"Forensic science commission to review convictions based on hair samples," by Yamil Berard for the Star Telegram.
Claude Jones had always claimed that he was innocent of the 1989 murder of an East Texas liquor store owner. But DNA testing wasn’t available in time to save his life.
Not until a decade after Jones was executed did scientists using DNA analysis confirm that a hair found at the crime scene did not belong to Jones. It was the murder victim’s.
Across the nation, more than 70 exonerations have involved the improper use of hair sampling — a practice, now considered “junk science,” in which a strand of hair is examined under a miscroscope to identify the people who were at a crime scene.
The Texas Forensic Science Commission wants to determine whether anyone has been wrongly imprisoned by identifying older criminal cases in which microscopic hair fibers were used to convict people of rape, murder, robbery and lesser crimes. The goal is to use DNA to find out whether any other miscarriages of justice have occurred.
“We have a moral responsibility to find out,” said Arthur J. Eisenberg, a forensic science commissioner who is a DNA expert and a co-director of the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification in Fort Worth.
The state’s top forensic watchdog agency is surveying crime labs large and small to learn the methods used to conduct hair analysis that did not involve verification with DNA. The Forensic Science Commission’s review is part of a national effort by the FBI and the Justice Department to clear up any false convictions due to improper hair comparisons.
Earlier coverage of the flawed testimony in microscopic hair analysis cases is at the link; also available, more on the case of Claude Jones. Related posts are in the DNA and forensics category indexes.