A new probe shows that the Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory failed to analyze evidence samples from more than 16,000 crimes that occurred in the state. Unexamined evidence included evidence from about 1,000 homicides and other deaths, as well as from over 6,500 sexual assault cases.
The lab has yet to open some 4,000 rape evidence kits. Evidence from about 2,900 criminal cases must still undergo DNA testing, and 10,000 evidence kits are being held in cold storage. The investigation into the lab’s lack of performance was requested by Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick’s administration.
The Massachusetts Organization of State Engineers and Scientists blames the backlog on insufficient staffing at the lab. It also called on the need for more forensic scientists to handle the new crime lab equipment that had been purchased by the state. Massachusetts will now have to pay millions of dollars to private labs so they can eliminate the testing backlog.
The lab’s inability to process what could be important DNA evidence could lead to many convicted persons being set free after serving time in prison for rapes and murders they did not commit. Criminal cases from as far back as the 1980’s could be affected by the evidence backlog. The untouched evidence also could mean that many rapists and murderers may still be free.
The Innocence Project at Cardozo Law School in New York says that forensic testing errors were found in 63% of criminal cases where persons were exonerated. DNA testing backlogs, false confessions, eyewitness errors, and police informants were also reasons cited for exonerations.
The state says it will examine evidence in cases that can still be prosecuted. Cases where the statutes of limitations have already expired, however, will never be properly served.
Crime lab didn’t test 16,000 cases, Worcester Telegram & Gazette News, July 17, 2007
Crime lab crisis threatens us all, Boston Herald, July 17, 2007
Probe finds evidence from crime scenes never analyzed, Boston.com, July 15, 2007
Forensic Errors Often Contribute to Wrongful Convictions, Criminal Law Lawyer Source
Related Web Resources:
Wrongful Conviction, American Bar Association
If you are someone who has been wrongfully convicted in Massachusetts for a crime that you did not commit, contact Altman & Altman, LLP immediately. Our criminal defense attorneys have successfully handled criminal law cases throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for more than 40 years.
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