Friday, April 30, 2010

Ballastic comparisions is Science without facts = witchcraft. BPB

Forwarded by:

John E. Darney
Webmaster / Legislative Reporter
Wallkill Rod and Gun Club

The full article is available at:

FBI Comparative-Bullet-Lead-Analysis

Keep in mind that the National Research Council has issued (2008) a finding that questions the validity of ballistic comparison evidence in general citing several deficiencies that effectively render such evidence to be unreliable. Please see the footnote below. Also notice how well the deficiencies described in Comparative Bullet Lead Analysis crop up in condemnations of the other database efforts that have been proposed and de-bunked. What I take away from this fact is the certainty that any such effort on such a huge scale is unmanageable, unreliable and can not furnish facts that are probative. Then there is the issue of just plain old junk science!
Here's the gist of it:


Three people convicted of murder have been released from prison because their cases were tainted by a now discredited theory that bullets found at a crime scene could be linked to bullets found in possession of suspects.

Nearly five years after the FBI abandoned its so-called comparative bullet lead analysis, the FBI has yet to complete its review of nearly 2,500 cases where law enforcement used such evidence to investigate a case.

So far, the agency has found 187 cases where so-called comparative bullet lead analysis evidence was not only used in the investigation, but came into play at trial where FBI experts provided testimony. It has notified prosecutors in those cases where testimony from its experts "exceeds the limits of the science and cannot be supported by the FBI," one agency letter says.

At least three convictions - that of a Colorado man who served 12 years in prison for a double slaying, a Florida man who served 10 years after being convicted of killing his wife, and an Oregon man convicted of a triple slaying - have recently been overturned.

All three men are now free.

Comparative bullet lead analysis was based on the theory that lead bullets pick up trace elements such as copper, antimony, arsenic, bismuth and silver during manufacturing. When the soft metal is shaped into bullets and packaged, bullets in the same box would contain similar amounts of the trace elements, the theory went.

FBI lab technicians compared bullet fragments from a crime scene with bullets possessed by suspects. If the trace elements closely matched, prosecutors - backed by FBI testimony - would argue the suspects' guilt.

Defense attorneys say the analysis appeared to be a miracle of science: It required a small nuclear reactor, once housed at an FBI lab at the Hoover Building in Washington, D.C., and relied on the expertise of only a handful of qualified FBI agents.

FBI experts wowed jurors by explaining how gamma rays, energy released from bombarding a bullet with neutrons, could be measured to make a match.

"Sure, you have this whiz-bang, whipper-dipper machine that looks at all the elements of the universe, but it doesn't mean anything," said attorney Dave Wymore, a former director of the Colorado public defenders office who fought successfully to exclude such evidence in a triple-murder case and won an acquittal in 1999.

The FBI began the tests in the mid-1960s. It quit in 2005, after the National Research Council of the National Academy of Science concluded that while its methods of measuring trace elements were sound, its conclusions were flawed. Millions of other bullets could contain trace elements in identical quantities, the council said. That rendered the FBI's box-by-box conclusions meaningless.

FBI lab spokeswoman Ann Todd said the agency has reviewed about 2,000 cases and is waiting on information from prosecutors who may have used the bullet evidence at trial in the remaining 500 cases. In cases where an FBI expert testified, the agency is reviewing trial transcripts.

Cases where a defendant pleaded guilty aren't being reviewed.


The study was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice's National Institute of Justice. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. A committee roster follows.

Copies of Ballistic Imaging are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at Interested parties may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

More information:
wiki Comparative_bullet-lead_analysis stories