Lee Wayne Hunt says he's been behind bars for over 22 years and 6 months, and maintains he's an innocent man. "What I've said from the word get go that I ain't -- never killed nobody. I didn't have nothing to do with this," Hunt told 60 Minutes reporter Steve Kroft.
Hunt was convicted in 1986 of murdering two people in Fayetteville, N.C., based on the testimony of two questionable witnesses and what turned out to be erroneous ballistics testimony from the FBI lab.
For years, the FBI believed that lead in bullets had unique chemical signatures, and that by breaking them down and analyzing them, it was possible to match bullets, not only to a single batch of ammunition coming out of a factory, but to a single box of bullets. And that is what the FBI did in the case of Lee Wayne Hunt, tying a bullet fragment found where the murders took place to a box of bullets the prosecutors linked to Hunt.
"I put it exactly the way it sounded to me, and the way that I believe it to be," Hunt said. "He said that this box of bullets is the same box of bullets that was used to kill these people, made on, about the same time."
"I think everybody in the courtroom assumed that this was valid evidence," said UNC School of Law Professor Richard Rosen.
Asked how important he thinks this was to his client's conviction, Rosen says, "I thought it was very important to our client's conviction. It was the single piece of physical evidence corroborating their story. And it came from, you know, it came from the mountaintop."
The FBI first used bullet lead analysis while investigating the assassination of John F. Kennedy, trying to match pieces of bullets discovered at Dealey Plaza with bullets found in Lee Harvey Oswald's rifle.
By the 1980's, the FBI was routinely using this analysis to link bullet fragments found at a crime scene with bullets found in the possession of a suspect, almost always in cases where more reliable ballistics tests were impossible.
"And could you run like a standard ballistics test on this?" Kroft asks William Tobin, a former chief metallurgist for the FBI.
"No," Tobin says. "They're too deformed for the conventional ballistics examinations."
View an online version of the original 60 Minutes story.
-November 26, 2007