More junk science debunked: Probation urinalysis testing and analysis by undertrained probation officers halted

As I have written many times, science should be reserved to true, credentialed scientists. The worst thing in the world is the veneer of science whereby some technique earns admissibility and presumed validity simply because it has been in the Courtroom repeatedly.

We need to start challenging more of these sacred cows in the courtroom.

DA’s office stops using county department’s drug tests

By Brian Rogers
Published 3:23 p.m., Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office will stop using results from drug tests administered by the county’s probation department in the wake of testimony from department employees that shoddy record keeping, human error and lack of oversight may mean none of the 25,000 tests a month can be verified.

“In recent court testimony, senior adult probation department officials revealed previously undisclosed issues concerning the accuracy and reliability of urinalysis testing performed by and on behalf of their agency,” said District Attorney Pat Lykos in a prepared statement.

“This moratorium will remain in effect until I am assured of the accuracy of the department’s test results.”

The move did not surprise Lisa Andrews, the attorney who investigated the department’s procedures while preparing for a hearing in which prosecutors sought to use four positive drug tests to revoke probation for one of her clients.

During that three-day hearing, Andrews called to the stand the head of the Harris County Community Supervision and Corrections Department, his top deputies, several supervisors and technicians.

She also subpoenaed thousands of emails and documents to show that the department’s drug test results could not be relied on in court.

“Given all the weight and enormity of all the evidence that came in at that hearing, they had no choice,” Andrews said of the district attorney’s office decision. “Any objective person looking at the evidence in the hearing would be of the same opinion.”

In one example of data entry errors, Andrews showed that more than 30 people who originally tested negative for drugs later had their results changed, because a technician entering their identification numbers typed the numbers incorrectly, changing a batch of results that went to probation officers and, ultimately, the judges overseeing the probation.

In at least one of those cases, a probationer went to jail and lost his license over the mistake.

Richard Youst, 28, testified the error cost him his car, his job and his apartment, devastating his life.


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