Steven Mark Chaney was released in Dallas, Texas on October 12, 2015, after a court reversed his 1987 murder conviction because of discredited bite mark testimony. Chaney’s release follows a decision by the Texas Forensic Science Commission to review the use of bite mark testimony in the state.Read more about Cheney’s case here.
In April, the Innocence Project, the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the National Criminal Defense Attorney’s Association announced that FBI analysts gave erroneous testimony in at least 90 percent of cases involving microscopic hair analysis. The announcement came pursuant to an unprecedented review of approximately 3000 cases handled by the FBI before 2000 where agents conducted microscopic hair analysis to match defendants to crime scene evidence.
Approximately 500 cases had been reviewed at the time of the announcement. Of the 268 cases where examiners provided testimony used to inculpate a defendant at trial, erroneous statements were made in 257 (or 96%) of the cases.
The ongoing review does not cover cases handled by state analysts, many of whom were trained by FBI agents. This month both Massachusetts and Iowa announced plans to review the cases in their states involving microscopic hair analysis, joining Texas and North Carolina which had previous agreed to do so. In announcing the Iowa review, Gov. Terry Branstad also announced that the state would establish a special state unit to review and identify potential wrongful convictions, which would first begin looking at the cases with microscopic hair analysis. The Midwest Innocence Project and the Innocence Project of Iowa will be participating in the effort.
While it is too soon to tell how many people were wrongly convicted based at least in part by erroneous testimony, erroneous microscopic hair analysis contributed to more than 20 percent of the 333 DNA exonerations nationwide.
Read more about the MA review here.
Read more about the IA review here.
Angel Gonzalez Shares His Story
Angel Gonzalez, who served 20 years for a Waukegan, Illinois rape before being exonerated by DNA evidence, was in New York last week to share his story at the Innocence Project’s Young Professionals Event at The Park. While here, Angel stopped by our offices to participate in our first-ever Facebook chat. If you missed it, you can read the highlights here.