APD DNA lab under review



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Posted on July 8, 2010 at 1:45 PM

Updated Thursday, Jul 8 at 2:03 PM

Thousands of criminal cases at the Austin Police Department are now in question.

Former employee, Cecily Hamilton, alleges employees at the lab were performing tasks they were not capable of doing. The claim has since put up to 2,000 cases at risk.

Technicians at the lab search through police evidence and process materials collected from crime scenes. The cases now at risk include all classes of felonies from murder to sexual assault.

Hamilton filed the complaint after she left the office. She cited "quality assurance issues."

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo says the lab recently received passing inspections from both the FBI and the American Society of Crime Lab Directors.

"It is an operation we're very proud of, that we are very confident in, and it's one that we believe will withstand any audit," said Chief Acevedo.

Despite his confidence, Chief Acevedo and Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg are asking the Texas Forensic Science Commission to conduct an independent investigation of the lab.

"We will provide the Texas Forensic Science Commission with all of the documentation regarding the allegations and the findings," said Chief Acevedo. "We will make a joint formal request that they review all of the documents, they review all of the allegations and they report back."

Since the allegations first came out, the D.A.'s office says it has notified defense attorney's who were involved in cases with DNA. In one of the worst case scenarios, the external review could uncover poor standards at the lab making their results unreliable. One defense attorney is already citing that issue in one of their cases.