ABA Journal



Crime labs under the microscope after a string of shoddy, suspect and fraudulent results

Sep 1, 2013, 10:20 am CDT


Takeaway: Even if you assume “forensic science is a science,” it does not necessarily follow that “all ‘forensic scientists’ are scientists.”

By Scales on 2013 09 03, 5:02 pm CDT

See attached—PHS, inc is the “impaired physicians ” organization that is a front group for 12-step prohibitionist that coerces and controls doctors under the guise of benevolence and USDTL is a major forensic commercial drug testing lab. 

What is important here is it is not just a rogue lab tech but Joseph Jones VP of lab operations committing fraud. 

Take a look at the docs—shows how easy if is to fabricate a positive test on someone.  The paperwork suggests adding a collection date and unique identifier to show a chain of custody on an already positive sample is SOP. 

This shows a lack of integrity and grievous misconduct that puts into question the results of all testing done by both groups.  it is a public health emergency that needs exposure, accountability, and reform.

RPMurphy1 from has shared a link with you.

Documents showing forensic fraud between MA State contractor and a major forensic drug testing lab. Fabrication, collusion, and crime

By Robert Jimbo on 2013 09 05, 7:32 pm CDT

Being a conspiracy specialist this all appears to me ever so simple. There are so many of these “disasters” all caused by the domino effect of just a few bad decisions. These few, perhaps
limited to just three, were and are probably responsible for the great preponderance of all our major issues
today. As one major criminal who hid the jewelry in the ceiling, successfully, said, “Nobody looks up.”

A crime lab fiasco of this proportion, in my opinion, demands criminal prosecution throughout the ranks, even to those whom one might argue to be immune. Against such insidious, rampant, and wonton disregard for the few rights we retain, this is the straw that broke my opinion of prosecutor immunity. After all, did they ever check the facts to be factual?

And that’s where it all begins…..

By overdahill on 2013 09 06, 12:58 pm CDT

Law enforcement is a world unto itself.  Politicians praise law enforcement to the hilt but don’t get involved in the deails because that might be controversial.

Television shows show us how great the forensic folks are.

Finally, this involves a government agency.  Since when is government really competent?  Oh well, onto Obamacare and putting the government in charge of medical insurance coverage.


By lex on 2013 09 06, 1:02 pm CDT

good work but you are just scratching the surface; look at the david camm case in Indiana which is now in its third trial after 2 mistrials.  The forensic nightmare in that case is High Velocity Impact Back Spatter which allegedly proves David Camm murdered his wife and kids.  4 experts for the prosecution and 4 experts for the defense with exactly opposite things to say about whether it is or isn’t HVIBS; and on that evidence, and mainly on that evidence, 12 lay jurors are supposed to ferret out whether Camm deserves to go to jail for the next 225 years or so.  He has been in jail for 13 years based on this evidence while be tried, convicted, unconvicted, tried, convicted and unconvicted.  THE STATE’S EXPERTS SWEAR UP AND DOWN THAT 9 MICRODOTS OF BLOOD PROVE UNEQUIVOCALLY HE MURDERED HIS FAMILY.  The defense experts swear up and down they do not.  This is dangerous stuff to be convicting people on; evidence that is merely educated guesses as best I can tell.  And these experts are making money hand over fist to say that something is “consistent” with the thing the person paying them wants it to be consistent with.  Its shocking to me.

By camm supporter on 2013 09 06, 1:21 pm CDT

to lex (luther?)

1) Politicians get involved with whatever they believe is mostly in their best interests. They love controversy as it gives them free publicity and power, and maybe a few dollars. The issue is with law enforcement that they need more relaxed rules to effectively do their jobs concurrently with far more extreme penalties for abuse of that power. Make the punishment fit the crime.

2) I dispute, with my family so involved with those TV shows and always wanting to show balance, some of those NY law shows did depict the lab’s arrogance warning us of the reality. So many in TV fought for us as Peter Bergmann of 20/20 and Jack Klugman in Quincy over FAA oversight, in my opinion you see,
Its TV that shows us how great the forensic folks COULD be.

3) Government is a word. Its the people who perform the service that need to have their feet held to the fire
when they abuse their responsibilities to the degree we see today.

4) Having been involved with the insurance industry and all that Jazz, Obie 1 and medical coverage
may have the right idea, just a plethora of again, poor decisions not recognizing the fundamental cause of the issues at hand today. For example, some blue insurance used to brag that over 90% of premiums were returned as benefits. Today, check the “excess revenue” chart of account and the staggeringly excessive overhead costs. Nationalize insurance rules and regulations with criminal penalties for abuse that have sharp teeth.

