Thursday, September 27, 2012

Forensic commission investigative panel DPS controlled substace testing SNAFU meets today

Grits can't attend today's Texas Forensic Science Commission investigative panel meeting (pdf) in The Woodlands, but I sure hope some Houston-area reporters will go the meeting, which begins at 9:30 this morning. They'll be evaluating the DPS case out of Houston, discussed earlier on Grits here and here, where a lab worker was serendipitously discovered to have used samples from a different case to validate a positive finding for Alprazolam (the generic name for Xanax). At an earlier FSC meeting, it was revealed that the discrepancy was discovered by accident and would not have been revealed through existing management and audit systems, and the investigative panel is where the episode will be most comprehensively vetted.

Some FSC meetings on high profile cases (like Todd Willingham) have been comprehensively covered while there have been others where your correspondent was the only media person there. But the DPS lab mess is a big deal, potentially affecting nearly 5,000 cases. It'd be a shame if nobody's there to report the details.


Anonymous said...

The public has grown tired of yet another government agency that protects its own. The FSC has no incentive to investigate and no oversight to know if they are. Although, they have plenty of incentive to NOT investigate (public embarrassment for the labs and loss of credibility in the court room, loss of federal funding, civil liabilities for wrongful incarceration, etc.). They seem to be especially good at propagating "hot air" and "dragging their feet". Yawn.

Until a specific individual(s) can be held accountable for the negligence or misconduct reported (and validated by an investigation), be it the Crime Lab Supervisors, Quality Assurance Managers, Lab Directors, TxDPS Pat Johnson (for accreditation purposes), the accreditation agencies, or the FSC themselves for not providing a Duty to Correct in a timely manner, no one will care.
Until they have authority to punish, they are a moot organization.
Until the Commission is filled with academic scientists (without a "dog in the hunt"), and until they begin addressing complaints without extraneous context to "dirty the waters" then any conclusions they reach will be suspect.

The Lege needs to get involved immediately.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting how if forensic scientists testify honestly about lab shortcomings that a memo goes out to the ADA's not to call that person as a witness anymore. They will still try to get the evidence in without testimony using a certificate of analysis, but if the defense forces them to call the analyst who is on their don't call list they will ask for a continuance to retest the evidence to enable them to bring in a state biased witness instead of the honest one they were told not to use. Surely the analyst on the don't call list is honest or they would not try to admiit that evidence without him. (sarcasm)

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I actually disagree with at, 6:13. They've done a lot. We've gotten more information about problems at crime labs from the FSC than anybody ever knew before. That's a big deal.

Do I think they should have more teeth? Of course. But they're far from "moot." Simply publicizing problems is a bigger deal with greater effects than you give it credit for.

7:29, I haven't heard of the scenario you describe playing out, but it wouldn't surprise me. Can you point to any specifics?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, 6:13, this is what you think the forensic community in Texas should do...

For 34,000 cases, I'm inclined to agree...prosecute her. Make an example of her.

But I'm curious to know if the Prosecutor actually knew she was a fraud, but used her testimony anyway.