Allegations pertaining to the inadequacies of Texas crime labs have littered the news as of late. A previous post covered the recent Houston crime laboratory raid that occurred as a result of allegations that the lab was manufacturing illegal substances. Another post touched on a Texas crime lab closure that would potentially cause weeks of delays in test results. Evidence plays a serious role in a criminal conviction and for this reason, crime labs must function properly and fairly.
When it comes to criminal defense, the quality of evidence presented at a criminal trial must be solid. However, it is sometimes difficult for legal advocates to know whether evidence is proper when relying on the test results produced by a state-run crime lab. Recently, the quality of evidence from the Austin Police Department's crime lab has come into question.
Two allegations pertaining to the crime lab prompted the Texas Forensic Science Commission to investigate the lab. The first allegation came from a former employee of the lab who stated that the lab used improper shortcuts in drug evidence testing. Accusations included the failure of lab administrators to have proper accreditation, a failure to analyze drug evidence before reports were submitted and the release of evidence to prosecutors before final reports were written.
The second complaint came from a different facility. After the crime lab submitted its test results, the accused's attorney requested a second opinion from a different lab. That lab returned results that were different from the Austin lab.
The dangers of an improperly functioning police crime lab are enormous. An individual's liberty and the integrity of the entire justice system can be at stake.
In spite of the allegations, a panel of the commission voted to recommend that the full commission determine that the crime lab committed no professional negligence or misconduct. The full commission has yet to make a ruling on the matter.
Source: The Statesmen, "Panel advises Texas forensic science commission to clear crime lab of misconduct," Patrick George, July 26, 2012