In The News


2014-05-21 | Former St. Louis police chemist alleges she was fired for reporting drug testing errors
Her wrongful-termination suit claims that twice in 2008, a fellow chemist did not follow proper testing procedures and failed to detect benzylpiperazine in pills that came into the lab. Benzylpiperazine, also known as BZP, is a powerful stimulant used in the drug Ecstasy. Owens’ attorneys say that when she learned of the errors and raised her concerns with supervisors, the issue was shoved under the rug, even though later testing confirmed she was right.

2014-05-20 | Shoddy examinations leave families in pain
Across North Carolina, medical examiners fail to follow crucial investigative steps, raising questions about the accuracy of thousands of death rulings. The living face the consequences. Widows can be cheated out of insurance money. Families may never learn why their loved ones died. Killers can go free.

2014-05-13 | St. Paul police crime lab to seek accreditation
The St. Paul police crime lab plans to seek accreditation through a national board that evaluates forensic testing, a move that would help demonstrate the department has turned around its embattled crime lab. The city's police department shut down the lab in 2012, after public defenders' inquiries disclosed flawed drug-testing practices at the unaccredited St. Paul police crime lab. The city then spent nearly $1 million and a year of work to address the problems, including a review of thousands of criminal cases.

2014-05-13 | St. Paul police chief says revamped forensic unit helped crack drug cartel case
The police department's Forensic Services Unit had retrieved the found cellphone about noon on April 15 to process it for evidence. At 5 p.m., the unit completed the analysis. Analysts used an ultraviolet imaging system, which the department bought last year for more than $40,000, to find the print on the phone and identify it, the lab manager said, adding it was a fast turnaround for the amount of work involved.

2014-05-09 | Mexican Cartel Allegedly Hired MS-13 To Carry Out Torture Operation In Minnesota
The three enforcers were allegedly sent from Los Angeles to St. Paul on orders from the Sinaloa cartel to find the people who stole 30 pounds of methamphetamine and $200,000 from a stash house in St. Paul. The two teens that the cartel hit men snagged were tortured, had their lives and that that of their families threatened and were told to find the missing drugs or come up with $300,000 to compensate the cartel.

2014-05-06 | It's Hard to Say If This Baltimore Crime Lab Whittled Down Its DNA Sample Backlog
A federally-funded Baltimore crime lab could not show progress processing backlogged DNA samples because incoming and outgoing analysis-tracking systems weren't linked, according to a newly-released Justice Department audit. Justice gave the City of Baltimore Police Department Crime Laboratory $1.2 million to reduce a logjam of unanalyzed DNA evidence, from October 2011 through March 2014.

2014-05-06 | Crime lab uses wrong chemical in 2,500 methamphetamine tests
Crime lab analysts used the wrong chemical to conduct preliminary methamphetamine tests earlier this year on the blood samples of 2,500 people who were arrested on suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office disclosed Monday. However, retesting found that only seven tests had showed a false positive because of the mistake by lab analyst Mark Burry, according to assistant district attorney David Angel, head of the office's conviction-integrity unit. No one is in custody because of a mistaken test, he said.

2014-05-06 | Suspected Mexican drug cartel enforcers indicted in St. Paul torture-kidnap case
Neighbors didn't see visitors to the small house on a quiet St. Paul street, let alone hear screams from inside. The first inkling of trouble was the sight of a police SWAT team descending on the neighborhood. But inside the house, authorities say, a level of Mexican drug cartel violence previously unknown in Minnesota was carried out against two teenagers. After methamphetamine and $200,000 were stolen from the house in the West Seventh neighborhood, four men kidnapped the Minneapolis teens, brought them to the home and tortured them, including nearly severing one of the victim's fingers, according to federal charges unsealed Tuesday. Andrew Luger, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota, said the case is significant for two reasons. "One, because of the violence that it is alleged the defendants caused to the victims, and two, because it signals that the cartels are willing to send in out-of-state muscle to enforce their drug deals," Luger said.

2014-05-05 | Mexican drug cartel allegedly kidnapped, tortured after St. Paul thefts
A Mexican drug cartel had a "stash house" in St. Paul and, when drugs and money were stolen from it last month, several suspects were kidnapped and tortured, according to charges filed in Ramsey County District Court. Now, sources said, a federal grand jury has been convened in the case. Federal charges could be coming this week.

2014-05-01 | FORGET CSI: A Disaster Is Happening In America's Crime Labs
Even labs that seem to be well run are often plagued by backlogs and underfunding. An estimated 40,000 rape kits remain untested around the country, sitting around in evidence rooms because of lack of funding. Some of those kits date to the 1980s. In some cases, kits are so old that even if a perpetrator is identified, he or she can’t be prosecuted because of the statute of limitations. As a result, sometimes authorities don’t even bother testing the oldest kits. But increased funding, necessary as it is, addresses only one aspect of the problem. Without strict oversight, scientific independence, and properly trained personnel, the U.S. will continue to be plagued by serious crime lab misconduct, undermining the criminal justice system and unfairly imprisoning falsely accused suspects while letting real perpetrators off the hook.

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