This is interesting. Some years ago I came across a report on problems with bullet lead evidence – published by the wonderful National Academies Press, which makes full text of its books available for free online. Finally it is beginning to have an impact on real cases. Thanks to a joint investigative report by the Washington Post and 60 Minutes, people who were convicted on this faulty evidence might get a crack at justice.
The Post and “60 Minutes” identified at least 250 cases nationwide in which bullet-lead analysis was introduced, including more than a dozen in which courts have either reversed convictions or now face questions about whether innocent people were sent to prison. The cases include a North Carolina drug dealer who has developed significant new evidence to bolster his claim of innocence and a Maryland man who was recently granted a new murder trial.
Documents show that the FBI’s concerns about the science dated to 1991 and came to light only because a former FBI lab scientist began challenging it.
In response to the information uncovered by The Post and “60 Minutes,” the FBI late last week said it would initiate corrective actions including a nationwide review of all bullet-lead testimonies and notification to prosecutors so that the courts and defendants can be alerted. The FBI lab also plans to create a system to monitor the accuracy of its scientific testimony.
Good for the scientist who asked the right questions, and good for the fourth estate for doing its job. This is why we need a free press, and why we need investigative reporting.