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Microscopic hair comparison analysis is considered “junk science” in terms of its ability to reveal any supposed “match” or “same source” conclusion. In 2013 and again last month, the FBI admitted that its analysts gave flawed testimony, in the form of overstatement of hair “matches” found on victims and suspects, in potentially thousands of cases involving microscopic hair comparisons, over a two-decade period prior to 2000. The FBI agreed to review thousands of cases for such faulty testimony; the review of an initial 200 cases found 32 in which the defendants were sentenced to death, 14 of whom have been executed or died in prison.

Unfortunately, the FBI’s review of cases in which microscopic hair comparisons were made does not include state court cases (other than those in which an FBI analyst testified).

The Illinois Innocence Project is attempting to step into this void. IIP has requested and received data on hundreds of Illinois cases in which microscopic hair comparisons were attempted. The Project seeks cases in which improper testimony regarding microscopic hair “matches” was given, and which may have resulted in the conviction of an innocent person. Staff anticipate months of work to zero in on potential innocence cases. Law enforcement in most Illinois counties are cooperating and have provided basic case data. The Project anticipates the number of state hair analysis cases will exceed 1,000 once remaining counties agree to participate.

For more information on this topic, read:

The Washington Post’s: FBI admits flaws in hair analysis over decades

The Innocence Project’s: Invalidated or Improper Forensic Science


The Illinois Innocence Project says goodbye to six graduating University of Illinois Springfield students who have been an integral part of the Project’s work over the past three years. These students spent countless hours conducting case evaluations, locating pertinent case information and helping lay the groundwork for new IIP initiatives. Thank you for your energy, commitment, diligence and relentless pursuit of justice for our innocent clients. We miss you already!