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October 2021


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Tag: wrongful conviction

Man Awarded $13.2M in wrongful FBI hair conviction case in Washington D.C.

courtroomBy Steve Neavling

Santa A. Tribble spent 28 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

Tribble was convicted of killing a Washington D.C. taxi driver in 1978 because of a trial in which the prosecution exaggerated the reliability of FBI forensic hair matches.

On Friday, a D.C. Superior Court judge ordered the government to pay $13.2 million to Tribble for the wrongful conviction.

Tribble is the third Washington D.C. man to be awarded damages over the past year after prosecutors used exaggerated claims about the reliability of the hair matches, the Washington Post reports. 

Subsequent DNA testing showed that Tribble, who is now 55, “could not have contributed hairs” found in a stocking that the attacker reportedly used as a mask, the Post wrote.

A federal review last year revealed that FBI examiners often overstated the reliability of hair testing in testimony against criminal defendants for at least two decades before 2000.

The Justice Department on Wednesday said it will review cases involving similar “testimonial overstatement.”

Tribble’s “journey of injustice subjected [him] to all the horror, degradation, and threats to personal security and privacy inherent in prison life, each heightened by his youth, actual innocence, and life sentence,” D.C. Superior Court Judge John M. Mott wrote in a 48-page opinion Friday.

“Mr. Tribble’s ordeal did not merely deprive him of his liberty in a constitutional sense — it ruined his life, leaving him broken in body and spirit and, quite literally, dying,” Mott wrote.

New York Times: FBI’s Junk Science Leads to Wrongful Convictions, More Questions

By Editorial Board
New York Times

The odds were 10-million-to-one, the prosecution said, against hair strands found at the scene of a 1978 murder of a Washington, D.C., taxi driver belonging to anyone but Santae Tribble. Based largely on this compelling statistic, drawn from the testimony of an analyst with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mr. Tribble, 17 at the time, was convicted of the crime and sentenced to 20 years to life.

But the hair did not belong to Mr. Tribble. Some of it wasn’t even human. In 2012, a judge vacated Mr. Tribble’s conviction and dismissed the charges against him when DNA testing showed there was no match between the hair samples, and that one strand had come from a dog.

Mr. Tribble’s case — along with the exoneration of two other men who served decades in prison based on faulty hair-sample analysis — spurred the F.B.I. to conduct a sweeping post-conviction review of 2,500 cases in which its hair-sample lab reported a match.

The preliminary results of that review, which Spencer Hsu of The Washington Post reported last week, are breathtaking: out of 268 criminal cases nationwide between 1985 and 1999, the bureau’s “elite” forensic hair-sample analysts testified wrongly in favor of the prosecution, in 257, or 96 percent of the time. Thirty-two defendants in those cases were sentenced to death; 14 have since been executed or died in prison.

The agency is continuing to review the rest of the cases from the pre-DNA era. The Justice Department is working with the Innocence Project and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to notify the defendants in those cases that they may have grounds for an appeal. It cannot, however, address the thousands of additional cases where potentially flawed testimony came from one of the 500 to 1,000 state or local analysts trained by the F.B.I. Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, rightly called this a “complete disaster.”

To read more click here. 

FBI Helped Try to Send Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter Back to Prison After Wrongful Murder Conviction

Steve Neavling

When Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was released from prison in 1976 after being wrongly convicted of murder, New Jersey prosecutors weren’t happy and brought in a heavyweight – the FBI – in hopes of dragging Carter back to jail, CNN reports.

Newly released documents show that Passaic County officials wanted feds to help get Carter back behind bars for allegedly beating a female friend. And although the FBI is typically busy with racketeering, corruption and other federal crimes, agents joined the case just two months after the former middleweight was released from prison because of his conviction for killing three people in a New Jersey bar was reversed.

A long-time friend of Carter’s isn’t surprised.

“If they’re out to get you, they’re going to attack from the air, land and sea,” said Ron Lipton, a former police officer. “They have carte blanche to do whatever they want.”

The documents were released after Carter died in April.

Carter was never charged in the alleged attack, but he was wrongfully convicted twice for the murders before being released for good in 1985.