Baltimore crime analysts have been contaminating evidence with their own DNA , reports the Baltimore Sun. The revelation led to the dismissal this week of the Police Department’s crime lab director and prompted questions from defense attorneys and forensic experts about the professionalism of the state’s biggest and busiest crime lab. Edgar Koch, who had been the city lab’s director for the past decade, was fired Tuesday.
City officials said the employee contamination did not lead to anyone being falsely accused of a crime, and they played down its importance. Defense attorneys said any flaws in the city’s handling of DNA could raise broader questions about evidence that is generally considered infallible. As testing becomes more sophisticated and new standards for labs emerge, cities across the country, including Houston and Seattle, have been discovering contamination issues that in some cases led to convictions being overturned. Several experts, including the director of the national crime lab accreditation board, said they were surprised that Baltimore had failed to take what they called the basic step of cataloging the employees’ DNA. “It’s a uniformly standard practice of laboratories doing DNA testing,” said Ralph Keaton, director of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board.