The repeated instances of nationwide lab failures at facilities under ASCLD/LAB accreditation combined with the severity, scope and magnitude of the North Carolina SBI Laboratory scandal, the pending legislative reforms in North Carolina and the San Francisco DNA mix-up/cover-up warrant that the CFS examine precisely what role ASCLD/LAB plays in forensic review, its methodology, the design of its model and the very integrity of the organization itself, including but not limited to potential, if not actual conflicts of interest. Further there must be a serious discussion of whether the CFS can continue to rely on ASCLD/LAB as an accrediting agency.I certainly hadn't realized until reading this piece that ASCLD/LAB is no longer the accreditation body for the United States Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory (USACIL), which dropped ASCLD/LAB after it was reaccredited despite one of its examiners having "engaged in repeated misconduct known to supervisors." ASCLD/LAB only required an internal audit in response and did not publicly acknowledge the problem until it was outed in a newspaper series years later.
Equally damning, as we debate prosecutorial misconduct and Brady issues here in Texas, is the accreditation body's lax attitude toward notification of defendants or sometimes even prosecutors when crime lab errors are discovered:
Transparency does not include notification to District Attorneys (San Francisco, Nassau County) when laboratories engage in misconduct. It does not mean notification to defense attorneys in cases where the representation of their clients is affected. It would appear to be ASCLD/LAB’s position that notifying anyone other than an affected laboratory is not how transparency, or for that matter accreditation, should be viewed.Prosecutors can't hand over Brady material they never see, just as defendants can't challenge flawed forensic evidence if its imperfections are concealed.
I've heard bits and pieces of these critiques in isolation over the years, but it's stunning to see them all together marshaled into a coherent argument for the first time (for me, anyway). Given the weight afforded to private accreditation in Texas (and other states which have legislated crime lab reforms in the 21st century), anyone with more than a passing interest in crime labs should read the whole thing (pdf). The implications if ASCLD/LAB accreditation really is fundamentally inadequate are significant indeed.