The Baltimore Sun has an interesting story chronicling problems with crime labs processing forensic evidence, including DNA or biometrics. I previously blogged about questions surrounding the accuracy and reliability of DNA evidence in the US, UK and Australia.
Forensic evidence – DNA on a victim, gunshot residue on a hand, fingerprints on a weapon – holds a special place in courtrooms, often treated as irrefutable proof that police have nabbed the bad guy. But the labs processing that prized evidence can sometimes become the suspects.
Last month, the Baltimore Police Department disclosed that its lab employees were leaving their own DNA on crime scene evidence. Lab director Edgar Koch lost his job because of the contamination, which had gone unidentified for years because the lab didn’t take the basic step of cataloging employee DNA in a database.
The city’s top prosecutor and police commissioner say the crime lab produces quality work that stands up in court. […]
But in recent years, defense attorneys have uncovered problems with the way crime labs across Maryland handle forensic evidence, and they’ve questioned the credentials of some prominent analysts. Last year, a Maryland State Police ballistics expert killed himself when it became known that he’d lied about his schooling. And years before the DNA scandal, the Baltimore lab admitted that its gunshot residue evidence could be tainted, in part because police firing ranges were too close to the lab area.