Crime Lab and Forensic Scandals

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20150305 – Prosecutors criticize D.C. crime lab’s handling of some DNA evidence
Prosecutors criticize D.C. crime lab’s handling of some DNA evidence March 5, 2015 by Keith L. Alexander, The Washington Post 2015-03-05
20141030 – Suffolk DA warns defense lawyers of crime lab error
Suffolk DA warns defense lawyers of crime lab error October 30, 2014 by Kathleen Kerr, Newsday 2014-10-30
Crime Lab & Forensic Scandals
Crime Lab Scandals Federal 2012 – FBI testimony on microscopic hair comparison found to be unreliable, starting a review of more than 21,000 cases handled before 2000. California 2013 – George Souliotes was convicted of setting a house fire that killed a woman and two children in 1997. His convict
20140807 – Broward Crime Lab Scandal Could Taint Many Cases
Broward Crime Lab Scandal Could Taint Many Cases August 7, 2014 by Kyle Swenson, Miami New Times 2014-08-07
20140808 – Columbus crime-lab error might affect 38 cases
Columbus crime-lab error might affect 38 cases August 8, 2014 by Allison Manning, The Columbus Dispatch 2014-08-08
20140716 – Investigators blast Justice Dept.’s handling of FBI crime lab problems
Investigators blast Justice Dept.’s handling of FBI crime lab problems July 16, 2014 by Michael Doyle, McClatchy DC News 2014-07-16
20140626 – Report shows Houston crime lab tech admitted knowing he wasn’t following proper lab procedures
Report shows Houston crime lab tech admitted knowing he wasn’t following proper lab procedures June 26, 2014 Associated Press 2014-06-26
20140507 – State crime lab analyst faces additional charges
State crime lab analyst faces additional charges May 7, 2014 The Associated Press 2014-05-07
20140505 – Crime lab uses wrong chemical in 2,500 methamphetamine tests in Santa Clara County
Crime lab uses wrong chemical in 2,500 methamphetamine tests in Santa Clara County May 5, 2014 by Tracey Kaplan, The Son Jose Mercury News 2014-05-05
20140421 – Crime lab delays costly in many ways
Editorial: Crime lab delays costly in many ways April 21, 2014 The Austin American-Statesman 2014-04-21
20140403 – Manager and analyst at Broward crime lab resign
Manager and analyst at Broward crime lab resign April 3, 2014 by Linda Trischitta, Sun Sentinel 2014-04-03
20140306 – Former crime lab employee charge with 6 felonies
Former crime lab employee charge with 6 felonies March 6, 2014 by Dan Joling, Associated Press 2014-03-06
20140305 – Crime lab chemist’s cases under review after missing-drug allegation
Crime lab chemist’s cases under review after missing-drug allegation March 5, 2014 by Linda Trischitta, Florida Sun-Sentinel 2014-03-05
20140205 – Misconduct led to drug probe of crime lab chief
Misconduct led to drug probe of crime lab chief February 5, 2014 by Kevin Robinson, Pensacola News Journal 2014-02-05
20140202 – Fla. crime lab probed for evidence tampering
Fla. crime lab probed for evidence tampering February 2, 2014 by Rob Johnson, Pensacola News Journal 2014-02-02
20140115 – Review of crime lab drug testing spurs criminal probe, Alaska officials say
Review of crime lab drug testing spurs criminal probe, Alaska officials say January 15, 2014 by Casey Grove, Anchorage Daily News 2014-01-15
20140115 – Ariz. court ruling allows use of Scottsdale crime lab’s DUI blood-test results as evidence
Ariz. court ruling allows use of Scottsdale crime lab’s DUI blood-test results as evidence January 15, 2014 Associated Press 2014-01-15
20131226 – St. Paul crime lab problems aren’t leading to overturned convictions
St. Paul crime lab problems aren’t leading to overturned convictions December 26, 2013 by Chao Xiong, Minneapolis Star Tribune 2013-12-26
20131205 – Report Details the Extent of a Crime Lab Technician’s Errors in Handling Evidence
Report Details the Extent of a Crime Lab Technician’s Errors in Handling Evidence December 5, 2013 Report Details the Extent of a Crime Lab Technician’s Errors in Handling Evidence 2013-12-05
20131123 – Examining The ‘Red Flags’ In A Massachusetts Crime Lab Scandal
Examining The ‘Red Flags’ In A Massachusetts Crime Lab Scandal November 23, 2013 by Deborah Becker, NPR 2013-11-23
20131107 – Orange County Crime Lab made error in calculating blood-alcohol levels, could affect 20 cases
Orange County Crime Lab made error in calculating blood-alcohol levels, could affect 20 cases November 7, 2013 The Associated Press 2013-11-07
20130815 – St. Paul police crime lab back up and running after scandal
St. Paul police crime lab back up and running after scandal August 15, 2013 by Tim Nelson, Minessota Public Radio 2013-08-15
20130719 – Ex-San Francisco crime lab tech at center of scandal sentenced on cocaine charge
Ex-San Francisco crime lab tech at center of scandal sentenced on cocaine charge July 19, 2013 Associated Press 2013-07-19
20130614 – Crack missing from BSO crime lab ignites dispute, call to review cases
Crack missing from BSO crime lab ignites dispute, call to review cases June 14, 2013 by Megan O’Matz, Sun Sentinel 2013-06-14
20130607 – Dakota County judge reaches decision in crime lab hearings
Dakota County judge reaches decision in crime lab hearings June 7, 2013 by Chao Xiong and Nicole Norfleet, Start Tribune 2013-06-07
