California lab report finds no error, Neufeld calls findings “hopelessly compromised”


Officials announced this week that an internal investigation of alleged errors at the Santa Clara County, California, crime lab has cleared a lab technician of wrongdoing. The district attorney’s internal report was sparked by the

Northern California Innocence Project’s

allegation that a lab analyst had testified falsely about chemical analysis in the case of Jeffrey Rodriguez, who spent five years in prison for a robbery he says he didn’t commit. Rodriguez was freed last year amid significant evidence of his innocence.

In an article in today’s San Jose Mercury News, Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld calls the district attorney’s report “hopelessly compromised,” because it was not an independent review by an outside agency. A federal program provides funding for forensic labs if they can show that they have a process in place to independently investigate allegations of serious negligence or misconduct. The Innocence Project has said that an internal investigation does not meet this standard.

The internal report, conducted by district attorney investigator Gil Vizzusi, appears to minimize Moriyama’s errors – suggesting they were simply imprecise testimony – and states that Rodriguez’s innocence “has not been established.”

The attorney who succeeded in overturning Rodriguez’s conviction, Irma Castillo, called the report “really troubling to me.” …

(Innocence Project Co-Director) Peter Neufeld contended that Carr’s office had a vested interest in upholding the science of the lab because (lab analyst Mark) Moriyama’s examinations were used in scores of Santa Clara County cases.

Read the full story here

. (San Jose Mercury News, 11/02/07)

More background:

The Santa Clara County Bar Association is hosting

a special meeting today

with local prosecutors and defense attorneys on the topic of forensic testing.

Innocence Project Research Analyst Gabriel S. Oberfield wrote

an Innocence Blog post last wee

k on crime lab oversight commissions and investigations.

Read more about

crime lab oversight

in our Fix the System section.

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