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CBS - 60 Minutes Aside from eyewitness testimony, some of the most believable evidence presented in criminal cases in the United States comes from the FBI crime laboratory in Quantico, VA. Part of its job is to test and analyze everything from ballistics to DNA for state and local prosecutors around the country, introducing scientific credibility to often murky cases.

But a six-month investigation by 60 Minutes and The Washington Post shows that there are hundreds of defendants imprisoned around the country who were convicted with the help of a now discredited forensic tool, and that the FBI never notified them, their lawyers, or the courts, that the their cases may have been affected by faulty testimony.

The science, called bullet lead analysis, was used by the FBI for 40 years in thousands of cases, and some of the people it helped put in jail may be innocent.
For years, the FBI believed that lead in bullets had unique chemical signatures, and that by breaking them down and analyzing them, it was possible to match bullets, not only to a single batch of ammunition coming out of a factory, but to a single box of bullets.
The Quantico lab was the only place in the country that did bullet lead analysis, and the assertion that you could actually match a bullet fragment to a specific batch or box of bullets went unchallenged for 40 years -- until William Tobin, a former chief metallurgist for the FBI retired in 1998 and decided to do his own study, discovering that the basic premise had never actually been scientifically tested.
Asked what he found out, Tobin tells Kroft, "It hadn't been based on science at all, but rather had been based on subjective belief for over four decades."

"So what you're saying is that this is junk science?" Kroft asks.

"That's correct," Tobin says. "It's worthless as a forensic tool."

(continued) http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/11/16/60minutes/main3512453.shtml


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 19th, 2007 08:09 am (UTC)
Horrifying but expected, coming as it is from the Federal Bureau of Ineptitude.
Nov. 19th, 2007 08:32 pm (UTC)
Thought the tribal knowledge (faulty science) does scare the hell out of me, what frightens me worse is the failure (and downright avoidance) to inform and lying that followed.

Am I naive expecting integrity from the federal government?
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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