Category Archives: Life after exoneration

Monday’s Quick Clicks

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

  • RIP exoneree Darby Tillis
  • Chicago Tribune review of Parade, a musical about a wrongful conviction
  • How the criminal justice system fails the deaf community
  • A Catholic monsignor has been exonerated by the Vatican for alleged child abuse, after being suspended from the church for more than a decade.   [Editors note:  While I don’t know anything about this case, and whether this monsignor is innocent or guilty, knowing what I know about the criminal justice system and how we humans are prone to the witch hunt mentality (like we saw with the “Day Care Hysteria Cases“), I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the abuse cases against Catholic priests coming in the past 15-20 years are bogus.]

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

  • South China Morning Post:  Reduction in number of crimes eligible for death penalty move in right direction
  • Recent exoneree Michelle Murphy discusses life outside of prison
  • Innocence Project (Cardozo) says DNA clears Minnesota man of murder; prosecutors disagree
  • The Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled the state’s program that provides compensation to inmates wrongfully convicted of crimes covers not only time behind bars but also house arrest.

Friday’s Quick Clicks…

Monday’s Quick Clicks…

Are the FBI’s flawed hair matches wrong only when DNA proves it?

Kevin Martin’s exoneration in Washington, D.C., this week, as reported here, proved once again that FBI hair analysis is flawed and inaccurate. Martin was the fifth person to have his conviction overturned because of inaccurate hair analysis by FBI agents. That bodes well for others convicted on such evidence where, as in Martin’s case, biological evidence still exists that can be subjected to DNA testing.

But what about those cases in which there is no evidence to test? Will prosecutors still defend cases that were greatly based on FBI hair comparisons even after the FBI conceded in 2013 that microscopic hair analysis was not based on sound science?

The Massachusetts case of George Perrot is a good example of a case with great merit despite the lack of DNA. Perrot has been incarcerated for almost 29 years for a 1985 rape of elderly woman in Springfield greatly because of the testimony of an FBI agent that a single hair found on the victim’s bed matched a known sample of Perrot’s hair.

Perrot, who was only 17 at the time, has insisted on his innocence ever since his arrest. In 2001, his conviction was overturned because of numerous prosecutorial errors, but the conviction was reinstated by a higher court because of the supposed strength of the microscopic hair evidence used against him.

Never mind that the rape didn’t occur on the bed where the hair was found. Never mind that the victim repeatedly refused to identify Perrot as the rapist because, she stated, the rapist was clean-shaven and had short hair and Perrot had shaggy hair and a beard. Never mind that the series of rapes of elderly women in which Perrot was the purported perpetrator continued after his arrest. The hair “match,” the court said, was more important.

In a motion filed earlier this month, Perrot’s pro bono attorneys from the Ropes & Gray law firm, argue that the FBI’s acknowledgment that its examiners provided scientifically unsupported testimony justifies a new trial for Perrot.

Unfortunately, the attorneys could not locate the biological evidence in the case for DNA testing to bolster Perrot’s innocence claim the way Kevin Martin’s attorneys were able to. There are dozens of people like Perrot out there convicted with hair-comparison testimony who can’t use DNA testing to prove the testimony wrong.

That doesn’t make them any less innocent, but prosecutors and the courts may not see it that way. Of the 106 convictions in the 1980s and 1990s in the District of Columbia that included an FBI hair match that have thus far been reviewed, prosecutors said only Martin’s supported a “viable” claim for innocence. If it hadn’t been for DNA, Martin’s claim probably wouldn’t have viewed as viable at all.