APD DNA lab debacle could spill over to DWI cases


GO THROUGH A RECERTIFICATION THREE YEARS ON THE JOB. THOUSANDS OF DRUNK DRIVING CASES COULD BE CALLED INTO QUESTION AFTER A FORENSIC SCIENTIST FROM SAN ANTONIO SAYS THE AUSTIN POLICE DEPARTMENT’S CRIME LAB IS USING “INACCURATE SCIENCE.” JUST SIX MONTHS AGO, PART OF THE LAB WAS SHUTDOWN BECAUSE OF PROBLEMS WITH DNA TESTING. BUT NOW – IN A LETTER TO THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY – THE SCIENTIST MAKING THE CLAIMS SAYS THE LAB SHOULD STOP TESTING D-W-I CASES AS WELL. KXAN’S LESLIE RANGEL HAS A COPY OF THE LETTER. LESLIE THE PERSON WHO WROTE IT HAS A LONG HISTORY WITH APD?THE SCIENTIST–DEBBIE STEPHENS— NOW WORKS FOR AN INDEPENDENT LAB IN SAN ANTONIO.BUT BACK IN 20-12 SHE WAS FIRED FROM AUSTIN POLICE’S CRIME LAB. STEPHENS…. FILED A SUIT AGAINST THE CITY SAYING SHE WAS BEING PUNISHED FOR RAISING RED FLAGS ON QUESTIONABLE PROCEDURES THEN.NOW HER ATTORNEY SHARES WHY HE’S NOT SURPRISED… AND HIS CONCERNS FOR OTHER DWI CASES. DEBBIE FIRST BROUGHT SOME OF THIS TO THE ATTENTION OF THE DEPARTMENT MAYBE FIVE YEARS AGO JERRY SMITH-A CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY- SAYS HIS THEN CLIENT- DEBBIE STEPHENS- TRIED TO LET PEOPLE KNOW THE APD CRIME LAB WAS USING QUESTIONABLE PROCEDURES. RATHER THAN TO MEET AND TRY TO FIND OUT THE VALIDITY OF THE QUESTIONS THAT THEY WERE RAISING THEY DECIDED TO GET RID OF THE WHISTLEBLOWERS NOW… HE SAYS WHAT STEPHENS’ LETTER TO THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY CLAIMS IS NOT SURPRISING. THE LAB SHOULD’VE BEEN INVESTIGATED IN 2012 I MEAN A THOROUGH INVESTIGATION NOT SOME WHITE WASH STEPHEN’S LETTER SAYS IN PART: “…THE BLOOD ALCOHOL PROCEDURE SHOULD BE REVIEWED AND UPDATED TO FOLLOW CURRENT SCIENTIFIC TECHNIQUES.” “THE LABORATORY IS INCORRECTLY REPORTING RESULTS USING A STATISTICAL APPROACH NOT USED BY OTHER FORENSIC LABORATORIES.” AND EVEN SUGGESTS “PERHAPS THIS SECTION OF THE LABORATORY SHOULD ALSO BE SHUTDOWN UNTIL THEY CAN REVIEW AND MODIFY THEIR PROCEDURES.” I THINK WHAT MAY END UP HAPPENING IS THAT THERE COULD BE THOUSANDS OF THESE CASES THAT ARE OVERTURNED AND IN RESPONSE TO CONCERNS ABOUT STEVENS BEING A DISGRUNTLED EMPLOYEE…LET’S PUT SUNLIGHT ON THAT LAB …LET’S FIND OUT ABOUT THEIR PROCEDURES LET’S OPEN UP SOME OF THEIR CASES THEN WE CAN SEE IF IT’S A DISGRUNTLED EMPLOYEE OR IF IT’S INCOMPETENCE IN THAT DEPARTMENT WE DID SPEAK WITH THE AUSTIN POLICE DEPARTMENT, THEY RELEASED A STATEMENT SAYING IN PART…. OUR “… PRELIMINARY ASSESSMENT IS THAT WE ARE IN COMPLIANCE WITH THE PROPER PROCEDURES AND PROTOCOLS. HOWEVER, APD WILL WORK WITH THE ATTORNEYS ALONG WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY TO VALIDATE OUR WORK.” ROEBRT- BACK TO YOU.JUST RELEASED TONIGHT- AUSTIN POLICE SAY THEY WILL START AN EXTENDED HOLIDAY D-W-I ENFORCEMENT PERIOD- STARTING TOMORROW- THROUGH NEW YEAR’S DAY.IF YOU ARE PULLED OVER TO CHECK IF YOU’RE DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE-AND YOU REFUSE A BREATHALYZER TEST- OFFICERS CAN GET A BLOOD DRAW WARRANT. WE’VE BEEN FOLLOWING PROBLEMS AT APD’S DNA LAB FOR MONTHS. YESTERDAY WE TOLD YOU SCIENTISTS AT THE DPS CRIME LAB WOULD STOP RE-TRAINING SENIOR ANALYSTS AT THE APD LAB. THEY MADE THAT DECISION BECAUSE THEY HAVE LITTLE CONFIDENCE THOSE ANALYSTS WOULD DO THEIR JOB CORRECTLY IF THE LAB REOPENS.D-P-S SCIENTISTS HAD BEEN RETRAINING THE TECHNICIANS FROM THE AUSTIN LAB SINCE AUGUST- AFTER THE LAB CLOSED.EARLIER THIS MONTH WE TOLD YOU THE PUBLIC SAFETY COMMISSION IS CONSIDERING OUTSOURCING THE TESTING IN ORDER TO CLEAR THE BACKLOG…BUT INTERIM POLICE CHIEF “BRIAN MANLEY” HAS ASKED THEM TO HOLD OFF ON AN OFFICIAL VOTE UNTIL AN OUTSIDE CONSULTANT IS HIRED TO EXAMINE ALL OF THE OPTIONS.FOR AN IN-DEPTH LOOK AT THE PROBLEMS AT THE LAB – INCLUDING HOW EVIDENCE WAS LEFT IN A BROKEN