Hairs being compared under the microscope
The Hair Evidence
Anomalous hairs were retrieved from the victims, their clothing, the crime scene and other items entered into evidence. These are
Hairs were compared by microscope for similarities with hairs taken from suspects and family members by the forensic laboratories in Arkansas and Alabama. These analyses were performed on several occasions as more samples became available.The above list was compiled from the DNA testing motions and the evidence lists. The case summary added this comment: "A dark colored hair, most likely Caucasian, was located on the buttock of one victim and the neck area of another;" although this does not correspond to any of those in the above list. Only the hairs removed from Stevie Branch's head were described as proximal cut. The Negroid hair and hairs from E147 "knife with black sheath" were described as fragments. Hairs with roots can be tested by either mtDNA or STR DNA analysis while hairs missing the roots can only be tested by mtDNA.
In the first set of analyses, the Arkansas State Criminal Laboratories reported on May 24, 1993, the hairs from Stevie Branch (FP5 93-05717) were compared to those from Damien Echols submitted for evidence on May 11th. The results were described as inconclusive and more hairs from Damien Echols were requested.
After the arrests, a second set of hairs were obtained from Damien Echols and on June 29, 1993 another report was issued. In this case the same hairs from Stevie Branch were found to be similar to the new sample from Echols and also to hairs from suspect Tim Dodson. Some of the Echols and Dodson's hairs were described as very similar to each other. Also in this report the hair found on Chris Byers perineum was described as being similar to other hairs from Chris Byers' head.
A second set of hairs were obtained from Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. [E143 and E146, respectively]. These were compared to the queried hairs. A report dated September 9, 1993 from the Arkansas Laboratory stated: "Due to submission of addition standards, a caucasian head hair recovered from the ligatures (FP8 - 5718) [Christopher Byers] was found to be microscopically similar to hairs in E143a. [Jason Baldwin]"
Alabama Department of Forensic Science examined slides with the hairs retrieved from Stevie Branch (FP5 93-05717, the same referred to in the Arkansas reports) along with two hairs retrieved from Chris Byers, one from his leg and one from beneath his ligature, and one hair found on the Cub Scout cap. Not examined were the Negroid hair, the dyed hair, the hair found near the tree trunk, or any of the other hairs found on the bodies or the victims' clothing. On January 5, 1994, they reported the hairs found on Stevie Branch "exhibited some similarities to both the known hair of Echols and Dodson." They also found the hair on the lower leg of Chris Byers to be similar to the hairs from Echols (although Arkansas hadn't come to this conclusion). The other hairs were deemed "either dissimilar to the known hairs of the suspects or in this examiner's opinion lack sufficient microscopic characteristics for an adequate comparison."
On January 20 the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory reported on the questioned hairs from the lower leg of Byers and those from Stevie Branch to hairs taken from family members. The hairs from Stevie Branch were also found similar to those from his biological father, Steve Branch, Sr. Although Alabama had hair samples from Steve Branch, Sr., they did not reach this conclusion.
Only one hair, that from an unspecified knife, was analyzed by HLA DQ alpha. The results came back with 1.1, 4 matching that of Chris and John Mark Byers. These results were only referred to in passing in the Echols/Baldwin trial with no follow-up by the prosecutor or by the defense. Prosecutor Fogleman questioning the head of Genetic Designs Lab, Michael DeGuglielmo:
Fogleman: But other than those things, nothing matched anybody?The findings from the hair analyses were not part of the prosecution's case. The reason may have been due to the multiple unexplained hairs that were not found similar to the suspects or else due to the fact that the ones that were found similar were also found similar to multiple sources. The Alabama and Arkansas laboratories had different conclusions. For the sample from Steve Branch, Arkansas found some of the questioned hairs similar to Echols, Dodson and Branch, Sr. and Alabama finding similarities only to Echols and Dodson. Arkansas found similarities between Baldwin's hair and a queried hair from Christopher Byers ligature. The criteria for determining similarity was also different between labs. Alabama excluded both hairs which lacked sufficient microscopic characteristics for comparison and those that were not found similar, while Arkansas requested a second sample from Echols after the results from the first set of hairs were inconclusive and a second set from Baldwin and Misskelley after no similarities were found after comparisons with the first set.
The defense attorneys brought up the unexplained Negroid hair as possibly pointing to another perpetrator - but did not bring up the other unsourced hairs. In the defense's summation, the mysterious Bojangles man was suggested to be a source of the Negroid hair.
Although the hair evidence didn't play a prominent role in the trial, most of the potentially meaningful biological evidence from the crime scene for the DNA analyses is in the hairs. All previous findings of similarity or exclusion became moot with the DNA results.
Richard Cummings, recent. Hairs found
on two different knives seized from his
home were sent for comparison.
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