Defense attorneys in Arizona have raised concerns about the quality of evidence testing in the Southern Regional Crime Lab in Tucson due to a video produced by the Arizona Department of Public Safety to lobby for funding for a new lab, which has been approved. The current lab is housed in a converted aircraft parts warehouse and the video says “the facility’s inadequacies became a substantial issue that could jeopardize laboratory accreditation in the future.”
The video cites “evidence-integrity issues” resulting from extreme overcrowding, substandard ventilation and air conditioning systems, safety deficiencies and inefficient operational features.
For instance, it notes the air conditioning and ventilation system shortcomings result in “the buildup of toxic and noxious fumes throughout the laboratory and the evidence warehouse.”
Attorneys Michael Bloom and Joe St. Louis have distributed DVDs of the video to Pima County defense attorneys and have said they intend to use the video as evidence in cases where the integrity of testing is in question. Ed Heller, the lab’s regional manager, told the Arizona Daily Star that the allegations made by defense attorneys are untrue.
The complaints are a “slap in the face,” Heller said.
“We don’t care if the evidence points to guilty or it’s exculpatory. We just document the results,” he said. “Their allegations are just nonsense, and they’re very upsetting to me. We just present the evidence, we don’t skew it.”
Read more about
crime lab oversight issues around the country
and the Innocence Project’s recommendations to ensure that quality forensic testing is available in all trial and appellate cases.