Want details…keep me going

By overdahill on 2013 09 06, 1:22 pm CDT

As a Ph.D. chemist and now practicing attorney, it is scary how much stuff is taken as science when any reputable scientist, let alone the academy of science, says the testing methods are a bunch of bunk.  Look at lead bullet analysis.  How about the breathalyzer?  When a testing method is secretive with how the machine does the calculations, etc., be careful.  Unfortunately a lot of forensic science is just observations of a few examples and applying it wholesale.  It is not a science like chemistry, physics, or even biology where experiments with null hypothesis are made.  Remember the phrase trust us.  Well, looks like NSA is hacking our credit card information and medical records.  Not at all a surprise since forensics is part of law enforcement.

By Told you so on 2013 09 06, 1:24 pm CDT

PhD chemist—did you ever work in a crime lab? Did you ever actually practice laboratory chemistry? I am also a former chemist (only MS though), now lawyer, and I actually once worked in a crime lab in a very large city….was there while they were going through the ASCLD accreditation process. We had very rigid QA/QC procedures, evidence tracking, etc. Cameras in the labs.

Not all forensic science is crap. Certainly not the instrumental analytical methods.

Obviously there are some bad apples working in crime labs (just like there are everywhere) but that doesn’t mean all crime labs are untrustworthy or that forensic science is all bunk.

Amazing how the loony teapartiers somehow come back to Obamacare on *each* *and* *every* topic posted here, no matter how irrelevant…..

By former criminalist on 2013 09 06, 3:31 pm CDT

camm supporter:  Neither of Camm’s first two trials ended in a mistrial.  He was convicted both times, and his convictions were overturned on appeal due to improper admission of character evidence and hearsay.  Your comments don’t relate to the accuracy of anything a crime lab did, but what weight should be given to the blood splatter evidence.  By the way, DNA evidence from the scene revealed the involvement of Charles Boney, whom Camm is arguing acted alone.

That’s not to say there aren’t problems with labs in Indiana.  An audit of the Department of Toxicology in 2011 revealed problems with the testing of blood and urine samples.  Results were released only to prosecutors.

By cite it on 2013 09 06, 3:35 pm CDT

A process is only as good as the people doing it. This problem is an example of the larger issue which is the “professionalization” veneer covering so many sectors of our economy. With such an explosion in consumption availability, people everywhere, with all the faults inherit in homo sapiens, are part of organizations that pretend to have a level of competency needed to fulfill the responsibility given, only so they can feather their nests with the time they have. I don’t mean to rant (too late), but it is obvious to me that the continued defunding of public institutions, the celebration and acceptance of the primacy of the individual over the collective, and the inability to acknowledge on a national scale the mistakes of the past and the present, if only to maintain our own sense of self-worth, portend a continued path to greater injustice and despair for the world’s burgeoning population.

By Not a hippy, but... on 2013 09 06, 3:37 pm CDT

I’d like to nominate Mark Hansen for the Pulitzer Prize for journalism for this article, and I’d like to commend the ABA Journal for supporting him in the preparation and publication of it. I’d also like to say that I’m happy, for once, that I’m supportive of the ABA House of Delegates for doing something, (even if it is merely leading from behind). But I’d like to take issue with this statement, by Professor Giannelli: “[W]e can’t delegate to a private organization what should rightfully be a function of the government,”  Under such reasoning, the police should design and build their own police radios, and police cars. After all, these are used in the investigation of crime. Police uniforms? Who better to design and manufacture them than Officer Friendly and his brothers in blue? The same could be said of police stations themselves. Shouldn’t the police design and construct them, brick by brick? Heck. Shouldn’t judges and prosecutors be on the police payroll, they are merely assisting the police in fighting crime after all.
I hate to sound like a Republican for once, God forbid, but I believe that the more distant (and commercial) the relationship is between a science lab and the “consumers,” the less likely “chummy relationships” are likely to develop between a prosecutor and a “Little Annie” and fudge results. In the free market, blood testing labs seem to be doing a bang up job.
I’d recommend devoting our efforts to building a “Chinese Wall” of sound commercial distance between the police’s prosecutors and the evidence the police collect. I’d feel safer if a “Walgreens” or a “Walmart “ or a “Costco” Forensic Lab was doing the testing, for example, than someone lavished with the personal praise of a prosecutor.  “Yeah, I think she’s great. She says what I want on that stand, and so do her reports.” OMG.
I could drone on and on about this wonderful article, but that’s the only significant thing I had to say. And God forbid I start smelling like a Republican.

