Texas Forensic Science Commission

Justice Through Science

What is the microscopic hair analysis review?

The FBI is engaged in a review of microscopic hair analysis cases performed by its laboratory before 2000.  The agency believes some of its examiners overstated the extent to which the science underlying hair microscopy allowed for a positive association between a known hair sample and crime scene evidence.  

On April 11, 2013, the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors-Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD-LAB) released a memorandum describing the FBI review and encouraging (but not requiring) laboratories to review their hair microscopy case files.  ASCLD-LAB noted the forensic science community’s ethical obligation to “take appropriate action if there is potential for, or there has been, a miscarriage of justice due to circumstances that have come to light, incompetent practice or malpractice.”    

The FBI has also indicated that it trained many microscopic hair analysts in state and local crime laboratories, including some laboratories in Texas.  Of course, this does not necessarily mean that state and local analysts in Texas made similar overstatements.  It is also unclear whether the FBI actually trained analysts using principles that could overstate a positive association, or whether the analysts who received FBI training followed the FBI’s lead in their own testimony. 

At its public meeting on November 1, 2013, the Commission elected to conduct a statewide review of hair microscopy cases.  The review is being guided by an investigative panel.  For a list of panel meetings, click here.  For additional questions regarding the review, please contact the Commission office at (512) 936-0770 or (888) 296-4232

 

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