Criminal Minds: the Psychology of Crime

Crime Victims
Nature vs Nurture
The Criminal Mind
Spree Shooters
Law Enforcement
Death Penalty

Forensic Procedures and Laboratory Methods

Massachusetts Reeling From Crime Lab Mess

Massachusetts is reeling from a massive scandal in its state crime lab. Details are still emerging about how it was possible for a woman who officials now call "a rogue chemist" to be hired despite not possessing the university credentials she claimed on her resume, and how she could have continued to mishandle evidence, despite red flags raised by co-workers, in as many as 40,000 cases over 10 years.

Countless convictions may be completely unravelled, some cases have already been dismissed against defendants. More than 1,100 people have already been identified as serving time in prison for convictions obtained, at least in part, due to allegedly mishandled tests by the chemist Annie Dookham, 34.

Lawyers are often prone to hyperbole while persuading others of the merits of their cases, both in and out of the courtroom, but it may actually be understating the impact of the scandal to say it is "a catastrophic failure and unmitigated disaster."

“Any person who’s been convicted of a drug crime in the last several years whose drugs were tested at the lab was very potentially a victim of a very substantial miscarriage of justice," says defense attorney John Martin. He represents the man believed to be the first convict sprung because of the scandal. Martin believes that innocent people may have been jailed and that it's also likely many guilty people will go free.

David Danielli walked out of prison Thursday after a judge agreed his guilty plea was undermined by questions about the evidence. Those same questions may also undermine efforts to retry him. Prosecutors and defense attorneys alike are supporting the Danielli decision and are likely to agree to many more decisions like it in the coming months.

Dookhan was arrested on September 24, 2012 by state police at her family's home in Franklin, Massachusetts.

The Salem News reported an Essex County drug case was one of the first cases impeded by Dookham's alleged misconduct. The case was first dismissed in March, when Dookham had stopped working in the crime lab. After it was refiled, it was dismissed again because Dookham's work was being questioned on thousands of cases.

"It was the kind of case that defense lawyers usually concede is a tough one to beat: three hand-to-hand sales of heroin to an undercover police officer, the marked money used for the transaction later found on the suspect. But the case against Carlos Cedeno happened also to be one of thousands that hinged on the work of now-former state crime lab chemist Annie Dookhan."

Dookham claimed to be processing substantially more cases than any of her co-workers, who had raised doubts to superiors years ago, with no result. The Massachusets State Police report suggests Dookhan herself may have, at times, served in a quality assurance role, as the lab’s quality control chemist, who typically runs daily tests to ensure scales are calibrated and machines are running properly.

She's now accused of tampering with samples to make them weigh more, or even to test positive. It's more than a possibility that some weren't even tested at all. She and three others have already lost their jobs, including Department of Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach, who resigned, saying that supervisors should have picked up on red flags.

The Boston Globe interviewed forensics specialists, who said procedures Dookham appears to have circumvented are "fairly standard, including having two chemists test every sample, but they were still not enough to prevent an ambitious chemist’s rampant breaches of lab protocol, apparently to boost her performance record."

New Issue of TechBeat Released - NIJ Publication Update
The NIJ-funded National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center has released a new issue of TechBeat. Articles include:

From Forensic Magazine News Daily:

  • Crime Scene Checklists: Value in the Report:  For the CSO, a good checklist will help keep you on track. While you’ll have to spend some time up front creating the checklist, it will save you time in the long run.
  • Windows 7 Registry Forensics: Part 7:  Security Identifiers (SIDs) are unique alphanumeric character strings of variable length that are assigned during the log-on-process to each user on a stand-alone system or to each user, group, and computer on a domain-controlled network.
  • Goldilocks Principle: Getting Your Engineering Systems Just Right:  Utility systems that support forensic science need to hit the mark and be, as Goldilocks said, just right. Skip the energy conserving features and you’ll spend more on utility bills indefinitely.
  • You've got me under Pressure:  In this column the Safety Guys offer a few basic tips on safe use of compressed gas cylinders and preventing accidents and close calls.
  • Product Insight: Mobile Forensics Fights to Stay Ahead:  Law enforcement groups are staying ahead of criminals’ ability to conceal information with the use of new data extraction tools.
  • Applying the New Science of Metaphors to Forensic Science Testimony:  Using metaphors to explain concepts and data enhances the scientific testimony’s impact, meaning, and memory-value.
  • Forensic Gunshot Acoustic Analysis is Heating Up. Don't Get Burned:  Gunshot acoustics hold plenty of investigative promise, but analysis can be difficult even for experts.
  • Maximizing the Power of Forensic DNA Databases with Next Generation STR Technology:  Global DNA databasing trends are driving the need for cross-border data exchange, international loci-standardization, and efficient new technologies positioned to take DNA databases to a whole new level.
  • "Much Harm?”:  On July 30th of this year, the constitutional question of arrestee DNA testing came a lot closer to getting resolved. It appears that King may well be the case upon which the Court determines whether law enforcement can take a biological sample from an individual arrested for, but not yet convicted of a crime.
  • Progress through Cooperation:  In a recent symposium, the American Chemical Society (ACS) highlighted the role of the Innocence Project in “challenging improper use of DNA testing and other elements of forensic science” helping to free nearly 300 wrongfully convicted prisoners.
  • Forensics Laboratory Opens in DC  Years of the District outsourcing forensics work, including drug and DNA analysis, came to an end with the opening of Washington, D.C.'s $210 million Consolidated Forensics Laboratory.
  • Afghan Confidential: Detectives Train at CSI Kabul  Detectives are being taught how to solve a crime by using physical evidence and witness statements, rather than by extracting a confession, perhaps with excessive force, as rights groups often complain.
  • DNA Rape Sample Procedures 'Not Adequate'  Forensic procedures carried out by a private firm which wrongly linked the DNA of a man to a rape were "not adequate," a report says.
  • Brain-damaged Man Wins New Trial in Two-decades-old Killing  Richard Lapointe confessed in 1989 that he stabbed, raped and killed his wife's 88-year-old grandmother two years earlier. But in the 23 years since, experts in criminal justice have come to better understand how sometimes people make false confessions - especially someone with brain damage, like Lapointe.

Click on this picture to the Photo Gallery
Criminal Minds: Crime News @ Pinterest
Criminal Minds: Crime News at Pinterest

2nd Sight Magazine
2nd Sight Magazine
Click & Go to the Front Page