Detroit Shutters Crime Lab with 'Absolutely Shocking' Error Rate

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A Michigan State Police audit released Thursday reportedly exposed extensive problems with the Detroit Police firearms lab and prompted officials there to shutter the entire crime lab.

State police began their evaluation of the lab in June after firearms evidence in a case was found to be tainted. The problems, which the Detroit News reports reveal a systemic problem, calls into question all forensic evidence handled by the city’s police lab for several years, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy tells the paper.

“This opens a huge can of worms,” Worthy is quoted saying. “If the quality system is failing in one forensic discipline, it is highly likely to be an indicator of a severe problem that affects other forensic disciplines as well.”

Worthy says that of the 200 cases reviewed, an astounding 10 percent were found to have errors.

It’s a human-run lab, so mistakes are bound to happen. But University of Michigan law professor David A. Moran tells the News that a good lab would have less than a 1 percent error rate.

“A 10 percent rate is absolutely shocking,” Moran says.

The audit is expected to lead to a flood of litigation and appeals. The state police will take over lab operations while the city lab remains closed.

Detroit lawyer Marvin Barnett characterizes the situation as an “atomic bomb.”

“This is the prosecution themselves acknowledging a wide range of inconsistencies,” Barnett says. “I can’t even begin to imagine how huge this is. When you think of how many people will try to appeal their convictions and the possible lawsuits—it boggles the mind.”

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