Delaware Public Media

Delaware's DOJ reviewing criminal cases involving hair evidence

Mar 4, 2019

Delaware’s Department of Justice is reviewing criminal cases that predate DNA evidence.

Before the FBI started analyzing the DNA in hair evidence to make criminal convictions in the year 2000, it often relied on the practice of microscopic hair comparison. That method has since been deemed highly unreliable by the National Academy of Sciences.

 

In 2015, the FBI conducted an internal review of trial transcripts involving hair evidence and found at least 90 percent contained errors.

 

Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings announced Monday the state DOJ has hired the nonprofit group Prosecutors’ Centers of Excellence to conduct an impartial review of Delaware’s cases involving FBI hair evidence. The group started its review early last month.

 

In a statement, Jennings said, “Given the serious issues that the FBI’s errors have raised, I believe that this review is the most responsible step we can take.”

 

According to the DOJ, defendants and defense attorneys in Delaware criminal cases involving questionable hair analysis were notified by the FBI, and some of those cases are already in post-conviction litigation.

 

However, the DOJ notes, the finding of questionable hair evidence will not necessarily cast doubt on a criminal conviction if it is supported by additional evidence like confessions or DNA analysis.