Ledell Lee

Given that we’ve been trying to execute eight men in recent weeks, with several of their cases hinging on forensic evidence collected after the crime, you might want to read this story from Mother Jones on the fallibility of forensic science, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to disband a panel of lawyers, scientists, judges, crime lab technicians, law enforcement officers, and academics who meet quarterly in D.C. with the goal of putting more scientific rigor into evidence analysis and courtroom testimony, which is often used to incriminate and convict defendants.

From the article:


Analyses regularly presented in courtrooms—using such evidence as bite marks, hair, and bullets—that for decades have been employed by prosecutors to convict and even execute defendants are actually incapable of definitively linking an individual to a crime. Other methods, including fingerprint analysis, are less rigorous and more subjective than experts—and popular culture—let on. But on the witness stand, experts routinely overstate the certainty of their forensic methods. In 2015, the FBI completed a review of 268 trial transcripts in which the bureau’s experts used microscopic hair analysis to incriminate a defendant. The results showed that bureau experts submitted scientifically invalid testimony at least 95 percent of the time. Among those cases with faulty evidence, 33 defendants received the death penalty and 9 had been executed.

It should be noted that in the case of Ledell Lee, executed last Thursday for the 1993 murder of Jacksonville resident Debra Reese, the only forensic evidence introduced at court to tie him to the crime was a single speck of blood on his shoe — which could only be determined to be of human origin, but not the source — and African-American hair found at the scene, which investigators testified was microscopically similar to Lee’s hair.  Prior to his execution, Lee’s request to use modern DNA techniques to reexamine the hair was denied.