20130503 – Decision expected soon in St. Paul crime lab case
Decision expected soon in St. Paul crime lab case May 3, 2013 by Madeleine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio 2013-05-03
20130420 – Washington state crime lab faces Texas-size quandary: How to deal with old cases processed by lab manager accused of misconduct?
Washington state crime lab faces Texas-size quandary: How to deal with old cases processed by lab manager accused of misconduct? April 20, 2013 Grits for Breakfast 2013-04-20
20121011 – Top judge: Mass. crime lab scandal could have substantial impact on cases in federal court in Boston
Top judge: Mass. crime lab scandal could have substantial impact on cases in federal court in Boston October 11, 2012 by Milton J. Valencia, Boston Globe 2012-10-11
20121003 – Judge Declares Mistrial In SFPD Crime Lab Cocaine Theft Case
Judge Declares Mistrial In SFPD Crime Lab Cocaine Theft Case October 3, 2012 by Julia Cheever, The San Francisco Appeal 2012-10-03
Calls for crime lab to shut down amid more evidence doubts
Calls for crime lab to shut down amid more evidence doubts, September 20, 2012 by Madeleine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio 2012-09-20
First drug inmate to be freed in state crime lab scandal
First drug inmate to be freed in state crime lab scandal, September 19, 2012 by Matt Stout, Boston Herald 2012-09-19
More criticism of St. Paul’s crime lab in second day of drug case
More criticism of St. Paul’s crime lab in second day of drug case, July 17, 2012 by Madeleine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio 2012-07-17
Failures at the FBI crime lab
Failures at the FBI crime lab, April 20, 2012 Editorial, The Washington Post 2012-04-20
Baltimore 2
Baltimore County Police Department Baltimore, Maryland Crime Lab Story Baltimore crime analysts have been contaminating evidence with their own DNA – a revelation that led to the dismissal this week of the city Police Department’s crime lab director and prompted questions yesterday from defense attorneys a
Broward County(2)
Broward County (FL) Sheriff’s Crime Lab Broward County, Florida Crime Lab Story Analyst accidently contaminated crime scene evidence resulting in felony charges droped in case. Sources McMahon, Crime Lab Botches Murder Inquiry; Prosecutors must drop Charges after DNA Evidence is Contaminated , Sun-
Detroit 2
Detroit Police Crime Lab Detroit, Michigan Crime Lab Story Criminal justice officials are struggling to calculate the impact of an audit released Thursday that exposed rampant problems in the Detroit Police firearms laboratory and resulted in the shutdown of the department’s entire crime lab. The Michig
Fort Worth
Fort Worth Police Crime Lab Fort Worth, Texas Crime Lab Story Senior forensic scientist fired over failure to follow protocol in proficiency test, errors found on review of case work. Later, contamination issue raised about serology unit and another scientist (Treva Armstrong). Armstrong was transferred to
California Crime Laboratory Review Task Force An Examination of Forensic Science in California
Since the criminal justice system depends on high-quality forensic science services, California enacted legislation in October 2007 to review the state’s crime laboratory system (Assembly Bill 1079, Richardson) with a mandate to the Department of Justice to create and chair the California Crime Laboratory Review Task Force.This is a report of the Task Force
Georgia
Georgia Bureau of Identification Georgia Crime Lab Story A fingerprint mix-up at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab may have linked the wrong man to a 2005 Dallas murder, authorities said. And the error could unravel the 3-year-old murder case, authorities said. “That fingerprint was a key piece
Traverse City
Michigan State Police Crime Lab Traverse City, Michigan Crime Lab Story Barna (identified by confidential sources) a former supervisor in the Michigan State Police Crime Lab’s DNA analysis unit had a subordinate take a required proficiency test for him last year, an internal investigation found. Barna left
St. Paul
Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension St. Paul, Minnesota Crime Lab Story Crime lab supervisor charged with felony drug possession for stealing cocaine from lab storage. Sources Prather, Minnesota crime lab supervisor charged with cocaine possession , Pioneer Press, 3/7/05. [Free registratio
Orlando
Florida Department of Law Enforcement Crime Lab Orlando, Florida Crime Lab Story DNA expert resigned after caught cheating on proficiency test by switching samples and falsifying data. Sources Stutzman, Judge Rips FDLE Silence in Lab Flap; A Worker’S Cheating on a Test Could Affect A Seminole Mu
Indianapolis
Marion Co. Forensic Services Agency Indianapolis, Indiana Crime Lab Story Administrator fired for covering up crime lab errors. Sources Horne, T. “Crime lab boss placed on leave: Mayor removes longtime director amid allegations he helped cover up wrongdoing,” Indianapolis Star, January 25, 2004
Houston 3
