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FBI Examiners Gave 'Flawed Testimony'

FILE - an FBI evidence response team vehicle is parked outside Building 197 at the Navy Yard in Washington as evidence of a mass shooting is collected, Sept. 18, 2013.

A leading U.S. newspaper says the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department have "formally acknowledged" that almost all of the examiners "in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony " against criminal defendants for more than a two-decade period before 2000.

The Washington Post reported Saturday that according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Innocence Project, that 26 of the 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory's microscopic hair comparison unit "overstated forensic matches" to favor prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far.

The NACDL and the Innocence Project are working with the government in what The Post described as "the country's largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence."

The reviewed cases included 32 defendants who were sentenced to death. Fourteen of them have either been executed or died in prison, the two groups said.

Defendants and prosecutors across the United States are being notified about the findings so they can determine whether they have grounds for appeals.

The FBI and the Justice Department said in a statement they "are committed to ensuring that affected defendants are notified of past errors and that justice is done in every instance."

Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, said the FBI's use of microscopic hair analysis to incriminate defendants was "a complete disaster." He called for "an exhaustive investigation" into how this happened and why it was not stopped sooner.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from the northeastern state of Connecticut, told The Washington Post "these findings are appalling and chilling in their indictment of our criminal justice system."