STUDIES: Texas To Re-Examine Previous Convictions for Forensic Errors

The Texas Forensic Science Commission announced it will study prior criminal convictions to determine whether mistakes were made using discredited forensic testimony. The Commission will employ DNA testing to review cases in which microscopic hair fibers were used to convict people of rape, murder, robbery, and other crimes. It has recently been established that it is impossible to match a hair under a microscope to a specific person. Forensic experts can make an “association” between a sample of hair evidence and a hair from a suspect. The state’s review is part of a national effort by the FBI and the Justice Department to identify false convictions due to improper hair comparisons. Arthur Eisenberg, a Texas science commissioner, said, “We have a moral responsibility to find out… We want to make sure convictions are based upon responsible forensic evidence. And we want to make sure there aren’t cases where undue weight has been put on that evidence.” Such review came too late for Claude Jones, who was executed in Texas in 2000. At his trial, an expert said there was a match between a hair from the crime scene and Jones. DNA testing later showed the hair belonged to the victim.

(Y. Berard, “Forensic science commission to review convictions based on hair samples,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 11, 2013). See Innocence and Arbitrariness.