The Michigan State Police have seven different crime labs. They have been given three extensions to correct problems within those labs in order to gain accreditation. They are on their last extension, according to the Detroit News.
Numerous issues have plagued the labs including poor record keeping practices, evidence storing procedures and chemical use. In all, they had 118 “corrective action requests,” or things that required changes before accreditation could be granted.
Accreditation is not required but certainly speaks to the integrity of a crime lab.
The state police says the issues are merely “administrative” and that they should get their accreditation back within the month. The labs have been without approval for over a year now.
Others aren’t so confident that the labs will be ready, nor are they as quick to write off the violations as merely “administrative.”
- Improper storage of chemicals
- Expired and new chemicals being stored together
- Temperatures in freezers and refrigerators were not monitored or recorded
- Food was stored with chemicals
- Unescorted visitors found in secure areas
- Tests were not initialed by lab workers
- Results found to be “inconclusive” did not include details as to why
- Testing standards were not listed for blood and semen tests
“I was struck by how many corrections regarded record keeping,” said Ted Kessis, Ph.D. who runs Applied DNA Resouces, an Ohio consulting firm. “Record keeping is a very important aspect of any evidence testing being done. You have to know who worked on something — if it’s not initialed, as some of these practices indicate — how can you possibly question the findings? In our country, a person has the right to face their accuser.”
The state says all of the issues have been addressed or are in the process of being addressed. The issues, however, beg the question: how long were these bad practices going on and did they affect the integrity of any criminal cases?
Of course, the state police say no, that the problems had no bearings on cases.
The science of evidence testing and handling is exact, and expensive. States have to stay on the cusp of forensic research and keep their labs running in top order in order to not only maintain accreditation, but also to produce correct results in the thousands of tests they run.
If you are accused of a drug crime, for example, how the evidence is handled can play a major role in the outcome of your case.
Contact our offices today to discuss the details of your case and how the evidence handling can affect the likelihood of a conviction.