A new report released yesterday by the New York Inspector General finds that a major State Police crime lab failed to detect and act upon systematic problems in the handling of evidence and the falsification of test results in hundreds of cases over 15 years. And as signs of misconduct began to appear, the report finds, lab officials hid evidence that the problem was widespread and pinned it on an analyst who had committed suicide in 2008.
“Cutting corners in a crime lab is serious and intolerable,” the state’s inspector general, Joseph Fisch told the New York Times. “Forensic laboratories must adhere to the highest standards of competence, independence and integrity. Anything less undermines public confidence in our criminal justice system.”
The state police superintendent said the agency planned to hire an outside consultant to review forensic tests conducted in the lab. Several analysts whose conduct is questioned in Thursdays report remain in their jobs pending an internal review.
Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck said the New York scandal is another clear sign that forensic reform is needed.
“It is a wake-up call to the forensic community,” said Scheck, director of the Innocence Project and a member of the New York State Commission on Forensic Science, which monitors all the state’s crime labs. “What’s alarming about this report and others that we’ve seen like it is it’s not so much the bad actors, it’s the fact that the system didn’t detect them earlier.”
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. (New York Times, 12/18/09)
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