Letter to the editor: Forensic hair analysis an unreliable tool in court
Dear potential jurors,
Did you know that in more than 2,000 murder cases across the United States from 1985-2000 used faulty forensic hair analysis? In 27 of those cases the suspect was executed. These cases have become closely watched by foundations like the Innocence Project, which found that in a number of cases the suspect was wrongfully convicted after new evidence was found. In July of 2020 the FBI said it would be re-opening these cases and re-examining evidence to see if they were wrongly imprisoned. Sometimes the scientists may have exaggerated the reliability of the hair analysis. Being exposed to “junk” science like this violates our rights — our rights guaranteed in the 5th and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
The 14th Amendment explains due process for state court. Due process is essentially treating people equally under the law. Whether or not they are seven feet tall, have a large beard and scars across their neck, or a sweet old grandma, they should be treated the same. People who are subject to the usually faulty science of hair analysis are not being treated as fairly as someone who was subject to correct science. The 5th Amendment also adds that the federal government must follow due process. We need the judges and juries to be trained to know what is faulty science and what is reliable science.
But, there is a disclaimer: Not all types of forensic science are faulty; there are many, many reliable ways of using forensic science to convict someone. Some examples of reliable forensic science are DNA analysis and fingerprint comparison. In order to protect our 5th and 14th Amendment we need to eliminate the use of hair analysis as the convicting evidence.
Editor’s note: The writer is a middle school student at Mount Abraham Union Middle/High School who investigated this subject for a class assignment.