Houston Police Crime Lab Houston, Texas Crime Lab Story Mistakenly identified recovered bullet as .25 caliber consistent with defendant’s firearm rather than .22 caliber consistent with cooperating witness’ firearm Sources Williams v. Quarterman, 551 F.3d 352, 355-56 (5th Cir. 2008) Michael R
Houston
Houston Police Department Crime Lab Houston, Texas Crime Lab Story Administrator, recommended to be fired for failure to supervise. Sources Police chief shakes up crime lab; 2 officials quit   Recommended by: Lisa Steele
Baltimore
Baltimore County Police Department Baltimore, Maryland Crime Lab Story Police chemist fired after falsifying blood evidence. Sources Hanes, Ex-crime lab chemist’s work questioned, Baltimore Sun, Feb. 22, 2003 . Hanes, Chemist quit crime lab job after hearing, papers show; She acknowledged repo
Chicago
Illinois State Police Chicago, Illinois Crime Lab Story Supervisor at the Illinois State Police crime lab gave false testimony in nine cases, including trials that resulted in wrongful rape convictions of three men. Sources Possley & Armstrong, Lab Tech in Botched Case Promoted-Testimony Hel
Williams v. Illinois
Williams v. Illinois, U.S. Sup. Ct., No. 10-8505, case below, 238 Ill.2d 125 (2010), brief filed 9/7/11, argument 12/6/11. Confrontation Clause—Expert Testimony—Scientific Evidence—DNA. Amicus curiae brief of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Argument: DNA laboratory analysts are not infallible. Developing a DNA profile of a suspect from biologic evidence collected in a criminal investigation is a complicated process requiring skill and judgment; making the prosecution expert who declares a DNA “match” available for cross-examination does not obviate the necessity of cross-examination of the lab analyst who actually did the benchwork developing the DNA profile. Authors: Sandra K. Levick and Catharine F. Easterly, Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, Washington, DC.
Campbell v. North Dakota
Campbell v. North Dakota, No. 06-664, lower court opinion: 719 N.W.2d 374 (N.D. 2006). Amicus brief Law Professors Paul C. Gianelli, Pamela Metzger, and Andrew E. Taslitz, NACDL, the Innocence Project and the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. Cert. denied, January 22, 2007. Question: whether the prosecution can prove the forensic part of its case by affidavit — by introducing crime lab reports without putting the author on the stand — so long as the defense is given the opportunity to call the lab analyst to the stand as a defense witness. Requiring the defense to bear the burden of presenting evidence regarding a central component of the prosecution’s case, evidence that is created by a paid agent of the government for trial, is antithetical to our adversarial system of criminal justice. Authors: Timothy O’Toole, et al., D.C. Public Defender Service, Washington, D.C.
North Carolina
North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation North Carolina Crime Lab Story Bloodstain pattern analysts Gerald Thomas and his mentor, Duane Deaver, embraced the prosecutors’ theory. Thomas quietly changed his initial report, which was consistent with self-defense. After a renowned bloodstain pattern expert
Seminole County
Seminole County Sheriff’s Office Seminole County, Florida Crime Lab Story One involved a fingerprint match that wasn’t really a match. Discredited former Seminole County Sheriff’s Office fingerprint expert Donna Birks told jurors that a print at the crime scene matched Buzia. However, a defense print expe
Sanford
Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime lab Sanford, Florida Crime Lab Story Donna Birks, an 11-year department veteran with nearly 25 years of fingerprint expertise, was suspended with pay April 4 after a co-worker complained that she had made a positive identification of a print that was impossible
Middletown
Connecticut State Police Forensic Lab Middletown, Connecticut Crime Lab Story Henry C. Lee – the world-renowned forensic scientist who has come under fire for allegedly concealing evidence in the murder trial of record producer Phil Spector – Tuesday detailed his investigation of the case and said he was
Seminole County
Seminole County Sheriff’s Office Seminole County, Florida Crime Lab Story One involved a fingerprint match that wasn’t really a match. Discredited former Seminole County Sheriff’s Office fingerprint expert Donna Birks told jurors that a print at the crime scene matched Buzia. However, a defense print expe
North Carolina
North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation North Carolina Crime Lab Story Bloodstain pattern analysts Gerald Thomas and his mentor, Duane Deaver, embraced the prosecutors’ theory. Thomas quietly changed his initial report, which was consistent with self-defense. After a renowned bloodstain pattern expert
Marion County
Marion County Forensic Services Agency Marion County, Indiana Crime Lab Story DNA analyst Kuppareddi Balamurugan allegedly was tampering with a co-worker’s tests and skipping steps in his own lab work, Balamurugan resigned in August, 2002. Two administrators, Director Jim Hamby and Assistant Director John
Tacoma 2
Washington State Patrol Tacoma, Washington Crime Lab Story Smelser’s lab report failed to mention that he’d contaminated a DNA sample with his own DNA and thus had to run the test three times. Smelser mis-informed the prosecutor about the amount of the sample he had consumed. Questions raised about Smelse
