The Superintendent of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation Thomas Stickrath announced a complete review of the way the state crime lab handled DNA samples after a few cases of contamination have come to light. “I think folks could have been more careful,” Stickrath told the local news.
A sixth month investigation of the lab revealed several cases where DNA evidence was contaminated, sometimes with the DNA of the lab technicians themselves. The lab identified 46 cases of DNA batch contamination in the past four years. Though lab officials have downplayed the gravity of this contamination, it affected 106 separate cases and was said to have hurt one particular case “irreparably.”
The contamination of DNA samples can lead to guilty people being set free on “inconclusive” test results or even innocent people being convicted. For these reasons, the integrity of the lab work is crucial not only in the criminal cases but in the lives of those they affect.
Dan Krane, the founder of Forensic Bioinformations, reviews DNA test results and their integrity as a consulting firm. “Cross-contamination of samples in a DNA laboratory setting is about the worst possible thing that could happen,” he said.
Cross-contamination simply means the DNA samples were tainted with the DNA of another person. This could be between other samples in the lab or between samples and the people handling them. Significant contamination can render evidence inconclusive, or make it impossible to get an accurate analysis on the sample.
The lab will be undergoing a review, according to the head of the department. But, he’s given no approximate timetable for the review. The current Attorney General for the state of Ohio, ran on a platform that slated the crime lab as slow and inefficient, a claim that may only be supported by these latest discoveries.
The integrity of evidence is crucial in the administration of justice. Although DNA evidence is used in perhaps the most serious of cases, other evidence like fingerprints and confiscated controlled substances must also be handled with the greatest of care and adherence to protocol.
The mishandling of evidence can often lead to that evidence being inadmissible in court which can result in reduced charges or even a dismissal of the case under certain circumstances.
If you are facing criminal charges in Ohio and are concerned about how the evidence was obtained or handled in your case, you have every right to be concerned. Your future could potentially hinge on the evidence in your case. Discussing the specific circumstances regarding your charges with a defense attorney is a wise move, particularly early on in the case.
Contact our offices today for a consultation on your case and to discuss the role of evidence in your particular situation.