FBI Quietly Abandons Bullet Analysis Used to Convict Hundreds Without Informing Them

For decades, bullet-lead analysis has been used by the FBI to convict individuals and to investigate such crimes as the President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.  Now, it appears that the analysis was flawed and hundreds of prisoners should have their convictions reviewed. However, the FBI has not informed them or their counsel and time is running out on many appeals. In 2004, he National Academy of Sciences found that the analysis was “unreliable and potentially misleading.” The FBI could not reliably testify that a particular bullet to those found in a suspect’s gun or cartridge box.   The problem is that hundreds were convicted on such evidence.  Prosecutors have long known that such scientific evidence is given a huge degree of importance by juries.  Now, many prisoners have exhausted their appeals or the deadlines for filing have passed. More importantly, courts routinely hold that such testimony is “harmless error” by citing other possible reasons for the jury to have convicted the individual. It is a maddeningly fluid doctrine since courts can simply dismiss major problem as things that would not have changed the result of the trial.   Nevertheless, thanks to coverage by the Washington Post and CBS, lawyers are stepping up to look for affected cases.  Congress, however, should hold hearings on why the Justice Department did not take action before now.   For a prior story, click  here