Tacoma
Washington State Patrol Tacoma, Washington Crime Lab Story DNA cross-contamination creates mystery suspect in case. Dornan temporarily taken off casework during investigation. Sources Teichroeb, Rare look inside state crime labs reveals recurring DNA test problems , Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 7
Suffolk County
New York State Police Crime Lab Suffolk County, New York Crime Lab Story Serologist pled guilty in 1992 to perjury stemming from falsification of qualifications and training. Sources Lee & Tirnday, Blood Evidence (2003) at 104. Recommended by: Lisa Steele
Spokane
Washington State Patrol Spokane, Washington Crime Lab Story Plea deal, drug conviction vacated as a result of flawed lab work. Article notes that Melnikoff is appealing his firing from the lab, calling it politically motivated. Teichroeb, Ordeal in flawed drug case is over; First sentence to be vacated a
Seattle 2
Washington State Patrol Seattle, Washington Crime Lab Story Olsen falsely identified the wrong culprit by mis-interpreting lab results. Error caught in internal peer-review. Possible effect of suggestion/confirmation bias because Olsen was aware of investigator’s focus on suspect. Other errors found due to
Sanford
Florida Department of Law Enforcement Crime Lab Sanford, Florida Crime Lab Story Donna Birks, an 11-year department veteran with nearly 25 years of fingerprint expertise, was suspended with pay April 4 after a co-worker complained that she had made a positive identification of a print that was impossible t
San Francisco 2
San Francisco Police San Francisco, California Crime Lab Story Narcotics analysist improperly tested evidence. Sources Thompson, Police crime labs are churning out tainted evidence – and nobody’s doing anything about it , San Francisco Bay Guardian, Nov. 22, 2000. Zamora, Lab scandal jeopard
San Antonio
Bexar County Medical Examiner San Antonio, Texas Crime Lab Story Zain also worked in West Virginia. Sources Update: In re Investigation of the W. Va. State Police Crime Lab., Serology Div., 438 S.E.2d 501, 503 (W. Va. 1993) (report on Zain’s actions) Taylor, Faked Evidence Becomes Real Probl
Richmond
Virginia Division of Forensic Science Richmond, Virginia Crime Lab Story FBI disagrees with Virginia report inclupating suspect based on fiber analysis. Sources “When a Lab Gets It Wrong,” The Washington Post, June 15, 1997 at C8. Whitehurst, Forensic Crime Labs: Scrutinizing Results, A
Port Crane
New York State Police Southern Tier Regional Crime Laboratory Port Crane, New York Crime Lab Story Judith McMorris was suspended with pay in June, 1998, after failing two proficiency tests by not doing all the analyses she later certified she had done. Sources O’Brien, State Police Suspend Chemi
Pittsburg 2
Pennsylvania State Police Crime Lab Pittsburg, Pennsylvania Crime Lab Story After a routine annual audit of Houtz’s work, her supervisors said they found four cases in which she had missed evidence. Sources Herbert, Ex-forensic scientist defends record , Philadephia Inquirer, Jan 21, 2004. Levy
Montpelier
Vermont State Police Crime Lab Montpelier, Vermont Crime Lab Story Defendant sues three fingerprint experts (Upper Darby Detective Anthony Paparo, Detective William Welsh Jr. of the Delaware County Criminal Investigation Division, and Jon Creighton, a Vermont forensic laboratory specialist) for misidentif
Milwaukee
Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory Milwaukee, Wisconsin Crime Lab Story Fingerprint examiner sentenced to probation for mis-representing tests performed. Caught by internal audit of procedures. Sources Doege, Fingerprint technician gets probation for falsifying records , Milwalkee Journal Sentina
Middletown
Connecticut State Police Forensics Laboratory Middletown, Connecticut Crime Lab Story Henry C. Lee – the world-renowned forensic scientist who has come under fire for allegedly concealing evidence in the murder trial of record producer Phil Spector – Tuesday detailed his investigation of the case and said
Marysville
Washington State Patrol Marysville, Washington Crime Lab Story Analysis testing narcotics discovered stealing samples for his own habit. Sources Burkitt, Drug use tainted evidence in state crime lab , Seattle Times, July 11, 2001. WSP Drug Lab Taint Lets Felon Withdraw Guilty Plea
Lubbock
Texas State Crime Lab Lubbock, Texas Crime Lab Story Texas serologist botched test, falsely inculpating rape suspect. DNA exoneration by Innocence Project. Orchid Cellmark, which retested the evidence concluded that there was no match and “a properly conducted serological analysis may have excluded Mr. Mo
Los Angeles
Los Angeles Police Crime Lab Los Angeles, California Crime Lab Story A Los Angeles police chemist botched evidence in 47 narcotics cases, leading to a review of all 972 drug cases he handled, reports the Los Angeles Times. The errors have prompted inquires by the Los Angeles Police Department and prosecut
Houston 2
