal.  The Post’s series in 2012 was based in large part on the FOIA and research provided by Dr. Whitehurst.  As a result of Dr. Whitehurst’s disclosures and the Washington Post’s 2012 articles, the FBI and DOJ agreed in 2012 to conduct yet another review of hair cases with the Innocence Project and the NACDL.  Three years later, that review is only partially completed but the results of those cases that were reviewed show that the FBI Lab’s forensic evidence in hair cases was wrong over 90% of the time.

It has taken the FBI and Justice Department more than 20 years to actually review these problems and the government still does not know the full extent of the FBI Lab scandal and who was hurt by the Lab’s “flawed” forensic science. 

Dr. Whitehurst and his attorney David K. Colapinto are available for interviews. Contact Mary Jane Wilmoth at 202-342-6980 to request an interview. 

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Since 1988, the NWC and attorneys associated with it have supported whistleblowers in the courts and before Congress and achieved victories for environmental protection, government contract fraud, nuclear safety and government and corporate accountability.

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