CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Saturday, September 3, 2005

FBI Abandons Tests Matching Bullets by Lead Content

Back in March, I blogged here about the National Academy of Sciences (a Congressionally-funded advising institution to the government) seriously questioning the FBI's chemical bullet lab analysis.  A New Jersey court of appeals overturned a murder conviction that used this technique, known as "chaining," to connect the bullets to the defendant, deeming the technique "erroneous" in its "scientific foundations."  Now, as of September 1, the FBI has decided to completely stop all tests that match bullets by lead content.

From (Washington): "The bureau said it was informing 300 state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies that had received positive match reports from the FBI Laboratory since 1966. The FBI said it had not determined those results were wrong, but informed them so they could take whatever action they deem appropriate.

Criminal defense attorneys have contended that re-evaluation of these tests could affect some convictions on appeal. One New Jersey defendant has been granted a new trial because of questions about the bullet test analysis, and a convicted double murderer in New Zealand has requested a pardon based on questions about the test.

Jack King, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers spokesman, said defense attorneys will track down most defendants in those 300 cases. 'Now, we need the FBI to provide a live witness, a scientist from the FBI Lab, to testify at post-conviction hearings on these old cases,' King said. 'Some of these guys have sat in jail for decades, and it’s about time they got a fair hearing.'  Story here... [Mark Godsey]

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