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DNA Testing Shut Down At DC Crime Lab Due To ‘Incompetent’ Analysts

D.C.’s expensive new crime lab has been ordered to stop all DNA testing after an audit found the lab’s procedures to be “insufficient and inadequate.”

The audit, published Friday by ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board, which oversees the nation’s DNA testing labs, found that the District’s Department of Forensic Science did not comply with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s standard practices, the Washington Post reported.

All the insufficient analyses performed by DFS are in the process of being reviewed, but the review will not stop the investigation or prosecution of crimes in the district.

However, it is possible that hundreds of criminal cases in D.C., including murders and sexual assaults, could be affected if evidence involved in the cases was handled at the tainted lab.

The audit said analysts in the lab’s DNA testing operation “were not competent,” and Mayor Muriel Bowser, who commissioned the report, gave the lab 30 days to correct its misdeeds.

Issues concerning the lab’s DNA mixture interpretation protocols were first raised last year by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and as a result the USAO stopped sending new DNA cases to the lab in January. The USAO commissioned its own audit in conjunction with the mayor’s.

At the time, the Post reported interpretation errors were found in six different cases, with the most egregious error involving DNA found on the gearshift of a stolen car. Analysts at the D.C. lab said a DNA sample from the car had a 1-in-3,290 chance of belonging to someone other than the car’s owner, while an third-party expert said there was just a 1-in-9 chance.

“I am troubled by the longstanding issues at DFS as identified in the audits,” Bowser said in a statement. “District residents spent $200 million to build a state-of-the-art facility and expect its work to be beyond reproach.”

Deputy City Administrator Kevin Donahue will oversee a thorough review of all forensic and scientific practices performed at DFS and implement a corrective action plan that addresses concerns raised in the audit.

According to the Bowser statement, the analysis will review training and management protocols, and another third-party investigation will focus on all of the other forensic activities carried out by the agency, including fingerprints and firearms, to make sure they are up to par.

D.C. Councilman Kenyan McDuffie, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that ensuring the integrity of the DNA testing is a top priority for him and he will be pursuing the issue with committee colleagues.

“Any deficiencies in the work performed by the (DNA testing lab) must be immediately addressed due to the broader implications of inaccurate forensic testing on the fair administration of justice in our courts,” he said.

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