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Forensic Laboratories Malpractice

Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Addresses Forensic Laboratories Malpractice
Brien Roche

Forensic labs across the country have been the subject of a barrage of criticism.  Much of it is well-founded.  In January 2013 the New York City Medical Examiner’s office stated it was looking at more than 800 rape cases for mishandling of DNA.  The review has disclosed 19 cases in which DNA from one case was mixed with DNA from other cases.

In December of 2012 a chemist at the state drug lab in Boston was indicted on 27 counts of tampering with samples. This chemist was also charged with faking test results, tainting drug samples and forging lab reports.

Other such problems have been disclosed in many other jurisdictions.

Forensic Laboratories Malpractice-Accreditation

Many of these state and local labs are not subject to a review process. The national agency is the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB).

Review by this lab is a step forward. Although many problems have also been noticed with this outfit too.  It is felt they are too chummy with the lab directors.

The problem with lab results has been found not only at the state and local level but also at the U.S. level.  The FBI crime lab has been exposed for many scandals. The first of these was in the explosives unit. Then in its DNA unit. Then in the bullet analysis unit and then in the hair microscopy unit.

In North Carolina recently analysts there had withheld or changed samples in more than 230 cases including 3 capital cases. Call, or contact us for a free consult.

Forensic Labs & Personal Injury Cases

Forensic lab reports come into play in injury cases in regards to blood alcohol analysis.

Although blood alcohol analysis may be somewhat routine, care needs to be taken to make sure that the lab is properly accredited and that the techs doing the tests are qualified. In addition you need to make sure they are complying with standards as to the testing.

Drug Testing Labs

Drug labs have been under scrutiny since the New England nightmare in the summer of 2013.  In addition to the compounding pharmacy companies that have been under review, the labs that test their products are also under scrutiny.  The FDA has found unclean conditions and sloppy work at not only these compounding pharmacies but also the labs that tested the product.

Drug Labs Cited

The FDA has cited five labs for more than 70 different safety problems as reported in an October 6, 2013 Washington Post article.

Unlike small shops that custom-mix their medicine, the compounding pharmacies make their custom-mixed products in sizable quantities and often ship them across state lines.  These outfits are acting like makers in that they mix large batches without prescription forms for any patient.

FDA Scrutiny

The FDA now is starting to take a closer look at the labs that test these products. The FDA is citing them for failing to ask the compounding pharmacies for batch size information which is supposed to be used to calculate how much product should be tested.   Without this basic information, the drug testing labs do not know how large a sample to test.  Without that data, scientific lab results cannot be obtained.

Forensic Laboratories Malpractice-Hair Samples

A December 23, 2012 article in the Washington Post discloses flaws not only in the use of hair samples but what appear to be false statements as to the value of hair samples.  Hair samples can be a part of the proof of a suspect being involved in a criminal case.  If hair samples are found at a crime scene then the court will allow the police to obtain a hair sample from the suspect. They are looking for a match. If they match, then that is presented at trial to prove guilt.

Hair Samples Not Unique

What has not been disclosed over the last many years is that hair samples are not unique. For instance under a microscopic exam your hair sample may look the same as my hair sample.

With the advent of DNA tests hair samples can be judged to be unique because DNA is unique.  However hair samples by themselves based upon visual exam under a microscope are not unique. Call, or contact us for a free consult.

FBI Is The Cuplprit

The FBI is the culprit in this hoax. They taught state and local forensic techs how to look at hair samples under a microscope. They taught them what they could state in court. What most of them were taught is that based upon their exam of many hair samples over the years they had never found any that matched other than when hair samples from a crime scene were being compared with hair samples of a suspect.  Although that may have been correct it fails to state that it was the practice of these techs not to compare hair samples from a crime scene with anyone other than suspects in that case.

As a result of this the FBI has now undertaken a review of their lab hair samples prior to the year 2000.  What is not being dealt with is all the exams being undertaken by state and local labs who were taught by the FBI to employ these tactics.

Many Wrongful Convictions

What is unknown is how often the hairs of different people may match.   After all they are not unique. At this point, there appears to be no way to know the answer to that question.  Rather than admit that lack of knowledge, techs were taught to gloss over that issue and to simply address the match.  This was powerful proof  in a criminal case. It showed the suspect was at the scene. He must be guilty. Over the many years of the usage of this type of proof there was no effort by the criminal defense bar to challenge it.

Analysis can show animal hair from human hair. In addition it can show hair by race and body part. It can show dyed hair from non dyed hair. Also it can in certain cases exclude certain people as a match. However it cannot declare an absolute match.

A federal judge in 1995 in Oklahoma did exclude hair exams as being junk science. In other words they could not explain many matches.

In part as a result of that case and the advent of DNA testing visual exams of hair samples were phased out.

Forensic Laboratories Malpractice-DNA Testing

DNA testing has been much in the news over the last many years.  Labs that conduct DNA testing do, on occasion, make mistakes.

In a 2011 decision from the Oklahoma Supreme Court in Berman v. Labortory Corp. of America, 268 P.3d 68, the Oklahoma Supreme Court stated that LabCorp did owe a duty of care to the person who stood to benefit from that DNA testing.

In this case, LabCorp. tested a blood sample twice of an alleged father and reported wrong results both times. They stated this man was not the child’s father.  As a result of that, the mother was denied child support.

The issue in the case was whether LabCorp owed the mother a duty of care as a parent.

Duty Owed

The Court held that the mother was owed such a duty of care and LabCorp’s failure to comply with that duty of care gave the mother a basis for making a claim against it. Her damages were the loss of child support.

Call, or contact us for a free consult. See articles on negligence and standard of care on this site for more related information.

Forensic Laboratories Malpractice-Contact Us

Also for more information about forensic labs and personal injury matters, please visit the personal injury pages on this site and see the pages on Wikipedia.


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