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Branstad Announces New Division Designed to Help Wrongly Convicted People

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Governor Branstad announced he's launching a new division designed to help people who are wrongly convicted of crimes.

“We also know in a system operated by humans, mistakes can be made including wrongful convictions,” Branstad said.

The Wrongful Conviction Division will focus on hair comparison analysis. The FBI recently admitted to serious errors in testimony on those tests, many times overstating how close hair from a crime scene matched a defendant.

The FBI trains the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation on hair analysis methods, so the Public Defender's Office wants to review cases where hair comparison analysis was used.

They’re looking at cases from 1980-2000, which was a time when DNA analysis wasn't widely used.

“One of the things that is exciting about this is, if we are able to identify any cases in which those mistakes were made, that hair should be under glass somewhere,” said Iowa State Public Defender Adam Gregg. "We could be able to use DNA technology in order to test those hairs and find out whether they got the right person, and if they didn’t, then we will have the post-conviction relief process in order to correct that mistake."

About 100 cases involving hair comparison have been flagged for review.

The Wrongful Conviction Division is part of the Office of the State Public Defender's Office. It will work with the Division of Criminal Investigation, the Iowa Innocence Project and the Midwest Innocence Project.