Houston Police Department crime lab analysts fabricated findings in at least four drug cases, an independent investigator reported Tuesday, including one in which a scientist performed no tests before issuing conclusions that supported a police officer’s suspicions. The Houston Chronicle said the allegations may be among the most serious leveled thus far in the more than two years since the crime lab came under scrutiny. The report, released Tuesday, also casts doubt, for the first time, on the laboratory’s largest division, controlled substances, which tests substances suspected of being drugs and performs about 75 percent of HPD’s forensics work. The latest problems bring to five the number of crime lab disciplines where errors have been exposed – including DNA, toxicology, ballistics and the blood-typing science of serology.
The former U.S. Justice Department official leading the probe called the latest allegation “the most egregious form of scientific misconduct that can occur in a forensic laboratory.” Investigators reported finding four instances between 1998 and 2000 in which two analysts, whom they do not name, issued findings for tests they never conducted. In each case, the analysts’ supervisors caught the misrepresentations before the evidence could be introduced in court. One analyst resigned in March 2001, but the other still works at the crime lab. Neither analyst received more than a four-day suspension.