Frederic Whitehurst

by Joy Wolf

(Frederic Whitehurst (
(Frederic Whitehurst (

Frederic Whitehurst, the first successful Federal Bureau of Investigation whistleblower forced the president of the United States to execute an executive order ensuring whistleblower protection of all FBI agents who expose misconduct. He worked as a Supervisory Special Agent in the FBI crime lab from 1986- 1998. His case exposed forensic fraud in the lab and subjected it to outside oversight for the first time.

Whitehurst testified at the state murder trial of Terry L. Nichols that a government scientist had lied when he said that ammonium nitrate crystals found on debris from the Oklahoma City bombing had been embedded by the force of the blast. He testified for the defense saying that a scientist who he had trained had lied when he said that the crystals came from the kind of fertilizer believed to have been used in the bombing. Whitehurst concluded that there wasn't enough evidence to make that kind of statement. The Justice Department inspector general's office investigated the laboratory for more than a year and criticized it not only for flawed analysis, but also for inaccurate testimony in cases across the country.

Whitehurst focused on a shredded piece of plywood. In his testimony he stated that the wood, recovered two days after the bombing, and which was believed to have come from the cargo container of the rented truck that delivered the bomb is the only piece of direct evidence of the explosive used. He said that he saw the crystals through a microscope after a colleague found them, but he really couldn't tell if they were embedded in the evidence or were a result of contamination, since ammonium nitrate could have been on the premises independent of the bombing of the federal building.

The FBI officially rated Whitehurst as the leading national and international expert in the science of explosives and explosive residue. When he uncovered scientific misconduct that forced the lab to agree to more than forty major reforms, including an accreditation process, he underwent extreme scrutiny and retaliation from his employer, the U.S. government.

After receiving a PhD. In chemistry from Duke University, Whitehurst went on to complete a J.D. at Georgetown University. He currently practices criminal law in North Carolina and is the director of the Forensic Justice Project. The Forensic Justice Project seems to make sure that innocent people have not been wrongly convicted because of the misuse of forensic science. They also offer objective evaluation on evidence, publish and distribute necessary information used by crime labs nationwide, and offer expert testimony in civil and criminal cases.

Page created on 4/3/2016 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 4/3/2016 12:00:00 AM

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Related Links

Dr. Frederic Whitehurst - National Whistleblowers Protection Blog