D.C. Crime Lab Director Out After Errors Found In DNA Analyses


The embattled director of Washington, D.C.’s first independent DNA lab resigned a week after two audits found that the lab's procedures were inadequate,forcing a national accreditation body to suspend all of the lab’s DNA testing, the Washington Post reports. Max Houck has been the director of the District's Department of Forensic Sciences since the lab opened its $220 million facility. Two other senior officials, the chief scientist for the lab and the senior manager for DNA testing, were let go. Last week, the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board determined that analysts at the lab were “not competent and were using inadequate procedures.” The authors of the audit, which was ordered by the District, gave the lab 30 days to address the concerns.

Despite the sweeping executive personnel changes, people familiar with the operations of the lab said its accreditation still remained at risk as a result of the board's findings. The Post reported last month that prosecutors within the U.S. attorney's office alerted city officials to what they described as numerous errors with the DNA analysis performed at the lab. Prosecutors stopped sending DNA evidence to the lab earlier this year. Prosecutors have ordered the review of 182 cases as a result of the errors they said they discovered in the lab's DNA results. Prosecutors, as well as the accreditation board, had problems with the interpretation in DNA mixtures cases, those in which more than one person's DNA is present in the evidence. Prosecutors said the errors have not resulted in the dismissal of any cases or in any exonerations.

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