The FBI is no longer analyzing gunshot residue in its investigations, reports the Baltimore Sun. The move is a blow to once highly regarded evidence used to suggest that a suspected criminal had fired a weapon. Lawyers, scientists, and law enforcement officials were astonished by the decision and said it could mean the end of using such evidence. It could become a weapon for the defense in pending cases and in efforts to overturn convictions. “If the premier forensic science organization in the world isn’t using gunshot residue, that certainly raises some questions about it,” said Timothy Brooke of the American Society for Testing and Materials.
A spokeswoman for the FBI Laboratory, said the change was communicated electronically to FBI field offices on March 15. She said the FBI stopped analyzing gunshot residue because of a shift in priorities, not a lack of confidence in the science. This marks the second time in a year that the FBI has distanced itself from forensic evidence. In September, the agency stopped making comparative bullet lead analyses, a four-decades-old technique that purports to link a fired bullet with a particular box of bullets. “Forensic labs only abandon techniques they’ve been using for decades when they realize that what they’re doing is junk science,” said Michele Nethercott of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and a public defender in Baltimore.