Houston Police Department Crime Lab Houston, Texas Crime Lab Story UPDATE: State District Judge Jan Krocker ruled that there is probable cause to believe that former lab chief James Bolding committed aggravated perjury during the June 2002 trial of Keith Grimes, who was convicted of sexual assault. McVic
Hattiesburg
Hattiesburg, Mississippi Crime Lab Story Sources Keely & Wearne,Tainting Evidence: Inside the Scandals at the FBI Crime Lab (2001) Recommended by: Lisa Steele
Great Bend
Kansas Bureau of Investigation Great Bend, Kansas Crime Lab Story Kansas lab (nationally accredited) mislabled DNA sample, thus causing it to not match a suspect to crime scene evidence. This is an evidence handling issue, not technically a DNA issue. Sources Purinton, KBI to be investigated: Mi
Garden City
Garden City Police Department Garden City, Georgia Crime Lab Story Police sgt convicted on Jan. 5, 1997, of evidence tampering (creating false fingerprints) and making false statements. Kaminsky had used a defendant’s ink fingerprints, taken by police, and duplicated them on a card, calling them crime-sce
Boston 5
Massachusetts Medical Examiner Boston, Massachusetts Crime Lab Story Medical examiner mischaracterized homicide as accident, two suspects confessed to police. Issues raised about thoroughess of crime scene investigation, presence of unexplained semen that does not match suspects. Sources Mashber
News Release ~ 09/22/1998
News Release ~ 09/22/1998  Statement of Larry S. Pozner, President National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers On FBI Laboratory Accreditation
Forensic Crime Labs: Scrutinizing Results, Audits & Accreditation – Part I
Forensic Crime Labs: Scrutinizing Results, Audits & Accreditation Part I
By Frederic Whitehurst in April 2004
Category: The Champion Magazine
Forensics The Challenge of Forensic Evidence
Forensics– The Challenge of Forensic Evidence William C. Thompson
By William C. Thompson in September/October 2004
Category: The Champion Magazine
State Legislative Initiatives
This page contains recent state level initiatives on crime labs
John R. Justice Grant text
John R. Justice Grant text
Crime Labs & Forensics Reform
The great number of exonerations and crime lab scandals has increased recognition of deficiencies with forensic evidence.  Forensic evidence presented in court is at times based on speculative research, subjective interpretations, and inadequate quality control procedures.This page discusses NACDL’s view of the NAS report and its stance on forensics reform in general.
NACDL Comments on Reforming Forensic Science
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Comments on Reforming Forensic Science Issue: Promoting Quality Forensic Science in Our Criminal Justice System. The conclusion of the National Research Counsel after two years of study is that most forensic science disciplines lack any scientific basis for the claim
Seattle 3
Washington State Patrol Seattle, Washington Crime Lab Story Brown missed a marker in dentifying a suspect. Error caught in review by supervisor. Brown’s report did not include the first test. When defense attorney confronted Brown about discrepancies in lab report, Brown lied to conceal the error. Brown re
Phoenix
Phoenix Crime Lab Phoenix, Arizona Crime Lab Story Technicans made errors in at least 9 cases. According to one report “Police said insufficiently trained lab technicians using a rare method of DNA testing were to blame for the “statistical computation errors.” The method, called the “likelihood ratio sys
Las Vegas 2
Las Vegas Police Crime Lab Las Vegas, Nevada Crime Lab Story Sloppy lab work mislabels samples leading to wrong man being accused of rape. Sources Paul, Audit calls for changes in police DNA lab , Las Vegas Sun, May 23, 2002, at 1. Additional sources to Las Vegas Police Crime Lab   P
Austin
Austin Police Department Crime Lab Austin, Texas Crime Lab Story Crime lab technician used luminol to find stains which he assumed to be bloodstains without further testing. Mowbray charged with homicide of her husband instead a finding that husband had committed suicide. Mowbray was convicted of m
Mistakes Will be Made
Mistakes Will be Made E.E. (Bo) Edwards
By E.E. (Bo) Edwards in April 2004
WEBCAST – SANE Exams
WEBCAST – SANE Exams Forensic Analysis of SANE Examinations in Abuse Cases – Featuring Laura Schile In this program, you will learn the forensic role of a SANE Nurse, how to question them, what discovery is important and what is irrelevant, and what questions to ask during voir dire in child sexual a
News Release ~ 02/15/2013
Four Years On, No Action on NAS Forensic Science Report; Across the Nation, Crime Lab Scandals Abound —Washington, DC (February 15, 2013) – Four years ago Monday, on February 18, 2009, the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) issued a report to Congress sharply critical of the forensic science system in the U.S., finding an inconsistent system rife with “serious deficiencies.”
Springfield
Missouri State Highway Patrol Springfield, Missouri Crime Lab Story SPRINGFIELD — A chemist at the regional crime lab of the Missouri State Highway Patrol in Springfield may have stolen methamphetamine that he was assigned to test for criminal cases. If it turns out to be true, the chemist’s crimes coul

