Five scientists gathered at Virginia's crime lab in Richmond Monday to review scores of old criminal cases that could tell them whether errors discovered in a high-profile death penalty case are a sign of widespread flaws in the state's handling of DNA evidence, reports the Virginian-Pilot. A state judge overseeing the process said he is uncertain how long it will take the team to analyze an estimated 160 to 190 cases, but he promised to release a progress report if the work is not complete by Labor Day.
Gov. Mark R. Warner ordered a comprehensive examination of lab procedures last month after an independent audit found that lab scientists had twice botched DNA tests in a 1982 rape-murder case involving Earl Washington Jr. Washington came within days of being executed but was granted a pardon in 2000. Auditors also rebuked lab staffers for failing to catch the errors in an internal investigation last year. The scientists chosen to perform the review will examine every death penalty case since 1994 in which DNA testing was performed – a total of about 25. The team also will study, at random, at least three other criminal cases from each of the 45 examiners in the Richmond lab.