San Francisco’s top public defender, Jeff Adachi, recently called for the city’s crime lab to become independent of the police department. This announcement comes on the heels of a series of scandals in the San Francisco Police Department’s forensic laboratory initiated by the discovery that a criminalist was stealing cocaine from evidence storage facilities. What initially seemed to be a problem with one unethical employee has led to the unearthing of myriad problems within the lab, including two cases of tainted DNA samples. Moreover, a troubling audit was released showing an improper maintenance of chain of custody of evidence, inadequate record keeping, and a lack of cleanliness in the overall facility.
|By: John Terzano Monday April 12, 2010 12:17 pm|
|By: John Terzano Thursday March 4, 2010 12:51 pm|
After seventeen years, Gregory Taylor was finally freed on February 17th when the three judge panel of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission unanimously ruled to exonerate him. North Carolina created the commission to investigate and evaluate post-conviction claims of innocence in 2006 and is the first of its kind in the United States. Taylor, wrongfully convicted of first degree murder in 1993, is the first person to be exonerated by the commission.
|By: John Terzano Monday March 1, 2010 9:06 am|
Concerns about the validity of forensic evidence have come to the fore in recent years following a series of wrongful convictions and other scandals across the country. The National Academies of Science (NAS) identified a number of systemic flaws that demand attention in their 2009 report Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward. Yet today, hardly any states have laws providing meaningful oversight of the forensic laboratories that analyze crucial evidence upon which many criminal cases depend.
|By: John Terzano Monday February 22, 2010 1:47 pm|
A spate of recent news reports has called into question the objectivity of some forensic evidence and highlighted the need for effective oversight mechanisms for the nation’s crime labs. Fingerprint analysts told The Missouri Lawyer that when police officers have access to the labs, they often pressure the fingerprint examiners to secure arrests. In December, the New York State Inspector General released a report revealing that forensic analyst Gary Veeder falsified hundreds of results over a fifteen year period. The Phoenix, Arizona Police Department announced plans to investigate claims that lab technicians in the crime lab undermine the integrity of criminal investigations by leaving evidence behind at scenes and disposing of fingerprint evidence. In December, Donald Gates walked free from prison after his exoneration for a rape and murder he did not commit when it was revealed that FBI lab technician Michael Malone provided false testimony and inaccurate testing results.
|By: edwincolfax Friday January 8, 2010 10:50 am|
Texas has seen more than its share of controversy surrounding forensic science in recent months.
Most recently, the Houston Chronicle reported that an audit of the Houston Crime Lab’s fingerprint division identified problems in more than half of the 548 cases selected for review. The problems discovered were serious enough to lead the authorities to require that more than 4000 violent crime cases from the past six years be reanalyzed—a process that no doubt will be very costly for the city of Houston.
|By: John Terzano Tuesday December 1, 2009 12:09 pm|
Shoddy forensic science has led to a major setback in a murder investigation that could close the door on efforts to bring the killer to justice. The family of murder victim Suzanne Jovin was recently informed that the DNA evidence in her case was useless because it was contaminated by a lab technician. A DNA sample collected from under Jovin’s fingernails after her 1998 murder was found to match that of the lab worker that processed the evidence, not her killer as was previously assumed.
|By: John Terzano Friday October 9, 2009 6:09 am|
Last week, Texas Governor Rick Perry removed three members from the Texas Forensic Science Commission. In the middle of the subsequent media firestorm, and with competing agendas in play, it is easy to lose sight of why the Texas Forensic Science Commission and its investigations are so important.
|By: John Terzano Tuesday August 11, 2009 7:50 am|
Another innocent man is free in Texas. Ernest Sonnier was released from custody on Friday after DNA testing implicated two different men in the 1986 rape for which Sonnier was convicted.The release of Ernest Sonnier is just the latest case that highlights the ongoing problem of wrongful convictions in Texas.
|By: John Terzano Tuesday June 23, 2009 9:11 am|
George Rodriguez is seeking justice. In 2004, DNA testing exonerated Rodriguez for the 1987 abduction and sexual assault he had been convicted of seventeen years earlier. During his trial, a Houston Police forensic analyst testified that biological evidence pointed to Rodriguez’s guilt; it was later discovered that the analyst lied. Forensic science is not flawless, and its use in the criminal justice system is in great need of reform. To ensure a more fair and accurate criminal justice system, it is critical to improve the reliability, objectivity, and independence of forensic analysis and forensic expert testimony in criminal investigations and trials.
|By: John Terzano Friday February 20, 2009 11:00 am|
Earlier this week, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), a prestigious research organization that advises Congress, released a long-awaited report detailing comprehensive recommendations to improve the practice and use of forensic science in the American criminal justice system.