States are slow to fix crime lab problems


Oversight of forensic crime labs has developed slowly around the United States, despite a 2004 federal law that requires states to conduct inquiries into allegations of fraud, mistakes or misconduct.

Tackling critical problems in the nation's justice system, Minnesota, Texas and Virginia have each founded powerful oversight boards in the last two years that can investigate misconduct in crime labs.

But not one of the new boards has yet reopened a case — either because they have refused to do so or because they haven't been funded.

"The country has to have trust that we're convicting the guilty and not the innocent," said Texas state Sen. Juan Hinojosa, a Democrat whose bill to create the Texas Forensic Science Commission became law in 2005.

The flaws in his state and elsewhere are "the tip of the iceberg," Hinojosa said. "Prosecutors are supposed to do justice. Instead, they just want notches on their belt. It permeates the whole criminal justice system."

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. (San Francisco Chronicle, 3/24/07)

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