Justice Department investigators have sharply criticized the department's handling of old FBI crime lab problems, McClatchy Newspapers reports. In a sweeping report, the DOJ Office of Inspector General cited “serious deficiencies” in the work of the task force assigned in 1996 to follow up on potentially troublesome crime lab cases. In some cases, problems associated with 13 specific lab workers were a matter of life and death. “We found that it took the FBI almost 5 years to identify the 64 defendants on death row whose cases involved analyses or testimony by 1 or more of the 13 examiners,” investigators said. “The department did not notify state authorities that convictions of capital defendants could be affected by involvement of any of the 13 criticized examiners.”
The investigators cited the case of death row inmate Benjamin Boyle, executed in Texas in 1997 before the task force had a chance to review the crime lab's role in his conviction. “The prosecutor deemed the Lab analysis and testimony in that case material to the defendant's conviction,” the new investigation noted. “An independent scientist who later reviewed the case found the FBI Lab analysis to be scientifically unsupportable and the testimony overstated and incorrect.” As previously reported, three other defendants, Donald Gates, Santae Tribble, and Kirk Odom, served sentences more than 21 years based in part on FBI hair analyses and testimony that DNA analysis subsequently proved erroneous.