Saturday, April 20, 2013

Washington state crime lab faces Texas-size quandary: How to deal with old cases processed by lab manager accused of misconduct?

Grits has been highlighting the overturned convictions based on alleged misconduct by a former analyst at the DPS crime lab in Houston and has compared the episode to a similar but even larger-scale scandal out of Massachusetts involving tens of thousands of cases. Now another, similar, case has cropped up in Washington State, reported AP:
The manager of the state crime lab in Cheney resigned last week as authorities determined he lied about performing work in several cases, the Washington State Patrol said Tuesday.

Kevin Fortney headed the Cheney lab for about a decade. His subordinates prompted the investigation by reporting their concerns to Fortney's boss, the commander of the patrol's Crime Laboratory Division, the patrol said in a news release. ...

Fortney was previously mentioned in a 2004 Seattle Post-Intelligencer story about ethical problems at the patrol's crime labs: In late 2000, he was suspended for two days after admitting he cruised Internet porn sites at work, disciplinary records showed.

The patrol documented at least five cases - mostly arson investigations - in which Fortney reported in a computer system that he had completed work when other records proved he was lying, said patrol spokesman Bob Calkins.
Just as in Texas, whatever management implications there are from the scandal, front-line workers at the lab deserve credit for outing the alleged bad actor. But that doesn't resolve the question of how to handle all the cases the fellow worked on in the past, nor what changes could be made to improve day-to-day oversight. The Chairman of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, Dr. Vincent DiMaio, argued earlier this month that the state should develop "disaster protocols" for when large numbers of cases are called into question by labworker misconduct. Apparently we're not the only state that needs to consider such contingency measures.


Anonymous said...

If cops have their car dash-cams, and detectives video record their interrogations, then lab analysts get their own version of video recording.

Time to place video cameras inside the crime labs. The technology is cheap, relative to a wrongful conviction.

Anonymous said...

...that doesn't resolve the question of how to handle all the cases the fellow worked on in the past, nor what changes could be made to improve day-to-day oversight.

Here is where enhancement would work. Remove the investigate our own clause and invoke Mandatory Federal intervention for 'All' criminal acts (aka: misconduct) by anyone in the law enforcement loop. (Everyone from, animal control, dispatchers, cops, prosecutors, judges, lab techs, jurors & criminal defense attorneys, etc.) Mandatory 20 years (Fed time day-for-day) per criminal act. Mandatory recording of the chain of custody and not to be destroyed until 5 years after discharge date. Mandatory Lab closing and rogue employee(s) forced to attend the trials and hearings related to their victims.

Anonymous said...

thanks for share..