Orange County's Premier Criminal Defense Boutique

Friday, January 30, 2015

A Fullerton Criminal Law Attorney Reviews a Recent Crime Lab Scandal

Fullerton Criminal Law Attorney
As a Fullerton criminal law attorney, we are very interested in what happens at the local crime lab.  After all, evidence, that is gathered and tested in the lab, is used on a regular basis by the prosecutors to lead to a potential conviction.  In some cases, the main evidence presented is tested at the crime lab, and without it a conviction would not be possible.  Unfortunately, crime labs, as with any institution, are not infallible. 

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a case in Massachusetts where a lab technician, Annie Dookhan, did not follow proper protocol when conducting tests.  Ms. Dookhan was a very productive chemist at the lab and admitted to visually identifying some drugs rather than performing the chemical tests like she was supposed to. People were convicted as a result of these potentially flawed tests, and over forty thousand people were influenced as they were involved in trials with potential criminal implications.  

The Department of Corrections has already released 375 people from jail as their convictions were overturned following this evidence coming to light.  As a Fullerton criminal law attorney, this case is very concerning and enlightening.  It makes apparent the blanket trust that is put in criminal labs throughout the country.  There is an assumption that lab technicians always follow protocol and that they are always accurate in their findings.  This assumption led to a minimum of 375 unnecessary convictions in Massachusetts, as seen by the recent releases from jail.  It is unknown how many more people are convicted on an annual basis due to inaccurate lab reports. 

As a lawyer, it is important that we build a case for your innocence based on evidence.  This can include witness testimony, photographs, video, an alibi, etc.  We need to build a case that incorporates a variety of pieces of evidence in order to demonstrate innocence given that a prosecutor will be using things like a crime lab report to demonstrate guilt.  If we have evidence that conflicts with the report, it provides additional grounds to call that report into question.  

It is important that you provide us with as much information as you can regarding the incident, the circumstances surrounding it, where you were at the time, etc. so that we can get to work building a case for innocence.  At times, we may even run our own reports, depending on the nature of the case.  By bringing a third party expert to testify, we may be able to present compelling evidence that would call into question the findings of the state funded crime lab.  If the two reports are conflicting, it should give pause to the jury as they consider the validity of the reports that they have in front of them.  The key is to provide information and evidence.  Without it, we cannot make an educated argument that includes proof of innocence rather than simply stating that you are.  As a Fullerton criminal law attorney, our job is to create enough reasonable doubt that a jury would be hesitant to issue a conviction.  With that in mind, obtaining alternative lab reports can sometimes be helpful.