A man on death row for killing three elderly siblings in Pennsylvania more than three decades ago will get a chance to argue that his latest conviction was based on a flawed hair analysis.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that 62-year-old David Chmiel will have the opportunity to raise questions about the reliability of the forensic tests that led to his 2002 conviction, the third guilty verdict in a case first decided in 1984.
The basis of the high court's ruling, a justice wrote, stems from a 2015 admission from the FBI that said testimony given by its microscopic hair examiners had been wrong in a vast majority of cases. The FBI has also said that they've given trainings to several hundred of local authorities who used the same "scientifically flawed language" employed by its federal examiners during criminal trials.
Chmiel's 2002 conviction featured the testimony of a state police forensic examiner who "opined that hair found at the crime scene was microscopically similar to Chmiel's hair," the Supreme Court decision read, adding that the recent discrediting of such analysis makes the case ripe for review.
The 1983 slayings of Angelina, James and Victor Lunario, all in their late 60s and early 70s, in a northeastern Pennsylvania home also came with burglary and robbery charges. An attorney for Chmiel did not immediately return a voicemail message seeking comment.
The supreme court's decision sends the case back to a lower court in Lackawanna County, where Chmiel will get to ask a judge for a new trial.