Back in January 2010, we published a post that still ranks very high in Google results which discussed some of the reasons why Texas criminal defense attorneys cannot trust the test results that come out of Texas crime labs to be presented as forensic evidence against defendants in Texas criminal cases. You can read that post here.
Here it is, 18 months later, and Texas crime labs are still a hot spot of controversy and national news media are still finding news stories in the testing being done in crime labs across our state. It's only those who aren't following these stories and those who aren't involved in criminal justice or criminal defense across the state of Texas that assume laboratory work in Texas crime labs are scientifically accurate and as trustworthy as the work being done in TV labs like those on CSI, Rizzoli & Isles, or Law & Order (pick a version).
Massive 2012 Federal Investigation Into Crime Lab Errors in Hair Samples
This month, the Department of Justice and the FBI issued a joint statement that their offices will be reviewing "thousands" of cases where people have already been convicted of crimes based upon forensic evidence because the federal government now has reason to believe that the crime lab testing of hair samples was flawed. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Innocence Project are working with the feds here, with the Innocence Project double-checking the FBI's findings when they arrive.
Tarrant County Crime Lab Turns Itself Into Authorities
Yesterday, it was reported that the Tarrant County Crime Lab got a pat on the back from the Texas Forensic Science Commission because the Tarrant County Crime Lab turned itself into the oversight commission (filed a "self-complaint") after one of the lab supervisors found that two rape kit tests that had been tagged as tested ("screened") never, ever had their seals broken. No one had opened up the packaging in order to test a darn thing.
You would think that a lab would rarely have something fall through the cracks as being tested while it hadn't been opened, right? You'd be wrong. It is such a commonplace occurrence that it has a nickname: they call it "dry labbing."
Fort Worth Crime Lab Back at Work After Doors Shut for 10 Years
Meanwhile, the Fort Worth Police Department Crime Lab just got the okay to start up its DNA testing once again, after the police crime lab had been sending out its DNA testing since October 2002 (that's right, almost 10 years ago) because there were concerns that the Fort Worth Crime Lab wasn't releasing accurate and valid DNA test results.
Austin Crime Lab Okayed After Complaints From Lab Employee and Dallas-area Lab
And, down in Austin, the Austin Police Department Crime Lab just got the go-ahead from the Texas Forensic Science Commission to ramp up its testing again, after the commission cleared the lab of any errors after two separate complaints were filed against it: one, by a Dallas-area lab that tested the same stuff and found different results and two, by a former employee at the Austin Crime Lab who reported that the Austin lab was cutting corners in its testing.
Bottom line: criminal defense attorneys still have to be skeptical of any evidence that is coming out of a government crime lab these days because this stuff just isn't trustworthy and reliable simply because a "lab" has reported they've tested the stuff. Crime lab results in Texas criminal defense cases still have to be questioned.