 

Crime Lab & Forensic Scandals

Federal

2012 – FBI testimony on microscopic hair comparison found to be unreliable, starting a review of more than 21,000 cases handled before 2000.

California

2014 – Crime lab analysts in San Jose were found to be using the wrong chemical to conduct preliminary methamphetamine tests on over 2,500 blood samples from those arrested on suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance. The samples were retested, and only seven of those tested showed a false positive because of the different chemical.

2013 – George Souliotes was convicted of setting a house fire that killed a woman and two children in 1997. His conviction was based on arson evidence that has since been discredited. The California Attorney General admitted that the arson evidence used in the case was faulty and that there is no scientific evidence that the fire was in fact arson. Souliotes remains in prison as prosecutors fight to delay his release.

2010 – The California Department of Justice found that quantities of methamphetamine brought in for testing at its Ripon crime lab had disappeared.

2010 – A San Francisco lab technician was accused of stealing cocaine from the city’s crime lab. A few months later, the crime lab’s drug section was shut down.

7/2009 – Faced with allegations that one of their technicians had mixed up DNA test tubes, the San Francisco crime lab manager denied any knowledge of the mix-up. An investigation by ASCLDL/LAB found that there was indeed a mix-up and all records pertaining to it had been destroyed. A month after the report was issued on the incident, ASCLDL/LAB reaccredited the SFPCDL for five years.

2008 – Analysts at the Los Angeles Police Department crime lab misidentified fingerprints in two burglary cases, leading to an analyst being fired, two supervisors being replaced and three other employees being suspended.

