Cummings, Chaffetz Request Briefing on Errors in FBI Microscopic Hair Analyses

May 12, 2015
Press Release
Errors May Extend to Additional Cases Going Back 25 Years

Washington, DC —Today, Reps. Elijah E. Cummings and Jason Chaffetz, the Ranking Member and Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) requesting additional information and a briefing regarding recent revelations that the FBI provided inaccurate testimony and erroneous laboratory reports on microscopic hair analyses in numerous prosecutions—including death penalty cases.

In April, the FBI announced that it had reviewed 500 of nearly 3,000 cases in which this problem occurred, and they found that in 96% of the cases where examiners provided testimony, erroneous statements were made.  The FBI also found errors in 94% of death penalty cases, and nine of those defendants have already been executed while five died of other causes while on death row.

“The scope of this catastrophe is almost impossible to believe,” Cummings and Chaffetz wrote.  “Our criminal justice system—and people’s very freedom—relies on the integrity of FBI analysts’ reports and testimony.  To learn that the FBI systematically provided erroneous information and biased report results in matters of life and death is shocking and obviously unacceptable.”

In their letter, the Members expressed concern that this problem may extend far beyond the cases in which FBI examiners conducted analyses, because the FBI trained state and local crime lab examiners in microscopic hair examination over the course of 25 years.

Cummings and Chaffetz requested that the FBI provide a briefing to address:

  • when the FBI first learned of the inaccurate analyses and how they occurred;
  • the review process for identifying these cases;
  • efforts taken to notify the affected defendants or next of kin to ensure they have counsel to assist them with available remedies;
  • steps being taken to notify state and crime labs that participated in training in microscopic hair analysis;
  • any disciplinary action taken against the 26 examiners who provided testimony or lab results; and
  • any steps the FBI is taking to prevent another injustice based on flawed scientific theory.

Click here to see the full letter.

114th Congress