As we have reported here before, state crime laboratories almost never lose their accreditation even when horrible issues of quality control emerge and massive failures of quality assurance are exposed. There is of course one notable exceptions to this proclamation:
State Forensic Lab Loses Accreditation
Malloy Official Says Concerns Being Addressed
Here is the normal course of events in a scandal involving a crime laboratory, it is as predictable as the sun rising:
- The scandal exists.
- It is known within the laboratory.
- It is not revealed outside of the laboratory.
- In the rare case that the laboratory discloses it to anyone outside of the laboratory, it is to the DA.
- The DA does not typically report it to the accused or their counsel.
- A whistle blower comes forward or rarely a diligent criminal defense attorney discovers the issue.
- The DA and the laboratory find a scape goat.
- Both the DA and the laboratory try to present the problem in a minimal form with the scape goat being depicted as a wild lone wolf.
- The scape goal is either reassigned or allowed to retire with full benefits.
- The DA and the laboratory hold a press conference assuring the public that the mistake is solved and how it was the lone wolf the whole time.
- The DA and the laboratory fight like the dickens not to release the data that gives evidence of the failure.
- The underlying issues of the systemic failure of the quality assurance program are never addressed.
- The accrediting agency salutes them without any meaningful examination of the processes of this admitted failed lab.
- If the issues are to pervasive to just ignore, the accrediting agency issues them a warning and extends their accreditation under probation until the press disappears.
- Their accreditation gets renewed.
- The lone wolf is re-employed at another crime laboratory on the strength of the letter of reference and recommendation of their former laboratory chief.
- DAs file motions in limines to exclude relevant evidence that the laboratory’s quality assurance system failed arguing that it was the fault of the lone wolf who is not employed there any more.
- The judges grant these motions in limine.
- The jury hears the case from the admitted failed laboratory without the relevant information that the quality assurance program failed in that laboratory.
- The jury assumes that the laboratory is perfect.
Just consider but a few of the many cases of the poor lone wolf…
A former director of the West Virginia state crime lab, Fred Zain, testified for the prosecution in 12 states over his career, including dozens of cases in West Virginia and Texas. DNA exonerations and new evidence in other cases have shown that Zain fabricated results, lied on the stand about results and willfully omitted evidence from his reports.
Joyce Gilchrist collected and analyzed evidence for the Oklahoma City Police for 21 years before her mistakes were caught. After a judge criticized her testimony, FBI and internal police reviews turned up problem after problem with Gilchrist’s work. Her misidentification of hairs helped send Jeffrey Pierce to prison. Pierce is one of at least three men whose convictions have since been overturned, including one who was on death row. Gilchrist was fired in 2001, but hundreds of cases spanning two decades have to be reviewed. Gilchrist declined to speak with CNN, but her attorney maintains she did nothing wrong.
Gary Richard of Houston has spent the last 22 years in prison, thanks primarily to the lab work of Christy Kim — an analyst who never lets the prosecution down. Kim said Richard was the man who abducted and raped a woman in 1987. The rapist was a non-secretor. Richard is a secretor, so he could not have been the rapist.
Where is the Quality Assurance program? Is there a quality assurance program?