5/2006 – Mark Eastman, a technical reviewer at the Sacramento crime lab had entered a DNA sample that did not meet minimum standards into a law enforcement database and had not rechecked DNA results in other cases.  It is standard practice to conduct and document technical reviews of all case files and reports. A technical reviewer is an employee that is either currently or previously a qualified analyst in the methodology being reviewed and performs a technical review of that methodology.

Colorado

3/2013 – A workplace investigation of the Laboratory Services Division of CDPHE was conducted based on allegations made by a former employee. The report that followed the investigation found that employees were not properly trained, blood-alcohol samples were not tested correctly in some cases, and there was pressure from supervisors for lab technicians to give testimony when they were not qualified to do so. The report also noted a bias in favor of helping prosecutors get convictions as oppose to seeking justice.

12/2009 – A crime lab in Colorado Springs found that hundreds of blood-alcohol tests were reported to show incorrect higher alcohol levels due to testing errors. At least nine defendants were falsely convicted. The chemist involved was fired, but the crime lab was unable to explain how the errors occurred.

Connecticut

8/2011 – Connecticut state crime lab lost accreditation from ASCLDL/LAB because of concerns relating to evidence control, quality assurance, and management. This led to a serious backlog of cases that have yet to be analyzed.

Florida

2008 – John Preston, a retired Pennsylvania state trooper, gave fraudulent dog scent evidence in several cases in Florida. Preston was labeled a “total fraud” in an Arizona case, and Preston and his dogs had been completely discredited by 1987. Bill Dillon, who was convicted based upon Preston’s dog scent evidence, did not know that Preston had been discredited until 2006 and it was not until 2008 that Dillon was exonerated after spending 26 years in jail.

Illinois

1/2012 – The Chicago crime lab found through an internal quality assurance check that one of their crime lab analysts had failed to meet the standards for fingerprint analysis. Around a dozen cases had to be put on hold while the fingerprints were reexamined.

2009 – Lavelle Davis was convicted of murder in 1997 with the primary evidence being lip prints found on a roll of duct tape that experts testified matched Davis’s lip prints. Nine years later when the circuit court ordered a new trial, new expert testimony stated that lip print comparison evidence is not accepted science. All charges were dropped in 2009.

Indiana

2012 – A sheriff’s detective misidentified a fingerprint, leading to the conviction of an Indiana woman. After eight years in prison, she was exonerated. The detective continues to work at the sheriff’s department.

Massachusetts

2013 – State chemist Sonja Farak has been accused of tampering with drug evidence, potentially affecting 60,000 samples in 34,000 cases.

2012 – Chemist Annie Dookhan has been accused of falsifying drug sample test results, forging paperwork and mixing up samples affecting at many as 34,000 cases. Since then, 325 defendants have been released and their cases have been put on hold while their lawyers challenge their convictions. Dookhan is believed to have been doing this for years. Dookhan pleaded guilty and in November 2013 was sentenced to three to five years in prison.

Michigan

2011 – A former Detroit crime lab was abandoned with evidence left in the abandoned building for anyone to have access to. The lab, which closed in 2008, was investigated and it was discovered that the lab workers had been habitually sloppy and had high error rates.

3/2009 – A Michigan prosecutor stated that 147 cases in which people were incarcerated would have to be reinvestigated because of serious lapses at the Detroit police crime lab’s firearms unit, which was closed in 2008. Among the reasons cited for the massive reinvestigation:  the unit’s 10% error rate in ballistic testing, the possible contamination of evidence, and failure to verify that testing equipment was maintained correctly.

Minnesota

2012 – The St. Paul crime lab was discovered to have little oversight, “poor documentation of the testing process and an absence of standardized policies for multiple aspects of its work.” This included that they did not follow any written standard operating procedures and may have relied on equipment contaminated by illegal drugs. In particular, fingerprint evidence and drug samples are believed to be unreliable.

Mississippi

2012/2013 – Evidence suggests that Dr. Steven Hayne, a forensic pathologist, testified to help convict two innocent people, and possibly more. He is believed to have made numerous misrepresentations about his qualifications and given testimony on theories that are not accepted forensic science.

New York

12/2013 – A crime lab technician in the New York City medical examiner’s office was reported making several errors and overlooking crucial evidence in a number of cases. These errors included mislabeling samples with the victim’s name instead of the suspect’s name, overlooking stains on clothing of sexual assault cases, not testing stains that they did find, and possibly falsifying reports.

