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Should we be skeptical of state crime labs?

It is true that sometimes art “imitates” life, but it is interesting how art may influence how we live and perceive things as well. A perfect example is the television crime drama franchise “CSI.” Because of how detectives and various forensic analysts were able to solve cases using trace amounts of seemingly undetectable evidence, people readily believed that state crime lab analysts were experts in their field, and that the results of lab testing were infallible.

Because of this, countless people have been convicted of crimes based on forensic evidence. This always begs the question, should crime labs always be trusted?

Given the number of misconduct findings involving state crime labs, the answer should be a resounding no. Stories abound involving misclassified evidence, samples being tainted (either negligently or for personal gain), or lab analysts using the very drugs they were charged with safekeeping.

In a particularly egregious case of misconduct, more than 20,000 drug cases were forced to be dismissed after a Massachusetts crime lab chemist pled guilty to multiple counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and evidence tampering after an investigation revealed that she had forged signatures, and contaminated drug samples for nearly 10 years.

Because of this, the credibility of crime labs can be questioned, and their findings can be faulty. As such, an experienced criminal defense attorney is essential in making sure that evidence analyzed through a state crime lab is reliable.

The preceding is not legal advice. This informational piece does not establish an attorney-client relationship. 

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Todd L. Sallee, Attorney at Law

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Indianapolis, IN 46204

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