An editorial in today’s San Jose Mercury News calls for labs in the state to follow the intent of a federal law that requires independent investigations of allegations of forensic wrongdoing. A recent internal investigation at the Santa Clara County lab was “an inherent conflict,” the editorial says. Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld has called the lab’s internal investigation “hopelessly compromised.”
In a case involving the imprisonment of a man falsely convicted of armed robbery, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office took the convenient path by ordering its own investigators to review allegations of errors by the county crime lab. In turning the matter over to her own Bureau of Investigations, District Attorney Dolores Carr apparently met the letter of federal law. But her decision certainly ran counter to common-sense reading of Congress' intent and the spirit of the law. The county crime lab reports to Carr, and prosecutors and crime lab examiners work closely together, so there was an inherent conflict.
Innocence Project Research Analyst Gabriel Oberfield wrote recently on the Innocence Blog that Texas was taking a step toward true independent crime lab oversight with the state’s newly funded Forensic Science Commission.
Read his post here