2/2011 – Nassau County’s crime lab failed to follow testing procedures and national crime lab standards, requiring that hundreds of cases be reexamined. Nassau County government officials closed the lab soon after discovering this.

5/2010 – A NYPD criminalist was found to have taken shortcuts in testing drugs leading to unreliable results. The criminalist under question tested a substance for cocaine, determined it was negative and instead of retesting the sample, she marked the substance as positive for cocaine, leading all of the samples she had tested to be questioned.

1/2010 – An Erie County lab chemist was fired after falsifying a report that she had conducted tests on a cocaine sample, when she did not actually perform the tests (i.e., “dry-labbing”).

12/2009 – A NY Inspector General report for Monroe and Erie Counties found problems with dry-labbing, weight discrepancies, and skipping vital steps in tests.

2007 – Two technicians were found to have been lying about drug evidence; specifically they were dry-labbing and writing reports on tests they had never done.

North Carolina

2010 – Lab workers were found to have failed to turn over potentially exculpatory evidence, including in death penalty cases. It was also discovered that lab technicians had an unfair bias towards prosecutors, leading to false or misleading test results that supported the prosecution’s theories. The investigation of the SBI blood serology unit yielded a total of 229 cases of misrepresentation of blood serology. Of the 229 cases, seven persons had been executed, others were on death row, and some had died in jail.

2011 – State investigative officials found approximately 70 cases in which analysts did not report additional tests and results to prosecutors. These were discovered after the first investigation in 2010. Some of these cases involved the analysis of bodily fluid, including semen and urine.

Ohio

2008 – Experts testified that the accused’s palm print had been made in the victim’s blood on a wall where the murder occurred. At retrial, it was discovered that the palm print had not been made in blood and the expert testimony was false.

Oregon

2012 – Oregon must review several cases after investigating the handwriting unit and finding mistakes by their analysts.

Pennsylvania

5/2012 – Philadelphia Police Department crime lab technicians flunked a routine test given in order to keep their accreditation. This could potentially bring hundreds of cases back to the courtroom.

South Carolina

8/2014 – The sole employee of Columbia’s crime lab was suspended after a defense attorney found that the employee had falsified records regarding the weight of cocaine in a case. As the city’s only drug analyst, police and prosecutors are now analyzing hundreds of cases in which the analyst conducted drug tests.

Tennessee

4/2008 – A Tennessee police officer resigned after being accused of falsifying records in order to cover up a botched ballistics test. The ballistics unit was shut down and two of the officers working in the unit were found to be unqualified.

Texas

1/2014 – The Texas Forensic Science Commission will be reviewing all state criminal convictions that include testimony on microscopic hair analysis. This comes after the announcement by the FBI and DOJ that federal hair comparison analysis was found to be unreliable. Many of the Texas’ hair examiners were trained by the FBI.

2012 – 26 cases were under review this past October in Texas because of discredited investigative techniques and the use of outdated science related to arson to convict suspects.

2012 – The drug testing program in the Harris County probation office conducted faulty urinalysis tests, sending innocent probationers back to jail.

06/2010 – A report on the arson investigation that led to Cameron Willingham’s execution found that investigators had relied on “flawed science.”

2009 – Fort Bend Deputy Sherriff Keith Pickett helped put several individuals behind bars based almost solely on Pikett’s testimony and dog scent lineups. Three individuals were cleared of all charges after others came forward and confessed to the crime or DNA evidence was found to vindicate the individual.

11/2009 – An audit of the Houston Police Department crime lab’s fingerprint unit found irregularities in over half of the 548 cases reviewed.

6/2009 – the Houston Police Department Crime Lab fabricated evidence used to convict George Rodriguez, who served 18 years in prison before being released.

1/2008 – The head of the Houston crime lab’s DNA division, Vanessa Nelson, was forced to resign after she was found helping DNA technicians cheat on proficiency exams. After resigning, Nelson was hired by the Texas Department of Public Safety to direct the agency’s DNA lab.

Washington

2008 – A toxicology lab manager at the Washington State Patrol crime lab was accused of falsely claiming she had verified solutions used in breath-alcohol testing.

Wisconsin

08/2009 – A chemistry supervisor at the Wisconsin state lab failed to obtain peer reviews on 27 toxicology cases involving drugs. Upon review, only 5 cases met the required standards while half of the 27 need to be corrected.

 

Source:

http://www.nacdl.org