- Associated Press - Friday, June 26, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - An inmate serving a life sentence for a 1979 murder has been assigned an attorney after demonstrating that his conviction was tainted by testimony from a discredited FBI expert.

The Arkansas Supreme Court has appointed John Wesley Hall to help guide 67-year-old Eugene Pitts in petitioning for post-conviction relief. He’s the second Arkansas inmate to get court-appointed help after news that forensic testimony used against him and others went beyond the limits of science, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1NiUG1s ) reported.

His case is one of at least three Arkansas cases regarding the hair analysis that are being reviewed by the FBI, Justice Department and the Innocence Project, a New York-based legal group seeking to free inmates believed to be wrongly convicted.

Since the review started in 2012, federal officials have determined that 26 of their 28 non-DNA microscopic hair-follicle analysts gave “erroneous” testimony in 95 percent of the cases they reviewed.

Pitts has been in prison since his conviction for the kidnapping and slaying of Bernard Jones, a romantic rival.

Jones’ wife had arrived home in January 1979 to find her front door unlocked and her husband’s keys still in the door. A masked man held her at gunpoint and tied her up after she went inside.

She later testified that she recognized Pitts’ voice because she had gone to law school with him. She had a restraining order against Pitts, who was suspected of having mailed her husband a bullet with his name on it.

In addition to the voice identification, prosecutors supported their case against Pitts with testimony of an FBI analyst who said that Pitts’ hair virtually matched a hair found at the crime scene.

Pitts’ attorney, Hall, said Thursday that he isn’t yet familiar with the case but that he’s watched prosecutors scale back the credibility of microscopic hair analysis.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com



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