By Tom Youngjohn on 2013 09 06, 5:41 pm CDT

This shows an unfortunate inattention to foundation on all sides of the case.  The St. Paul, Minnesota lab is a perfect example.  It was wrong at a fundamental level for a long time, until an assistant public defender actually visited the facility to check case foundation and saw what was happening there.  Thousands of cases must have been impacted, in which these issues were missed by thousands of defense attorneys and prosecutors alike, because nobody went back to square one to check the validity of the “sicence” being employed in those cases.

By B. McLeod on 2013 09 07, 6:08 pm CDT

Judges are the next part of the problem, however.  I had a case where the Intoxylizer misprinted the officer’s name, even though it gets the name off a magnetically swiped card.  The prosecutor brought in a person from the state lab to qualify him as an expert and opine that nothing was wrong with the Intoxylizer that would affect the breath result.  I objected to him being qualified as an expert and said I wanted to voir dire him first, which the judge let me do.  “Is the officer’s card magnetic or does it contain a chip?”  “I don’t know.”  “Is the officer’s name recorded on the card in binary, in straight-english, or what?” “I don’t know.”  “What processor powers the Intoxylizer 5000?”  “I don’t know what a ‘processor’ is.”  “Does the same processor, or computer chip, or transistor, or what-have-you process the breath-sample as the part that processes the officer’s ID card?” “I don’t know.”  “Your honor, I object to this man being classified an expert to opine on whether the card-reading error is indicative of, mutually exclusive of, or silent as to any error in the processing of the breath sample.”  “Overruled.  He’s an expert.  Go ahead.”  He then went on to testify that the card-reading problem doesn’t indicate a breath-reading problem because he was told it didn’t by someone else back when he received his training.  Oh…I see what makes a person an “expert”...the fact that they have had the benefit of some hearsay that we have been offered no foundation on!  I really could not believe that judge issued that ruling with a straight face.  i would have understood, had he said, “Hey, okay…he’s not an expert, he doesn’t get to opine on the subject, ...but likewise, you haven’t proven that the card-reading problem indicates a breath-reading problem.  And that would have been true.  But it would have sounded ever so slightly not-in-the-prosecution’s-hip-pocket, and we can’t have that.

By Adamius on 2013 09 08, 10:37 pm CDT

It is why we have expert voir dire, and why we have appellate courts.  So of course, you appealed that?

By B. McLeod on 2013 09 09, 12:02 am CDT

This is an interesting article.  I’ve noticed the “advocacy” community has taken an unusual stance of using questionable logic to extrapolate that “bad apples” means an entire system is bad.  Are there not those in the legal system who have been censorced, sanctioned, and had lisences revocked?  Certainly.  Is the legal system in need of improvement? One would be foolish to think it doesn’t.  Do these facts mean the entire system is bad? Certainly not.

Chanting from the town tower that the system needs to be fixed, AND the legal community is the only one who knows how to do it, is not only disengenious, but it is unprofessional.  I feel comfortable saying there are probably few regular readers of this journal who understand scientific methods and techniques.  Even fewer who understand what actually happens within a scientific community.

To be fair, yes, the cloak of accredidation is used too often as a “don’t look at me because I am obviously doing it right”.  But, just as true, to pretend that the generic “defense council” is more worried about truth than the generic “forensic expert” is laughable.

If the goal is to truly improve the system, build capacity and ensure adequate safeguards then this is a telling article. 

I see agenda written all over this.  This agenda doesn’t necessarily seek the truth.  That should not really suprise anyone reading this article.

By B. Bay on 2013 09 09, 9:34 pm CDT

Really interesting article. This is where a research “bias” affects innocents. Good Job.

By Dexter on 2013 09 11, 7:49 pm CDT

It scares me to think that your life may hang in the balance- no matter what part of the country you are in. I sort of expect it in some small towns where they don’t have the budget for high tech equipment.  But to see this type of mismanagement in large cities as well is beyond disbelief. Where are all the millions of dollars going from the “emergency” 9-11 fees added onto cell phone bills?  They certainly don’t come our way.  Our firefighters are still waiting for updated sat phones and global communication systems, and our county is still relying on a computer system to connect to everyone in a case of disaster that likely will need generators to run.  Why can’t these emergency systems get more money, and things like these labs get up to date facilities, as well?  The money is already there.

By dscrivener on 2013 09 13, 4:03 pm CDT

Breath Alcohol Programs are doing the same thing see

By Winter Baby on 2013 09 13, 4:56 pm CDT

Having had direct experience with law officers telling lies in court, I am not surprised that their lab people are similarly deceitful.

By Lou Vignates on 2013 09 22, 11:35 pm CDT

Add a Comment

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.