Convictions to be reviewed

Dec. 23, 2012 at 4:52 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- Thousands of criminal convictions across the United States may come into question because of misleading testimony or false evidence, officials said.

The Washington Post said Saturday the cases involve forensic experts trained by an FBI team whose members have been found to have given misleading court testimony about hair matches.

The U.S. Justice Department in July announced a nationwide review at least 21,000 cases handled by the FBI Laboratory's hair and fibers unit before 2000 to determine whether improper lab reports or testimony might have played a role in wrongful convictions, the newspaper said.

But local cases are not included in that federal review despite the fact about three dozen FBI agents trained 600 to 1,000 state and local examiners to apply the same standards now considered suspect. FBI spokeswoman Ann Todd said the training given local examiners was "continuing education" intended to supplement formal training received at other labs. She said the local examiners were not qualified by the FBI trainers.

Federal officials told the Post state and local police and prosecutors would have to decide whether to undertake their own reviews to cover local cases. The newspaper reported the chairman of the laboratory accreditation board of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors said the organization is gathering information to guide its members.

"It is something we take seriously, and we are going to address it accordingly," Pamela Bordner said.

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