Government run Crime Labs are never wrong

It never happens, right?  Crime labs cannot be wrong.  There is no need to be professionally scientifically skeptical as to the reported test results of a crime lab, right?  We should always trust the government because, after all, they’re here to do good, right?  Right?  WRONG!

I'm from the government, I am here to help
I'm from the government, I am here to help

As my great friend and Minnesota criminal trial attorney Chuck Ramsay recently reported in his blog (Minnesota DWI Defense Blog):

Major crime labs around the country have been exposed for unscrupulous behavior, resulting in erroneous, untrustworthy forensic testing. For example (blogger’s note:  these are just the more recent ones.  There are many many examples):

  • In Washington, a judge found “ethical lapses, systemic inaccuracy, negligence and violations of scientific principles” in the state’s crime lab and threw out hundreds of breath tests.
  • The mayor completely shut down the Detroit crime lab after voluminous errors were discovered.
  • The Houston crime lab has had numerous failures.
  • Colorado Springs metro crime lab’s blood alcohol results were just plain wrong.
  • San Francisco’s crime lab is in the midst of a scandal which jeopardizes “thousands of cases.”
  • Testimony of Key Witness Calls Murder Conviction into Question where a state scientist, in fact the State’s Chief Toxicologist, who provided the crucial evidence cited by the jury in the conviction lied about his credentials and his technical background while on the stand under oath hundreds of times.
  • 2 Ex-FBI Officials to Probe North Carolina Lab Practices after Greg Taylor, who served more than 16 years in prison for a murder that he did not do and was exonerated due to bad forensic science practices. State Bureau of Investigation Agent Duane Deaver provided false testimony that blood was human blood when he had in fact performed tests that he know proved the blood found was not human blood.
  • Ex-CSI chief gets prison for evidence tampering
  • DA:  Erie Forensic Nurse’s Findings Called into Question
  • And the list goes on and on and on of bad forensic science from the government

I am not saying that all forensic science is bad or that all forensic science technicians are incompetent boobs or under-trained buffoons or are even dishonest.  I am advocating is that the good guys and the bad guys in forensic science do not come with labels.  As such, we need to be skeptical and not automatically accept everything that comes from the Government.

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