Forensics Laboratory in Austin, Texas Closed for ErrorsPosted By Suzy Vanegas
On 24 February 2017, the Texas Forensic Science Commission announced that its investigation found “there is not sufficient evidence to support claims of improper testing when it comes to claims about blood evidence.” One must ask: how hard did they look? Many who sit on the commission are former prosecutors, and it is their offices which have prosecuted the over 2,000 cases potentially affected by the accusations of outdated, substandard blood alcohol testing methods.
Per former employees of the now closed facility, there existed an office culture that “tolerated under performance,” and the DNA lab itself lacked the requested necessities to set up the DNA lab,” more than a decade ago”. Analysts report they raised the issue of the lab’s inadequate methods to their supervisors, only to be ignored. In December of 2016, the Forensic Chief was forced to resign, and the Austin police department announced they were closing the lab, for the “foreseeable future”.
The Austin police department has recently changed its tune, now that the Texas Forensic Science Commission has contradicted the evidence provided by employees of the Austin crime lab. The Texas Forensic Science Commission was created to improve the quality and credibility of forensic science work in Texas. https://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/false-impressions/
This work followed the revelation that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) laboratory was using substandard and outdated methods of DNA analysis. A damning federal report, published by the Presidential Council on The United States Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, (PCAST) cited the lack of science involved in hair, bite mark, latent print, and DNA testing.
The Austin forensics laboratory was found to be carrying out faulty DNA testing, as well as faulty blood alcohol testing. The Austin laboratory to be using its own method for matching of alleles, using the old 13 allele standard, rather than the now recognized 21 alleles matching method. The Austin laboratory was also neglecting to recognize the allele dropping that occurs throughout the intense amplification process, a threshold with changed one case in Galveston from a 1 in 1,000,000,000 chance of a match, to a 1 in 36, causing the case to be dismissed, and an innocent defendant released.
So, despite the continued use of these same flawed methods by the Austin laboratory, the Texas Forensic Science Commission found insufficient evidence to support claims of improper testing. It will now be up to good defense attorneys hold them to a proper, higher standard. Call our office for a consultation, if your case involves the Austin Crime Lab, or any other forensic facility.