So add Oregon to the list of failing the grade when it comes to science.
Another crime lab worker's evidence called into question
The Oregon State Police is facing scrutiny after the work of two forensic analysts -- one who appears to have left the state and another on paid leave -- has been questioned. (Beth Nakamura/The Oregonian)
September 17, 2015
The second analyst, a man who had worked in the state's lab in Central Point, was investigated by state police for providing inflated and inaccurate testimony in court cases, according to John Hummel, the Deschutes County district attorney.
"It seems to me there's been more of a desire to protect the reputation of the crime lab than to ensure the integrity of evidence," Hummel said. "That's concerning to me."
Hummel and others are voicing concerns about work within the state's labs and on Thursday called for an independent investigation into an analyst in Bend, a woman who has not been identified, as well as a review of the labs' operations.
The current case involving the Bend analyst likely affects nearly 1,000 cases -- most in Eastern Oregon -- including 502 in Deschutes County.
Hummel said he was notified six months ago by state police about potential problems with evidence in six cases handled by a longtime analyst in Central Point. It appears that analyst no longer works for the state.
Between these two analysts, he said, "it tells me we have a significant problem in the Oregon State Police crime labs."
Bill Fugate, spokesman for the state police, could not provide details about the Central Point analyst or any investigation into his work.
Hummel said Thursday that earlier this year he was notified that the agency had conducted an internal investigation into the Central Point analyst's work after concerns were raised in cases in Southern Oregon. He said the analyst was determined to be "untrustworthy" for "overstating scientific conclusions" in his testimony.
Hummel said he has serious questions about how thoroughly state police notified district attorneys about issues with the Central Point analyst.
"I have concerns about the efforts they undertook to right the wrongs committed by him," he said. "It didn't seem like they did anything."
"We have a significant problem in the Oregon State Police crime labs." - Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel
Steven Wax, the nonprofit's legal director and the former federal public defender, said the cases' outcome did not appear to be affected. However, he said, he has major concerns about the state crime lab in light of his knowledge of the Central Point analyst and current criminal investigation into the Bend analyst.
"The Oregon State Police should not be permitted to investigate this alone," he said. "There must be an independent third-party investigation. And notice should not be given just to district attorneys, but also to defense attorneys."
State police did not respond to a call to address the criticisms.
Both Wax and Hummel said they hope to meet soon with Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to discuss their concerns. Hummel said he also has scheduled a meeting with federal prosecutors next week about possible criminal charges against the Bend analyst.
The analyst in Bend is accused of stealing drug evidence and, at times, replacing the drugs she took with other pills or substances to avoid detection, according to Hummel.
The analyst had most recently worked in Bend, but had previously operated out of the state's labs in Ontario and Pendleton. It's unclear whether the current review of her work includes evidence she processed during her time at those labs.
Problems with evidence can destroy current cases and convictions, as well as sentencing and other legal considerations. Work to review and possibly re-test evidence in affected cases could drag on for months and will likely cost thousands for those already strapped counties in Eastern Oregon.