Crime Lab Corruption in America

Write-up by Josh Wiley posted to CerebralIndustrialComplex.com

Modern society is living through a revolution of information sharing. Current technology has allowed for an expansion of human intellect and knowledge unparalleled in history, in a league separate from even the technological prowess of the Gutenberg press. That being said, humanity becoming privy to new scientific breakthroughs has proliferated the idea that such unprecedented achievements in the realms of math and science make us virtually infallible to error or manipulation of data.

A brief examination of the history of corruption in America’s top criminal analysis laboratories, however, calls this notion into question.

Whereas last week’s article on the replacement of State-run enforcement in favor of citizen-implemented structures delved into the sociological and moral aspects of law enforcement by fiat, today’s will primarily explore a number of important news stories which you’ve probably never heard of involving rampant corruption in State-run crime labs in an attempt to quell the reader’s incredulity on the subject of government law enforcement inefficiency. The citation of such stories throughout this article are recorded for posterity as well as the benefit of the reader, serving as mere examples of an under-reported issue endemic of American society at large. This author would challenge the reader to search for such scandals local to themselves, as unfortunately, this problem is not unique to the area codes mentioned herein.

An ill-prepared Detroit crime lab after a June 2011 break-in. via Detroit Free Press
An ill-prepared Detroit crime lab after a June 2011 break-in. via Detroit Free Press
  • New York City, New York (via New York Post): While NYPD criminal analysis labs have been marred with controversy for decades, the most recent findings as of 2010 have called into question a large percentage of police lab findings within the city after the revelation that “thousands” of criminal cases hinge upon falsified drug tests.
  • State of Virginia (via Chicago Tribune): State police labs in Virginia have, after convictions made decades ago in some cases, re-opened investigation after widespread errant DNA tests were found to have contributed to the aforementioned convictions. Paul Ferrara, director of the crime lab in question and responsible for the results of the DNA analysis, called such criticisms “unfounded,” in spite of original tests having proven to be untrue.
  • Boston, Massachusetts (via CBS News): In December of 2012, the City of Boston was forced to release hundreds of nonviolent drug offenders after it was found that one Annie Dookhan, an employee of the city crime lab, had falsified numerous drug tests during her tenure with the department. While the city maintains that Dookhan acted alone, the motivation behind this deception and its greater implications within the department at large remain unknown and uninvestigated.
  • Houston, Texas (via Houston Chronicle): The Houston Police Department remains one of the most prolific violators of the right of Americans to a fair trial in the country’s short history. Recent scandals rocking HPD’s crime lab include such varied offenses as false DNA tests, untested rape kits, destruction of evidence, inaccurate blood alcohol detectors, firearm forensics falsification, fingerprint misidentification, and false drug tests, just to name a few.
  • Detroit, Michigan (via USA Today): After being shaken by scandal as a result of former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick being convicted of taxpayer theft, interim mayor Kenneth Cockrel, Jr. was forced to confront an uncomfortable truth: The Detroit Police Department crime lab was responsible for erroneous or false findings in 10% of 200 randomly-selected cases. Mayor Cockrel eventually shut down the crime lab entirely, evidently deciding that no laboratory analysis at all was better than forensic evidence that wrongly enslaved the citizens of Detroit.

This author once again reiterates that the above examples are but the tip of the iceberg in terms of crime lab corruption in America. Some may posit theories about such instances being isolated events, but such theories ignore the nationwide nature of such corruption. As America and much of the Western world becomes an increasingly technocratic society, the importance of people questioning the powers that be on the conclusions they draw based on the implementation of such technology becomes evermore imperative as time crawls forward. Such issues are primarily the result of the centralization of criminal analysis power by the state, and may very well not come to an end until a truly free model for crime labs is adopted by society at large.


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Pete Eyre

Pete Eyre is co-founder of CopBlock.org. As an advocate of peaceful, consensual interactions, he seeks to inject a message of complete liberty and self-government into the conversation of police accountability. Eyre went to undergrad and grad school for law enforcement, then spent time in DC as an intern at the Cato Institute, a Koch Fellow at the Drug Policy Alliance, Directer of Campus Outreach at the Institute for Humane Studies, Crasher-in-Chief at Bureaucrash, and as a contractor for the Future of Freedom Foundation. In 2009 he left the belly of the beast and hit the road with Motorhome Diaries and later co-founded Liberty On Tour. He spent time in New Hampshire home, and was involved with Free Keene, the Free State Project and The Daily Decrypt.