You may recall the case of Richard Jewell, the security guard whose keen eye and quick thinking saved lives in the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in 1996. Jewell was hounded as a suspect for several months in the investigation that ultimately led to the conviction of Eric Rudolph in 2005.
Radley Balko writing over at Reason recounts the experience of Anthrax suspect Steven Hatfill, subjected to similar harassment and abuse by overzealous investigators, but over years instead of months. That case was seemingly resolved last year when Bruce Ivins committed suicide in the wake of FBI accusations that he was the culprit. Now, a colleague of Ivins disputes the FBI’s conclusion arguing that the anthrax spores linked back to Ivins’ lab were “like tracing a murder to the clerk at the sporting goods store who sold the bullets.”
Not to minimize the very real danger of out-of-control officials more interested in convictions than in justice, but there was much more evidence then just the spores. I found the FBI’s summary of evidence against Ivins (released in February 2010) compelling, particularly in the way they traced Ivins back to the Princeton origin of the mailings. If Ivins weren’t the Anthrax mailer, it had to be someone close enough to him to do a thorough job of framing him.