News 05.16.11

Forensic Work Questioned at Military Crime Lab

A McClatchy investigative series reveals additional lapses at the nation’s Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory, which could prompt an investigation by the Pentagon, reported McClatchy Newspapers.

The series exposed several lab analysts at the Atlanta-based USACIL who made false statements, mishandled tests and tampered and destroyed evidence used to convict soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. Each year, the lab handles more than 3,000 cases.

“Falsified lab tests could have contributed to criminals remaining free and innocent people being wrongfully convicted,” wrote Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa. “The failure to address these issues in a timely manner could damage the nation’s trust in the military justice system.”

But lab officials who are slow to inform defense attorneys about errors site innocent human error for their mistakes.

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman joined a Republican member of the committee to ask the Defense Department’s inspector general to investigate the alleged misconduct of analyst Phillip Mills.

Two months ago, McClatchy’s reporting revealed that the lab’s the three-year internal review of Mill’s lab work disagreed with his DNA results 55% of the time. .

The review, which ultimately turned up other problems with additional analysts’ forensic work, proves that justice won’t be served as long as mistakes go unnoticed.

“The result,” forensics analyst Robert Shaler noted in an independent review of the lab, “might have led to a miscarriage of justice.”


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