News broke in the last few days that the crime lab in St. Paul, Minn., is the latest lab to find itself at the center of a scandal and an investigation. According the the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s article, it was really just curiosity of some local lawyers and some luck that uncovered the facts, which are now spilling into public hearings:
…[T]testimony last week by lab staff revealed a lack of oversight, training and documentation of evidence-handling and testing procedures. Basic scientific standards were not followed, defense experts testified.
According to a follow-up story, attorneys for three counties that had the St. Paul lab do forensic work say that at least 350 cases may be in jeopardy in those jurisdictions alone.
As we learn the facts over the next few months, I’ll be thinking back to the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences 2009 report “Strengthen Forensic Science in the United States,” and its many sensible recommendations for accrediting, standardizing, and shaping up U.S. forensic labs. But the St. Paul story also has me remembering back to the many other, similar stories over the last years. Of course, I remember Fred Zain’s “drylabbing” (that is, no testing at all, but reporting exactly the results law enforcement needed) in West Virginia, but there have been so many others.
Readers, here’s a challenge for you. What crime lab scandals and investigations do you remember best? What were the details? (Extra points for nominating/discussing more than one.) How many is this now, nationwide? And what must we do to keep this from happening?