Their investigation method: They initiated two conference calls with lab management and issued a report parroting their responses as findings without even contacting the complainant. Writes Kennedy:
ASLD took over 13 months to complete their "investigation." Their investigation consisted of telephone interviews with managers at SWIFS (Southwest Institute of Forensic Sciences) in Dallas. Not once did anyone from ASLD contact the individual who made the complaint.Not much of an inquiry if they never spoke to the complainant nor verified verbal responses from the lab. Then the Forensic Science Commission (belatedly) relied on the ASCLD/LAB findings - which really represented barely any investigation at all - to dismiss the complaint. (See the report [pdf].) Not encouraging, huh?
After ASLD's report was issued, it took the Texas Forensic Sciences Commission another 13 months to forward the findings to the individual who made the complaint. As a result of the "investigation" by the body who had accredited the lab two years prior to the complaint, the TFSC found the complaint to be groundless.
To be fair, the delay under the forensic commission occurred under John Bradley's chairmanship while the group was distracted, divided, and embroiled in the Todd Willingham arson controversy. And despite the poor quality of the Dallas investigation, Grits can't say for certain a more thorough one would have found anything. But this episode demonstrates why mere accreditation - or the say so of ASCLD/LAB - isn't necessarily sufficient to conclude a crime-lab complaint was unfounded. And if that's the case, what good are they?
MORE: The Forensic Science Commission's investigative panel on the El Paso crime lab meets tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. in Austin, for the early birds among you. See the agenda (pdf), as well as the one (pdf) for their regular meeting at 9:30. ASCLD/LAB took El Paso off probation, readers may recall, before all its problems had been addressed.
See related, recent Grits posts:
- Shortcomings at crime lab accrediting body supply role for forensic commission
- Is ASCLD/LAB crime-lab accreditation inadequate?
- The fundamental role of states in crime lab regulation