The FBI has been reviewing thousands of criminal convictions in order to determine whether they may have been secured using faulty science. Now, 27 death penalty convictions are reportedly being questioned.
The Washington Post reports that the FBI review, which has been underway for a year, is focused primarily on cases in which convictions may have been secured using testimony from FBI hair experts— who "for years went beyond the science" in testimony by saying that hair matches could be used to identify culprits with certainty. From the WaPo:
Under terms finalized with the groups last month, the Justice Department will notify prosecutors and convicted defendants or defense attorneys if an internal review panel or the two external groups find that FBI examiners “exceeded the limits of science” when they claimed to link crime scene hair to defendants in reports or testimony.The Innocence Project calls this government review "truly unprecedented." The 27 death penalty cases reportedly now under review may be just a small portion of the total number of cases that could be affected. Wow.
If so, the department will assist the class of prisoners in unprecedented ways, including waiving statutes of limitations and other federal rules that since 1996 have restricted post-conviction appeals. The FBI also will test DNA evidence if sought by a judge or prosecutor.