Gianneli on the Unreliability of Microscopic Hair Analysis
Paul C. Giannelli (Case Western Reserve University School of Law) has posted Microscopic Hair Comparisons: A Cautionary Tale on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
According to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Report on forensic science, “testimony linking microscopic hair analysis with particular defendants is highly unreliable.” This is a stunning conclusion because hair evidence has been admitted in numerous trials for over a century.
The NAS Report was not the first to raise issues concerning hair evidence. In 1996, the Department of Justice issued a report discussing the exonerations of the first twenty-eight convicts through the use of DNA technology. This report highlighted the significant role that hair analysis played in a number of cases of these miscarriages of justice, including some death penalty cases. In 1998, a Canadian judicial inquiry into the wrongful conviction of Guy Paul Morin was released. His original conviction was based, in part, on hair evidence. The judge conducting the inquiry recommended that “[t]rial judges should undertake a more critical analysis of the admissibility of hair comparison evidence as circumstantial evidence of guilt.”