The FBI is accused of launching a coordinated effort to bury the results of a finding by an Arizona crime lab analyst, Kathryn Troyer, that individuals may have very similar DNA profiles. The finding throws into question the claims made in court about the unlikelihood of two individuals sharing such similarities. Where such matches have been portrayed as 1 in 113 billion — a virtual guarantee of conviction — it turns out to be more common. Rather than being concerned over past representations in court and the accuracy of its work, the FBI reportedly worked diligently to stop other analysts from performing the same tests and to discourage any citation to the study.
The controversy began when Troyer found two men who matched in nine of 13 locations of chromosomes. Since one of the men was black and one was white, the match was viewed as random. Troyer — who unlike her FBI counterparts wanted to confirm the validity of her work — did further tests and found dozens of other such matches. That is when the FBI laboratory started to discourage distribution of her results and tried to stop other labs from doing the same type of analysis on their data banks.
This should be the subject of an immediate congressional investigation. The FBI lab has previously been accused of shoddy work that borders on the criminally negligent, click here and here. Indeed, such disclosures have come with consistent regularity in 2000 and then 2003 and now in 2008.
Now, however, the FBI allegedly worked to prevent potentially exculpatory evidence from being released. If true, it could raise questions of appeal in hundreds of case and should certainly lead to some FBI officials being fired. It could also lead to questions of perjury or contempt if FBI officials failed to disclose these findings in relevant testimony.
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