The Parade of Crime Lab Scandals Continues, Three Years After the NAS Report on Forensics

Posted: November 20, 2012 in Crime Lab Problems and Scandals
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On the November 20 edition of NPR’s All Things Considered, “Scandals Call Into Question Crime Labs’ Oversight” pointed out that it has been more than three years since the National Academy of Sciences issued its landmark report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States, demanding changes in how crime labs in the U.S. were run: everything from labs’ independence from law enforcement, to the lack of proper protocols and procedures, to poor quality of the science that makes up forensic science.  Regrettably, little has changed.

Three years ago, a report from the National Academy of Sciences exposed serious problems in the nation’s forensic science community. It found not only a lack of peer-reviewed science in the field, but also insufficient oversight in crime laboratories.  Little has changed since that report came out, but concerns are growing as scandals keep surfacing at crime labs across the country.

In just the last six months, we’ve seen the still-unfolding scandal at the Jamaica Plains crime lab in Massachusetts and the crime lab problems in St. Paul, Minnesota.  I’ve blogged about both here and here.  But we never seem to stop hearing about these things.  The story mentions scandals in Nassau County, New York, and in North Carolina, but there have been many others.  Why do we keep hearing about  this happening over and over, like a forensic-focused version of the movie Ground Hog Day?

Readers, please comment — and mention other crime lab scandals of the last ten or fifteen years.  One reader mentioned the lab in San Francisco.  Let’s try to collect them, and look for the common threads.

  1. […] Here we are, more than a month after Annie Dookhan, former Massachusetts crime lab chemist, entered a guilty plea to producing fraudulent forensic testing results, and went to prison.  The scandal, potentially involving tens of thousands of cases, has resulted in the release of hundreds of convicted persons. All of this has reportedly cost the state of Massachusetts more than 8 million dollars, and the state has budgeted almost 9 million more for the continuing damage.    Readers have seen coverage of the Massachusetts scandal, and several others, here and here and here. […]

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