Serious Problems at Indiana Crime Labs to Effect a Large Number of Cases
In a DUI case, the result of the blood test used to determine the BAC of the accused is normally the most important piece of evidence. When the labs conducting these tests are sloppy or even downright fraudulent, this can cause a huge problem and effect the outcome of many cases. Recently, auditors have found serious violations in a crime lab in Indiana effecting DUI cases there.
Toxicology gaffes likely to affect cases
Early audit finds high incidence of lax standards
The first phase of a wide-ranging audit of the State Department of Toxicology found serious systemic problems in blood testing that will raise questions — and probably spur legal challenges — in numerous criminal cases.
Outside scientists conducted an initial examination of 26 cases and eventually will review more than 10,000. They have found examples of loose or nonexistent laboratory standards and gaps in the chain of custody of samples.
Former Marion County Prosecutor Scott Newman, who was hired in August to fix problems at the troubled Toxicology Department, told The Indianapolis Star that reviewers found problems that raised “serious concerns” in three of the cases.
Furthermore, the auditor is concerned about the potentially widespread problems the audit may uncover:
Newman said 26 cases is too small a sample from which to extrapolate or make any assumptions about what the full audit will reveal. But he also said something potentially ominous: The initial sample of cases for the audit came from 2009 — when the lab’s science actually had improved under a new director.”I’m concerned,” Newman said, “about what we’re going to see from ’07 and the start of ’08.”
Those who regularly follow this blog know the importance I place on following accepted lab practices and also in the lack of meaningful oversight as well as the lack of transparency in crime labs in general. These procedures, if validated, exist to protect the science behind their design. If the analyst deviates from these standards/instructions, the results can no longer be considered valid and reliable. The auditor agrees:
“A deal has been struck, basically, in the legal system between law and science,” Newman explained, “and it says this: If you follow the procedures that are generally accepted by the top professionals in the field, and if you can prove that you followed those procedures, we will accept your results as persuasive. That’s the deal. Prove that you did it the right way . . . and we’ll say that’s good science.”So procedure is everything. There is no small deviation of procedure. Once you step off that platform, you’re in freefall.”
Once again, the culprit is overworked understaffed labs:
A backlog of cases exacerbated the problems. To save time, the lab went against best practices in the industry and reported preliminary results to law enforcement with no confirmatory testing unless it was specifically requested.
I have highlighted the problems in DUI crime labs in the past and how these problems effect PA DUI cases. The problem is widespread to the extent that a Government-Funded Study has Called for an Overhaul of Nation’s Crime Labs. If we can’t be confident in the crime labs then we can’t be confident in the reports and evidence they produce. How many more lab scandals do we need before there is reform?