Forensic Lab Contamination in WA Puts Cases in Jeopardy

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Thousands of criminal cases in Washington state have been thrown into doubt by reports of contamination at the state’s only forensic laboratory. Recent sampling at Washington’s only forensic toxicology laboratory, which has a history of false positives, has found more areas contaminated with methamphetamine and cocaine, reports The Seattle Times. The latest findings come after the lab had falsely detected meth in blood samples tested for 11 cases since 2019.

The findings have triggered skepticism among defense lawyers about the integrity of blood testing being performed at this lab, which is relied upon in thousands of criminal cases and death investigations statewide.

The sampling at the Washington State Patrol Toxicology Laboratory is the latest to emerge from random testing since at least 2018. Defense attorneys say this contamination may have tainted evidence in thousands of cases, some in which defendants have already been convicted, and that lab administrations are downplaying this problem after keeping it private for more than a year. Prior to becoming a toxicology lab, the lab was used to produce meth for training purposes as part of a crime lab, reports the Washington Defender Association.

This summary was prepared by TCR Justice Reporting intern Gabriela Felitto.

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