Innocence Blog

Turmoil Deepens at San Francisco Lab

Posted: December 15, 2010 6:09 pm


In May, the San Francisco Police Department Crime Lab’s drug section was closed following news that a technician had skimmed cocaine from evidence for her personal use. In recent months, reports of evidence mishandling in the lab’s DNA testing section have surfaced, and growing turmoil surrounds the lab.  An investigative report published today in SF Weekly points to a pattern of cover-ups from the crime lab and the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.

The publication reports that records of evidence mishandling in the lab have been secretly destroyed and that the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office has hidden the existence of a report detailing allegations that a lab analyst had withheld key DNA evidence from a grand jury in a murder case.

Defense attorneys say they should have been told about the reports on lab misconduct since they could have direct impact on pending cases. News about the lab’s troubled history could lead to appeals and dismissals, experts say.

"Not only did the lab fail to document the switching of samples. They intentionally covered it up," San Francisco’s Chief Public Defender Jeff Adachi told SF Weekly. "This is a bombshell." Watch a video interview with Adachi below.

Read the full SF Weekly story here
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Download the September investigation report from ASCLD/LAB, a crime lab accrediting organization.

In more than half of the 261 wrongful convictions overturned through DNA testing to date, unvalidated or improper forensic practices contributed to the wrongful conviction. The Innocence Project has long called for independent state and federal oversight of forensic labs. Read more about forensic reforms.