Sunday, August 16, 2015

Al Jazeera America: "Under the microscope; The FBI hair cases"; Airing Monday August 17, at 10 pm Eastern time/7 pm Pacific. FBI testimony helped convict Joseph Sledge, who spent nearly 40 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. "Fault Lines" presents a rivetting interview with Joseph Sledge; (Must Read. Production is a "Must Watch. HL);

"In "Under the Microscope: The FBI Hair Cases," Fault Lines looks at how, for decades, the FBI used the flawed forensic method of microscopic hair analysis to convict thousands of criminal defendants. The film airs on Monday, August 17, at 10 pm Eastern time/7 pm Pacific on Al Jazeera America. | Click here to find Al Jazeera in your area."..."In 1978 Joseph Sledge was sentenced to a North Carolina prison for the murder of two women, Josephine and Ailene Davis, a mother and daughter who were stabbed to death two years earlier. This past January, he was set free when new DNA evidence contradicted FBI hair analysis that pinpointed Sledge as the assailant. For decades, the FBI relied on matching characteristics of hair under a microscope to connect suspects to crimes, most often violent ones. But the introduction of DNA-based techniques suggest that the science the government labs relied on was inexact, at best, and, at worst, pseudo-science. In the course of Sledge’s appeal, led by attorney Christine Mumma of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, the testimony connecting Sledge’s hair to one found at the scene of the crime was invalidated. And after 37 years in jail, Sledge became a free man. Fault Lines sat down with Sledge in his hometown of Savannah, Georgia, to discuss his extraordinary story and the evidence that led to his conviction." An edited version of the conversation follows: (I am providing some excerpts on this page. Click on the link below for the entire rivetting interview. HL); 
"The police reportedly found pubic hair, but they also found hair from a man’s head that they said came from the same person. Did you have hair on your head?
No, sir. I did not.
So then this seems kind of open and shut. How did they make a case out of that?
Well, that's the cleverness of the state lawyers.
There was other evidence too, right? There were bloody fingerprints, a bloody palm print ...
Yes, sir. All that was negative to me.
None of those matched you?
No, sir.
There were shoe marks.
Yes, sir.
Did they match you?
No, sir.

"DNA evidence concluded that the pubic hair found at the scene of the 1976 crime did not match Joseph Sledge, paving the path for him to be cleared of the double murder." Víctor Tadashi Suárez for Al Jazeera America."
"But in court, did they say that the hair was yours? An FBI agent testified. What did he say?

It was an FBI agent from the FBI forensic laboratory. He said that he couldn't say conclusive that the hairs belong to me, but he said they were microscopically similar to mine. He gave an elaborate explanation on the hair evidence. He said that hair evidence doesn’t constitute personal positive identification, as do fingerprints. And he gave an elaborate explanation that the hairs that was found were microscopically similar to mine or could've came from somebody of the same origin as myself.
He said that the pubic hair was microscopically similar to mine—microscopically similar. Along with the testimony from the witness and the findings of that hair and saying what he said to the jury, that persuaded them to believe that I was the perpetrator in the case.
And the microscopically similar hairs included both pubic hair and head hair?
A pubic hair.
What about the head hair they found?
His elaboration on the head hairs is that I hadn't enough hair on my head to take any hair.
So did that come up at trial that they have hair from someone's head, and you don't have hair on your head?
Listen, at that time, you got an investigation saying that evidence was recovered from the crime scene that were left by the perp. That evidence was the head hair, the pubic hair, etc. Alright, so they know it ain’t me. They know that.
So aside from the hair, the only thing the prosecution had were jailhouse informants being paid by the government?
You didn't match any of the physical evidence?
No. I became the scapegoat after nearly two years of investigation.
How influential do you think that FBI agent was with the jury?
He was persuasive enough to, along the testimony of the witnesses, lead the court to believe that I was guilty.
What was going through your mind when you heard him say that the hair was microscopically similar to your hair?
I thought it was a set up. I thought it was a frame job working there. I really did. I really thought it was the whole time. I thought from day one it was a set up, man. I thought I was being set up.
What were you actually sentenced to?
Two life sentences running consecutive. You can't do but one. Can't do two. But they gave me life for each body.
And then how long did you end up spending in prison?
I say 37 years exactly."