But DNA analysis now shows the hair in each case belongs to someone else, a fact that has moved the U.S. Attorney to launch a new review of hundreds of cases.
Kirk Odom and Santae Tribble came forward after reading stories about Donald Gates.
A man who went to prison in part because an FBI agent said his hair was found at the scene of a murder. But DNA evidence proved otherwise and Gates was released from prison in 2009. Odom and Tribble wondered if they could get the same justice.
Attorneys from the public defender’s service began an investigation and have now filed a motion to vacate their convictions.
A stocking was recovered nearby and inside investigators said were hairs from the assailant, one that matched Santae Tribble.
In fact, FBI Special Agent James Hilverda said, "The hair that aligned with Santae Tribble matched in all microscopic characteristics, all characteristics were the same."
But DNA testing now shows the hair did not come from Santae Tribble.
"We are announcing today that we are going to go back and do a sweeping review of cases going back decades,” said U.S. Attorney Ron Machen, “Some in the 70s and 80s and even earlier if we can find the records of cases where hair analysis was used in part to secure convictions."
The U.S. Attorney’s Office just completed another review of more than 200 cases called into question by the wrongful conviction of Donald Gates, a man who went to prison in part due to the hair analysis testimony of an FBI agent.
Are Police Building a Massive DNA Database?
The collection of DNA evidence creates potential problems for the privacy and dignity of citizens. The collection of genetic material indentifying individuals gives the state important information that undeniably creates the potential for abuse. American history is rife with examples of personal information being collected and stored by the state and used for purposes of harassment and blackmail. There is also the possibility that creating a class of “usual suspects” can lead to false prosecutions.
As the New York Civil Liberies Union noted in a statement following the passage of the new legislation, the bill “does nothing to address the increasingly apparent inadequacies of the state’s regulatory oversight of police crime labs, nor does it establish rigorous statewide standards regarding collection, handling and analysis of DNA evidence to catch or prevent error and ensure the integrity of the databank.”
Even more problematically, the law “does too little to ensure that people accused of crimes have access to DNA evidence to prove their innocence.”
Given that the potential of DNA to exonerate the wrongly convicted too often goes unrealized, the failure to ensure that not only the police but also the convicted have access to the data is a problem.http://www.alternet.org/rights/154667/are_police_building_a_massive_dna_database_/
NY- An incomplete DNA deal.
Regrettably, other important reforms sought by the Assembly did not make it into the final bill, leaving unaddressed two of the biggest causes of wrongful convictions: witness misidentification and false confessions. The proposed changes would have mandated the videotaping of police interrogations and “double blind” police lineups so neither the witness nor person administrating the lineup knows the identity of the suspect. Mr. Cuomo says he supports both reforms but had to omit them to reach a compromise on the DNA database expansion. Had he pushed for the videotaping and lineup changes early in the process instead of getting behind the database-only bill favored by Senate Republicans he might have been able to achieve more. Mr. Cuomo has said he intends to revisit the overlooked issues. He should do so soon.