Virginia Gov. Mark Warner has appointed a group of scientists to watch over the state's embattled crime lab, reports the Virginian-Pilot. The appointments make Virginia only the second state in the country, along with New York, to establish a scientific review panel for its DNA lab. Many others are considering the move based on errors and problems discovered at DNA labs across the country.
The 13 scientists named to the Virginia panel will review laboratory operations, adopt qualification standards for the lab director and other staffers, and establish an audit process to be used when errors occur. The group also would be available to review lab reports and test results at the request of the governor or lab officials. An audit found that the Virginia lab twice botched DNA testing in the case of Earl Washington Jr., who spent nearly 18 years in prison for the rape and murder of a Culpeper woman. Washington was pardoned in 2000, but the audit suggested he could have been cleared sooner if the lab had followed proper procedures.