A federal judge cleared Portland, Ore., attorney Brandon Mayfield of ties to the Madrid train bombings after the FBI made the stunning admission that it erred analyzing fingerprint recordss, reports the Seattle Times. Portland FBI agent in charge Robert Jordan said the error, based on a “substandard” copy of the prints, will prompt the agency to review its guidelines for making identifications and ask an international panel to analyze what went wrong. He apologized to Mayfield, a former Army officer and Muslim convert who was mistakenly arrested this month as a material witness in the March 11 terrorist attack that killed 191 and wounded 2,000.
Mayfield, 37, said, “I am just two or three days out of the detention facility, and I’m just starting not to shake…”I’ve been singled out and discriminated against, I feel, as a Muslim.” U.S. Attorney Karin Immergut of Portland replied, “I can assure you that is not true.”
The flawed case raises new concerns about the reliability of FBI procedures in fingerprint forensic science. Only last weekend did two agents fly to Madrid to take a look at the original print Spanish officials eventually linked to an Algerian with a criminal record.
“Why was a substandard image used to make a positive identification?” asked Arizona-based expert Pat Wertheim. “I’m sure the FBI will be doing a lot of soul-searching. A lot of us in the fingerprint profession will be waiting for the answer so that we can adopt measures to prevent a repeat of this tragic arrest.”
Mayfield, citing the material witness law under which he was held, said, “There are other material witnesses languishing away. In my estimation, it’s an abuse of the judicial process.” Once the FBI made its erroneous match, it then built up a case against Mayfield based, in part, on his legal work and associations in the Muslim community, The Times said, citing court records.