Monday, June 28, 2010

Make crime labs independent from law enforcement

News of serious problems at the Houston PD fingerprint lab prompted attorney Patrick McCann to author a thoughtful column in the Houston Chronicle ("Let's get experts to test evidence," June 26) that advocates making crime labs independent from law enforcement. The article concludes:
We have been subjected to a decade of unfolding scandals at HPD's lab, on everything from DNA, to toxicology, to firearms, to outright falsification of lab results, to failure to even review evidence in capital and other serious cases. Now we discover that their fingerprint "identification" section is not only unworthy of the name, but should be renamed the "mis-identification" section, because their techs are unable to get this right even on a murder case where someone's life could literally be at stake. Do not get me wrong — the other labs run by law enforcement have all had their share of problems. The Department of Public Safety regional system was rocked by its own scandal a few years ago, and is now plagued by tremendous backlogs that result in justice being denied for the innocent and needlessly delayed for the guilty. The DPS actually hired a terminated DNA supervisor whom even HPD found was unsuitable after it was revealed she helped technicians "excel" on their proficiency exams. In some of the surrounding counties, questionable dog-scent evidence is being used to convict people, and some of these defendants are now suing the counties that held them based upon this type of junk science. These mistakes cost the taxpayers millions in case reviews, and retesting and lawyer fees for cases that should have been done right the first time. They have also resulted in grave injustice and false imprisonment, as HPD's own internal disciplinary records have shown.

Enough is enough. Although this is admittedly a difficult budget year, either the state of Texas in the upcoming legislative session or the regional counties and cities should come together and simply remove all handling of forensic evidence from law enforcement once and for all. Our leaders should create a regional crime lab, actually run by scientists, perhaps under a university, and not under any elected sheriff or appointed law enforcement officer, that can run actual, neutral and competent forensic testing untainted by pressure and uncorrupted by malfeasance or negligence. The people accused of crimes are owed that much. We as taxpayers are owed that much.

It is time for us to end this round robin of scandal and put science where it belongs - in the hands of independent scientists whose only goal is the truth.


Anonymous said...

I absolutely one hundred percent think that crime labs should be independent. Why set the fox to guard the hen house? It's asinine to expect fair testing and reporting procedures from the very people who are hell bent on obtaining convictions.

TDCJEX said...

R Shackleford .
Do a search for Fred Zain or Jocye Gilchrist tow of the most notorious “forensic examiners” . In this blog there was in2009 some blogs on Dog scent lines up if it were not so tragic it would be funny .

Here is some interesting reading it is not just Texas but all 50 states

It is not a few Isolated indecent but a systematic problem because there is very little accountability , Defendants lack the vast resources of the state, most defendants are presumed guilty . and have already been convicted in the media . All of these problems can be fixed if we had the political will ( hell we could of lot if we had the political will ) and world stand up to cop unions I would make them illegal . Force the pro cop and prosecution TV showers to say this is complete fiction and does not reflect reality

A lot of Forensic examiners or what ever it is they call themselves see them selves as a arm off the prosecution and will make the evidence fit . In my case they hid medical tests and lied on the stand .While I was not factually innocent , I did not do what the state said . To go through that night mare is something that once you experience you will never trust a cop prosecutor or judge again . I would still be in prison had my family had the willingness and resources to fight for my freedom that is a very serios moral issue in itself .That your freedom depends on your financial resources .

Here is the Innocence Projects basics on the problem . I disagree that it is a few bad apples it is the whole barrel that has corrupted all the apples

One would think that is is just a logical thing to keep cops and forensic labs independent of each other. To have rigorous standards as well as checking on the credentials of all the employes in a forensic lab .Some have lied about there credentials . I am guessing that defense attorneys are going to be looking at that to discredit them . As they should .

What you the fact that m forensic science is junk science based on hunches and folklore . Even one thought infallible fingerprint evidence is now being discredited . .It has never been tested scientifically once it is it too will be shown to be deeply flawed

This is a no brainier really but as always . the tough on crime types and cop/ guard unions will howl that it is soft on crime and cop bashing or some liberal conspiracy . You watch

Anonymous said...

Yep, it's soft on crime, cop bashing and a liberal conspiracy. Typical.

TDCJEX said...

Maybe you need to do life for something you did not do it is not a laughing matter troll .I hope you do go to prison for something you do not do preferably a sex crime against a child just to make sure you get a enhanced experience in stay in those country clubs as you call TDCJ units . that is if you get out alive .

Cops need lots of bashing and no it is not soft on crime you are just idiot who needs psych help . BTW you really are not anonymous cowardly wing nut mamajuebo.

Anonymous said...

Annie 6:52

Only a truly ignorant person (such as you appear to be) couldn't make the connection between police run crime labs and suspect results. Have you ever wondered WHY there's so much cop bashing going around? Could it be that more and more people don't trust cops these days because cops are less trustworthy, more insular, focused of arrests instead of de-escalation, contemptuous of citizens and citizen's rights, etc? We used to have scanner parties on Saturday nights, where we'd listen to The Dim Blue Line going about their duties. The lack of respect and ridiculous level of unwarranted suspicion displayed was truly epic. I don't know who you really are, but you are one dense mf.

Anonymous said...

For soft on crime, I'd suggest you check into the Scientific Working Group on Friction Ridge Analysis, Study and Technology (the fingerprint work group sponsored by the FBI and the National Institute of Justice) for their theories on bias, or maybe the National Academy of Science report on forensic science and its theories that all forensic labs should be separate from police agencies for these reasons. If these government sponsored groups don't carry any weight, then look into the testimony groups like the International Association for Identification and the American Society of Crime Lab Directors gave to NAS on the subject.

Everybody seems to be coming to the conclusion that the system is broken and needs a fix to save taxpayers money, law enforcement embarassment, and innocent people time in jail. Why do some ignorant few think saying this makes you soft on crime or anti-police.

Grandmom said...

I would go even further and suggest that the administration of justice be totally separate from law enforcement. Prosecution and defense lawyers should have exactly the same access to and influence on forensics, police evidence and investigations. Also, police who lie at any stage of an investigation or confession should get jail time.

Anonymous said...

Hear hear, Grandmom.