There could be far-reaching consequences now that prosecutors have dropped charges against a western Massachusetts man who spent 30 years in prison for a rape he says he did not commit.
George Perrot was a teenager in 1985 when he was convicted of raping a Springfield woman.
The key evidence was a piece of hair that an FBI agent testified must have been Perrot's, based on a microscopic analysis.
Journalist Florence Graves investigated Perrot's case for the Schuster Institute at Brandeis University.
"When people hear an FBI agent saying something emphatically, and it says it’s science, it’s hard to know about all of these… to question an FBI agent, frankly,” Graves said.
But scientists have since debunked that hair analysis method, and in February 2016, a judge let Perrot out of jail -- with the chance of a new trial.
This week, the Hampden Country District Attorney's office decided to drop all charges against Perrot, citing the FBI's own disavowal of its method.
Graves said the dismissal, believed to be the first based on faulty hair science, could have broad ramifications.
“We now know that there are hundreds — well, there are actually thousands of cases — in which the FBI agents testified, all across the United States,” Graves said. “They trained people at police departments in their methodology. So there are thousands of cases out there.”
Graves said her investigative team is trying to find as many of those cases as possible to determine who else was wrongfully convicted.
For his part, George Perrot is in a mild state of shock, according to his lawyer, Christopher Walsh.
“The biggest effect of this is just lifting the cloud from over him,” Walsh said. “Of course, the past 20 months since he’s been out of prison have been substantially better than when he was behind bars. But he still had something hanging over his head.”
Walsh said Perrot has been working for a friend's home renovation business since he left prison. He said they have not discussed the possibility of suing the state for compensation for Perrot's three decades behind bars.