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Science News - May 16, 2013

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Posted: May 16, 2013   4:00 PM

More problematic cases are found at the Washington State Crime Lab, a top deputy at the New York City Medical Examiners’ Office has resigned amidst allegations of violating lab protocol, and Forensic Magazine explores the limits of “touch DNA.” Here is the round up of news for the week:
In the investigation of evidence at the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab, officials discovered that evidence in 19 cases had never been processed. While the investigation led to the resignation of the lab manager, the lab claims the errors have not led to wrongful convictions.
Ongoing cases in Brooklyn and the Bronx have been affected by the abrupt departure of one of the medical examiner’s top analysts. She is accused of overruling her staff when they disagreed with DNA testing results rather than reporting the disagreements. Ultimately, her results in those cases were determined to be accurate. She has told reporters that the allegations are not true.
In a new twist to the problems at the Hinton State Crime Lab in Massachusetts, a drug case was dropped since prosecutors could not retrieve untested evidence that was locked in the crime lab. If the evidence is ever recovered, prosecutors may renew the charges.
The Nebraska Supreme Court ordered a new trial for a man after prosecutors failed to prove that a state crime lab scale used to weigh drugs was properly calibrated. Since the drug sample weight was on the boundary of a higher felony charge, a properly calibrated, accurate scale may change the man’s sentence.
A recent article published by Forensic Magazine stresses that while touch DNA is becoming increasingly accurate, there are still limitations and problems with contamination. Because touch DNA can be recovered from a sample as small as several cells, preserving the crime scene and having stringent lab protocols is necessary to prevent foreign DNA contamination.

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