A year ago, it was revealed that the Department of Justice had done a review of hundreds of cases involving hair and fiber analysis and found that hundreds of people may have been wrongfully convicted as a result of shoddy and overclaimed work at an FBI crime lab. They didn’t bother to report that to the defendants or their lawyers, but now one man is getting a retrial after 32 years in prison.
A Maryland judge has thrown out the murder convictions and ordered a new trial for a man imprisoned for nearly 32 years in a notorious 1981 double killing in Harford County, faulting scientific errors in the testimony of several FBI forensic experts.
Frederick County Circuit Court Judge G. Edward Dwyer Jr. made the ruling after a new DNA test in March refuted key FBI statements in the 1983 trial of John Norman Huffington, who is now 50.The genetic testing contradicted testimony by an agent with the FBI Laboratory who said that he found Huffington’s hair in the bed where one victim was killed, claiming an accuracy rate of 99.98 percent.
“Due to the substantial weight given to the microscopic hair analysis by the jury . . . as well as the results of the DNA test . . . there is a significant possibility that the outcome of Petitioner’s case may have been different,” Dwyer wrote in a May 1 order that Huffington’s lawyers received Wednesday.
And this happens as a man in Mississippi came within a few hours of being executed after being convicted on the same type of evidence. The state supreme court had initially refused to order DNA testing that could confirm the conviction or exonerate the defendant, but they issued a last minute stay after the DOJ intervened and sent a letter explaining the problems with that testing found in other cases.