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Sydney Carton
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Detroit Crime Lab Closed Down
« on: September 29, 2008, 04:32:35 PM »

Errors in Detroit crime lab could have sent innocent people to prison
Posted: September 26, 2008 3:29 pm

Michigan officials closed the Detroit Police Department crime lab yesterday after a report found a 10% error rate in ballistic testing. Leaders called the results “catastrophic” and “appalling” before vowing to get to work to fix the problem. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said bad tests could have sent innocent people to prison.

"If we have even one person in prison on evidence that was improperly done, that's a huge problem," Worthy said. "As prosecutors, we completely rely on the findings of police crime lab experts every day in court and we present this information to juries. And when there are failures of this magnitude, there is a … betrayal of trust."
The audit warned that if the error rate holds, "the negative impact on the judicial system would be substantial, with a strong likelihood of wrongful convictions and a valid concern about numerous appeals."

"The language may be dry, but it destroys the credibility of the firearms lab and calls into question all the lab work in general," said David Moran, head of the Innocence Project at the University of Michigan Law School.

Read the full story here. (Detroit Free Press, 09/25/0




Sydney Carton
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Re: Detroit Crime Lab Closed Down
« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2008, 03:23:10 PM »

   Other scientists employed at the lab say the DPD only handled ten per cent of the total weorkload but they have taken everyone down with them:

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A forensic biologist today told the City Council that the shuttering of the Detroit Police Crime lab was hasty and left a slew of employees with tarnished reputations.

Cathy Carr, 50, said the decision to close the entire lab has left other scientists and employees with questionable futures.

Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. and Police Chief James Barren closed the lab, which employs about 68 people, last week after a preliminary audit indicated about a 10% rate of inaccuracies related to ballistics evidence testing involving firearms.

“I was a scientist in the lab minding my own business and I got thrust out the door, so to speak,” Carr said. “Being painted as incompetent and irresponsible is not going to make the job market open up for me. I need the citizens of Detroit to ask questions – why is it being portrayed that the entire lab is at fault and not just the firearms section?”

The Michigan State Police are now handling all aspects of the crime lab.

Carr, a 13-year employee, said the other sections in the lab include: DNA testing; drug analysis; fingerprint evidence, polygraphs and biology.

“We need to ask why there has been a hostile takeover of our lab by the Michigan State Police,” she said. “By taking over, they get a bigger cut of the dollar. This is all about money.”

Councilwoman Alberta Tinsley-Talabi thanked Carr for showing council the human side of the lab’s closure.

“People take a headline and run with it and castigate everyone and that’s not fair,” Tinsley-Talabi said.

Mikehl Hafney, another forensic biologist, also told council that he’s worried about his job security.

“We want to keep our jobs,” he said. “We want to keep working for you.”
Sydney Carton
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Re: Detroit Crime Lab Closed Down
« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2009, 06:56:40 PM »

   That Detroit ballistics lab not only could but has in fact produced a legally false conviction.
I have held off posting this in anticipation of the many  more to come  but this one is an encouraging start.It develops that most of the ballistics staff(unlike the other departments in the crime lab) are uniformed policemen with no scientific training whatsoever.
    Detroit could well end up being sued for filing more fake criminal  complaints against the citizens than their counterparts in Durham.
     From bet.com:
   Posted Oct. 10, 2008 – A man who faced sentencing in a double slaying was granted a new trial Thursday, a result of his lawyer challenging testing of evidence examined at the now-closed Detroit crime lab
Authorities agree this is the first case to unravel from the crime lab debacle as it continues to unfold, but no one is willing to say how many convictions and guilty pleas may fall apart as the extent of botched lab work is revealed.

"Of course this is precedent-setting," said Detroit defense attorney Marvin Barnett, whose client, Jarrhod Williams, was granted a new trial. "Remember, I didn't even have to fight to get a new trial."

Barnett came to court Thursday hoping to call employees of the crime lab to testify about the bungled evidence in a motion to dismiss his case, reports The Detroit Free Press. Instead, Wayne County Circuit Judge David Allen allowed Williams, 21, of Detroit to withdraw two no-contest pleas to second-degree murder charges stemming from a May 2007 double killing. Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Suzette Samuels did not object and said she is confident she still will get a conviction.

Williams pleaded no contest March 27 during a trial in front of Allen – without a jury – after Barnett hired an investigator, who discovered errors in the ballistics evidence. Williams was on trial for first-degree murder in connection with the shooting deaths of Detroiters DeAngelo Savage, 33, and his 38-year-old friend Tommy Haney when prosecutors offered to let him plead no contest to second-degree murder and serve 12 years in prison.

In Williams' case, Detroit Police lab investigators said 42 shell casings from the double killing were fired from the same weapon. But David Balash, a retired Michigan State Police firearms expert, found that two weapons were used. Acting on Balash's concerns, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy ordered a review of the lab's work on firearms. Maria Miller, a spokeswoman for Worthy, said Williams' case is not necessarily the first in a floodgate of retrials.

"Each case is being evaluated on an individual basis," she said. The prosecutor's office currently is reexamining the past five years' worth of cases that went through the lab, and Miller said she could not estimate how many problematic cases will be identified. "We're still working on the audit process," she said.

Meanwhile, the Wayne County Criminal Defense Bar Association has said the review needs to go back beyond five years, and that an independent review –  possibly involving federal investigators – needs to look at all the lab work.

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