Monday, April 30, 2012

Drug analyst at DPS crime lab issued erroneous reports

The following notice was posted on the Texas District and County Attorneys Association website on Friday:
ALERT: DPS Houston Regional Crime Lab Issue 
Posted: Friday, April 27 
Yesterday, DPS sent an email to the prosecutor offices that use the DPS Houston Regional Crime Lab. To ensure all affected prosecutors are aware of this situation, we reprint it verbatim (without attachments) here: 
Dear District Attorney: 
The Department of Public Safety has discovered errors with the analysis of drug evidence conducted by one forensic scientist in our Houston Regional Laboratory. He has been suspended from casework pending an internal investigation. In reanalyzing evidence in one hundred of his most recent cases, we identified errors in two other cases. Because of this discovery, we believe it prudent to review his entire body of work since he began examining evidence in early 2006 – specifically on any cases pending prosecution or which resulted in a conviction or deferred adjudication. Attached is a list of cases from your jurisdiction. If you wish to have the evidence in any of these cases re-analyzed by another DPS Forensic Scientist, please contact Laboratory Manager Keith Gibson at [redacted]. We will then arrange with the law enforcement agency to obtain the evidence from them and complete the re-analysis. A new lab report would then be issued. 
We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause and are taking additional steps to prevent any such occurrence in the future.  
Keith A. Gibson
Regional Laboratory Manager 
Texas DPS Houston Crime Laboratory
After talking to several affected prosecutors, the general consensus is to follow a protocol that looks something like this: 
1. Notify the courts of the issue.
2. Notify the local criminal defense bar.
3. Pull all of the cases on the list provided by DPS – check the disposition for convictions.
4. Find the evidence, if it still exists, and submit for retesting (DPS or your local departments may have it).
5. For any case with a bad retest, or cases with now-destroyed evidence, request that the court appoint an attorney to take the case through a writ process if appropriate.


Anonymous said...

So, at least 5 different annual audits for the lab, 5 different annual proficiency tests for the analyst, an ASCLD/LAB accreditation audit, peer review of reports created by the analyst who was qualified to perform tests...and the errors were just NOW discovered?

Seems like more than just the analyst is to blame...

rodsmith said...

that is true 12:04. BUT if there is a problem. then this is the way to deal with it. Put it all out in the open.

Anonymous said...

"We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause..." Very political, translation- "Sorry we ruined your life on bogus contraband, but we really don't care. Good luck fighting with the crooked prosecutors to undo this." Texas should quit pussy footing around and secede from the union. Public officials won't have to worry about all these pesky rules and laws they ignore anyway. Main stream media won't report it and the public won't notice anyway.

Anonymous said...

It's tempting to jump to conclusions about this, but there's not much information to go on so the conclusions might be wrong. But it looks like DPS did an audit of the analyst's work, identified more problems (2 out of 100 cases) and is now going back and looking at all cases he worked. That all seems pretty prudent and straight forward. I can't on the spur of the moment think of a better way of handling something like this.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I agree, 4:45, especially if local DAs follow the association's advice. DPS seems to be responding the best they can, even if it does raise questions about past proficiency standards and the meaningfulness of ASCLD/LAB accreditation during that period.

Interestingly, the TDCAA advice seems to track how the Forensic Science Commission said a similar incident with an incompetent staffer in El Paso should be handled. Hopefully, unlike in the past, notification of past defendants will become the norm in such circumstances, as well as facilitating access to writs when evidence was bad or non-existent.

I've not seen this reported anywhere else, btw, except this notice. Seems like a bigger story than that.

Anonymous said...

I remember when everyone was claiming the state lab's were the best thing since sliced bread.

Anonymous said...

6:23 -

There is never any shortage of know nothings.

FleaStiff said...

TWO percent error rate... doesn't seem all that bad. He was sloppy and he got caught. Fire him but don't invalidate the other 98 percent of his work. If some innocents are in jail because of it... tough! Most people are guilty anyway.

Mac Herndon said...

Does anyone know how to go about finding if their case is affected by this? Im on probation for test results coming back from DPSLab.