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Crime labs ridden with shoddy work, poor regulation

The outcome of a crime lab's work is tantamount; even a single piece of microscopic evidence can make the difference between a defendant's complete exculpation and a potentially life-long prison sentence. Justices, jurors, attorneys, and those charged with a criminal offense all depend on the rightful examination and reliability of a crime lab's work. However, that important trust may be often misplaced, a new report intimates.

Not for from Connecticut, which has many similar crime laboratories, a New York City medical examiner's office has recently begun to review over 800 sex crime cases after it was revealed that an incompetent technician may have mishandled a wide array of evidence. Already 26 cases have been found to have been based upon mistaken evidence from the technician's work.

One major concern following the news of this shoddy forensic work is the likelihood of cross-contamination, a situation in which DNA evidence from one person is mistakenly attached to an innocent suspect. Similar to the New York City lapses, a Boston forensic chemist was not long ago found to have mishandled thousands of evidence samples. On account of the technician's unregulated, slipshod work, over 1,000 convictions in criminal cases have already been overturned.

These cases of human error bear seriously on the nation's landscape of criminal investigation, prosecution, and sentencing. Even more troubling than these anecdotal lab failings is the news that no national standards or accreditation system for American crime labs exists.

For those who have been charged with a drug crime, violent crime, sex offense, or even white collar crime, the full and responsible investigation of evidence is imperative if justice is going to be secured. Working with a criminal defense lawyer can help keep investigators responsible and dedicated in their work, bettering the likelihood of a rightful legal outcome.

Source: Slate, "The Unsettling, Underregulated World of Crime Labs," Justin Peters, Jan. 14, 2013

• Defendants in all cases have a right to a fair and well-conducted investigation and trial. For more information, contact our Fairfield County criminal defense page.

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