State forensic lab loses accreditation

Following up on the troubles of the State Forensic Science Lab, the Courant is now reporting that the lab has (temporarily) lots its accreditation. More troubling is the fact that the agency that accredits these outfits had threatened to pull that accreditation 6 months ago, but acquiesced to a temporary extension of that accreditation. That time has now run out, but there is another inspection scheduled for September 12:

Michael P. Lawlor, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s undersecretary for criminal justice policy and planning, said the lab will be reinspected — the date is tentatively set for Sept. 12 — and he was confident that improvements would result in the lab’s reaccreditation. Lawlor said that the accreditation is voluntary, and that “there is no indication that this will affect pending cases between now and Sept. 12.”

He also goes on to opine (seems to be his favorite hobby these days, see this subsequent post) that the loss of accreditation and the problems at the lab don’t affect criminal cases. I respectfully beg to differ. When some of the problems with the lab involve validation techniques (among many, many other things), I’m pretty certain that there will be some impact on criminal prosecutions, at least in the short-term, bringing the validity of the results reported by the lab into question:

Auditors cited weaknesses in supervision, reporting of case results, evidence control, data security, quality assurance, adherence to standard operating procedures for DNA analyses, and validation techniques for DNA test results, among other issues.

What about that statement gives you confidence that there is nothing wrong with the results reported over the past two years?

If nothing else, this revelation that the accreditation was extended by 6 months will – and should – bring additional scrutiny on criminal cases that were resolved in that period. If such a problem was brewing at the lab, why weren’t the courts and defense counsel alerted to them? Why were convictions allowed to be entered based on DNA evidence that was subject to potential errors?

These are questions that will need to be asked – and answered – long after September 12.



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