Hundreds of DNA samples stored in broken freezer, potentially destroyed

Crime lab freezer broke, exposing samples

AUSTIN - New information has surfaced in the APD DNA crime lab investigation revealing that hundreds of DNA samples were potentially ruined after they were stored in a broken freezer. 

The information comes from a memo that surfaced as part of the investigation. According to the memo, hundreds of DNA samples were kept in the broken freezer for eight consecutive days, exposing the samples to heat that could have badly damaged or destroyed them.

Not only was the freezer broken but an alert system which was supposed to notify lab staff that the freezer wasn't cooling also failed, according to the memo.

Because officials didn't know whether or not the DNA samples were damaged, they opted not to notify defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges or anyone else.

The DNA section of the crime lab has been closed for months after the Texas Forensic Science Center conducted an audit that found flawed scientific methods and training issues among staff.

Officials told KVUE's Tony Plohetski that the broken freezer was not discovered by anyone outside of the lab until late October, which has raised concern among many criminal justice officials. 

"This raised serious concerns at the District Attorney's Office about APD's recognition of their responsibility to the DA's office and the justice system in general with regard to incidents that affect the quality of evidence," DA-elect Margaret Moore told KVUE. "It is an important factor as we begin a community deliberation about how to resolve existing issues and move forward."

The biggest question is whether or not the DNA samples were ruined, which APD is still trying to determine. 

(© 2016 KVUE)


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