Forensics on the HillSep 05, 2012
By Brandon Garrett
Two stray hairs sealed Donald Eugene Gates' fate. He was a suspect in the rape and murder of a college student in Rock Creek Park, in Washington D.C. There were no eyewitnesses. The revolver used to shoot the victim was never found. At his trial in 1982, an FBI analyst testified — an "eight year veteran" who said he had conducted over 10,000 examinations of crime scene hairs. He said that only twice in his career had he ever been unable to distinguish different people's hair. And he said he compared Gates' hairs to two hairs found on the victim. He found the hairs "microscopically indistinguishable." It was "highly unlikely" that those hairs could have come from anyone else. On the strength of that finding, Gates was arrested. At his trial, the analyst gave the powerful forensic testimony about the hairs, a paid informant claimed Gates had confessed to him, and Gates was convicted.
This seemingly airtight murder conviction would unravel decades later to uncover a national scandal. The forensics in his case were deeply flawed, and this past year they led lawyers and journalists to help to uncover additional wrongful convictions and still more possible errors in thousands of old FBI cases spread across the country.
Source: Huffington Post