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Hundreds convicted from FBI 'junk science'

For the past 40 years the FBI crime laboratory has been using a science called bullet lead analysis in thousands of cases as evidence in criminal trials. The science claims that the lead used for bullets can be broken down and analyzed to reveal a unique chemical signature specific to each individual box of bullets.

The forensics tool was first used in the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy to tie bullet fragments found in Dealey plaza to bullets in Lee Harvey Oswald's rifle. The science since than had been used in numerous cases until 2004 when the National Academy of Science found that the science was "unreliable and potentially misleading."

Despite the scientific body's findings the FBI released a statement on Sept. 1, 2005 defending the science saying that although they would not use bullet lead analysis anymore the FBI "still firmly supports the scientific foundation of bullet lead analysis." Additionally the government has refused to release the list of more than 2,500 people convicted in cases where the debunked science was used in court.

William Tobin, a former chief metallurgist for the FBI, conducted his own study on how well bullet lead analysis could be supported scientifically.
"It hadn't been based on science at all, but rather had been based on subjective belief for over four decades," Tobin said.

The two-to-four-year window that convicted persons have to appeal their case with the finding of new evidence is closing soon, and the FBI has remained inactive in informing the affected, their lawyers and the courts that convicted them.

Dwight Adams, the former FBI lab director that put the technique to rest, said the government is obligated to make sure no one was wrongfully accused.

"It troubles me that anyone would be in prison for any reason that wasn't justified. And that's why these reviews should be done in order to determine whether or not our testimony led to the conviction of a wrongly accused individual," Adams said.