USA: INSPECTOR GENERAL'S REPORT FAULTS FBI REVIEW OF DEATH PENALTY CASES
July 16, 2014: According to a report released on July 16 by the Inspector General's Office of the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation failed to provide timely notice to many capital defendants that their cases were under review for possibly inaccurate testimony by FBI experts.
Some of these defendants were executed without being informed of the misleading testimony provided by the government.
The report stated: "The FBI did not take sufficient steps to ensure that the capital cases were the Task Forceâs top priority. We found that it took the FBI almost 5 years to identify the 64 defendants on death row whose cases involved analyses or testimony by 1 or more of the 13 examiners. The Department did not notify state authorities that convictions of capital defendants could be affected by involvement of any of the 13 criticized examiners. Therefore, state authorities had no basis to consider delaying scheduled executions." At least three defendants were executed before the FBI made it known that their cases were under review. The report recommended retesting of physical evidence for 24 defendants who were executed or died on death row. On July 17, 2013 a Federal Bureau of Investigation review of more than 21,000 cases had revealed 27 death penalty cases in which the FBI's forensic experts may have exaggerated the scientific conclusions, mistakenly linking defendants to crimes they may not have committed. At the time it was said that some of those cases involved inmates who had already been executed. Under particular scrutiny was testimony regarding hair evidence. Although FBI laboratory reports have long stated that positive identifications could not be made through hair association, several agents testified that different hairs could be identified as coming from the same person with near certainty.
The FBI managed the review with the Department of Justice, the Innocence Project, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in order to identify troublesome cases, and had agreed to notify both prosecutors and defendants if they found that agents made mistakes in testimony or reports. (Sources: Associated Press, 16/07/2014)