Saturday, July 28, 2012

DPS analyst who faked results worked on 4,944 drug cases

A bit more detail came out at yesterday's Forensic Science Commission meeting about an incident (see here) at a Department of Public Safety lab in Houston where an analyst was caught using a sample from an unrelated case to validate a positive finding for Alprazolam (the generic name for Xanax). DPS self-reported the event to the FSC after the falsified test was accidentally discovered by a co-worker, and the FSC yesterday accepted the recommendation of their Complaint Screening Committee to accept the case. According to the description presented to the commission, the discovery happened by accident and would not have been revealed through regular management and audit systems.

In the wake of this revelation, DPS analyzed all the labworker's cases over the previous 90 days and found additional discrepancies in two other instances. In most of the cases, though, DPS has already sent the evidence back to the originating agency. The same analyst had performed work on 4,944 cases since 2006, but it's likely that in many of them, the evidence has been destroyed. in cases which have already been adjudicated. Further, DPS has no way to track the adjudication status of cases it's worked on and lab director Pat Johnson told the commission the agency has no idea in what percentage of affected cases the evidence still exists to re-test. What a fiasco!

DPS has notified prosecutors and the defense bar, and the District and County Attorneys Association provided effective guidance for vetting these cases. But it's not at all clear that every defense attorney, much less every defendant, whose cases were handled by that analyst, have been notified, nor how individual DA offices are handling the cases.

FSC member and Tarrant County prosecutor Richard Alpert said the disclosure could lead to many cases - even those that resulted in plea bargains - being overturned either through a writ of habeas corpus or even an "untimely motion" for new trial. However, the defense attorney rep on the FSC, Bobby Lerma, worried that defense counsel who'd worked these cases for indigent clients may not aggressively respond to this news, or even necessarily receive it.

Johnson told commissioners that requests for re-testing are still trickling in and there's no telling at this point how many cases might ultimately be challenged as a result of this muddled misadventure.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Om my corruption in Texas? What will Texans do about it? Not a damn thing, too many cowards and idiots live in Texas.

You're an idiot if you voted for Rick Perry. You're an idiot for sure if you voted for Bush more than once.

rodsmith said...

i think in cases like this with deliberate fraud in the govt's case.

They should be AUTOMATICALLY tossed and any retrial bared!

The only one who should be in jail now is this idiot who should get each and every day given out in those 5,000 cases!

Vincent van Gogh said...

Picky-Picky-Picky!

How else are we going to fill our prisons with people who should not be there and run up a bill for their security and care that we can't pay.

Anonymous said...

This makes me wonder if lab analysts would be LESS LIKELY likely to report problems to the DPS or the FSC given the repercussions. There doesn't seem to be an incentive.

If anyone is keeping score, only analysts get fired. Supervisors and Lab Directors get lauded for reporting the problems.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I agree somewhat with your second observation, 6:06, but not the first.

The FSC may not have any teeth to punish, but they expose problems that otherwise would never see the light of day and their underlying investigations (as opposed to the conclusions they're allowed to reach in the wake of the AG opinion) are first rate.

If the FSC weren't looking into this, I wouldn't have great confidence that DPS, prosecutors, etc., would react as vigorously or follow through on proposed fixes. But thanks to the FSC, somebody will be watching and publish a big, public report on it afterward that will say so if they don't do all they should.

On supervisors, that's true sometimes but not others. In El Paso the shakeup extended to supervisors - a Sgt with no science background had previously been running the crime lab and they've outsourced it to a consultant while they hunt for a replacement (or determine whether to outsource completely). So it depends on the case, and the agency the incident happens at, but management doesn't always get let off the hook.

PAPA said...

TO to Anonymous said...to you I say stupid is stupid does so who did you vote for Obama??? besides the people you mentioned were not in office when the departments were created and developed so get over it! There are a lot of people to blame and the number one source is the Legislators, they need to remove IMMUNITY this will stop the crooks faster than anything and those that are not doing their jobs plus the corrupt guru mafia criminal justice system.

Anonymous said...

Yikes! Does anyone happen to know where they send the blood work from Wilco Cnty. Jail??

Anonymous said...

First, once a profit motive entered the incarceration system, you had to expect that this type of corruption would ensue. What else?

Second, there's a comment in there that this intentional tampering with evidence -- apparently substituting a labeled sample -- would not have been discovered with the lab's normal "auditing" procedures.

If so, they do not have "auditing." I don't know what they do have for procedures, but it's not auditing.

"All problems are 85% management." That's from W. Edwards Deming who developed much of modern quality control. Never truer than with this inept, non-managed, no-audit laboratory. Does the State of Texas have no standards ?????

Benira A Dickerson said...

Does anyone knw wht other counties he worked at was Waco Tx one of thm