In 1978, a Washington DC cab driver was robbed and murdered outside his home. Santae Tribble, 17-years old at the time, was arrested. FBI forensic experts said that a strand of hair found near the crime scene was a DNA match to Tribble, who was convicted and sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.
He would go on to serve 28 years until the truth came out: an independent analysis found that the FBI testimony was flawed. Not a single hair that was found on the scene matched his DNA. After attorneys brought the evidence to the courts, Tribble was exonerated of the crime, though he’d already been released from prison. “The Court finds by clear and convincing evidence that he did not commit the crimes he was convicted of at trial,” a judge wrote in the certificate of innocence released at the time, in 2012.
It gets worse. Not only did none of the hairs presented as evidence in trial belonged to Tribble, the private lab found that one of the hairs actually came from a dog.
Given that the DNA analysis was done in the 70s, it’s not surprising that it wasn’t 100 percent accurate. You would think, however, that the FBI would at least be able to tell the difference between human and animal hair. And, if it couldn’t, it would not send a man to jail for life based faulty evidence.
Cases like Tribble’s are likely to keep surfacing now that the FBI has admitted flawed testimony was used in more than 95 percent of trials during a two-decade period. According to the Washington Post, “the cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those 14 have been executed or died in prison.”
These errors by the FBI possibly sent hundreds or thousands of innocent people to jail. The fact that they happened, combined with the fact that they went on for over 20 years, proves just how messed up our current legal system is.
Sign up for Our Newsletter
Get updates about the policies and topics that matter the most to you. Progressive news directly to your email.