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Austin Texas Crime Lab Under Scrutiny

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 3:23 PM
Monday, December 13, 2010

The National Institute of Justice will auditing the Austin, TX Crime Lab. They are looking into the lab’s use of the nation’s Combined DNA Index System.  This is part of an already scheduled inspection that has taken on a new focus once complaints about the lab by a former employee, Cecily Hamilton, hit the news. Cecily Hamilton allegations may lead to another independent audit. Hamilton doesn’t imply that any mistakes were made at the lab, prosecutors are bracing for the worst.

Hamilton who worked at the APD’s lab for three years before leaving earlier in 2010, wrote a memo to supervisors in February which consisted of a laundry list of complaints about the lab.  It notably, makes no complaints about the scientific work done by its analysts but instead focuses on personal conflicts with various employees that she alleges made the lab a “hostile work environment.” Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said that Hamilton’s allegations had been investigated and deemed unfounded.

The lab, which opened in 2005, has never failed any of its audits, which are conducted by both the FBI and the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors. Never the less the Austin Police Department has requested that the Travis County District Attorney’s Office select a company or individual of their choosing to come in and conduct another audit.

John Neal, first assistant Travis County district attorney, stated that prosecutors have begun to notify all defense attorneys in pending criminal cases about the allegations.  He also stated that they are now considering the logistics of how to notify defendants who have already been convicted in cases that involve work done at the APD lab. The effect of Hamilton’s allegations on the day-to-day workings of the criminal justice system remains to be seen.

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