Criminal justice officials are struggling to calculate the impact of an audit that the Detroit News says exposed rampant problems in the Detroit Police firearms laboratory and resulted in the shutdown of the entire crime lab. The Michigan State Police audit of the city’s gun lab, which began in June after firearms evidence was found to be tainted, showed a systemic problem that calls into question all forensic evidence handled in the lab over several years, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said. “This opens a huge can of worms,” Worthy said. “If the quality system is failing in one forensic discipline, it is highly likely to be an indicator of a severe problem that affects other forensic disciplines as well.” Of 200 cases reviewed in the audit, 10 percent were found to have errors.
University of Michigan law Prof. David Moran said a “decent lab” would have an error rate almost 10 times less. “When you’re dealing with human beings, you can expect some errors,” he said. “But a decent lab would have an error rate of under one percent. A 10 percent rate is absolutely shocking.” The problems mean there could be people imprisoned for crimes they did not commit — and there also could be dangerous criminals on the loose, Worthy said. “We have no idea how many criminals have gone uncharged as a result” of the problems in the crime lab, she said. The audit opens the door for thousands of lawsuits and appeals, said Detroit attorney Marvin Barnett. “This is an atomic bomb,” he said. “This is the prosecution themselves acknowledging a wide range of inconsistencies. I can’t even begin to imagine how huge this is. When you think of how many people will try to appeal their convictions and the possible lawsuits — it boggles the mind.”