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Fort Worth Police Department Starts Doing Its Own DNA Testing at Fort Worth Crime Lab. Feel Safer?

Over in Fort Worth, they had the fancy Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the new Fort Worth Police Department Crime Laboratory (and Property and Evidence Room) almost two years ago – back on August 23, 2010. You can see photos of the ribbon cutting online at the Fort Worth Police Department website where the department explains that this new crime lab will:

  • Reduce the possibility of contamination of evidence and will improve the security of evidence.
  • Provide adequate space for future personnel growth and the ability to potentially undertake additional forensic science services such as, DNA, Toxicology, Arson analyses, shoe print/tire tread comparisons etc.

This week, the Fort Worth Crime Lab has announced its revving up its DNA analysis again.

Fort Worth Crime Lab DNA Testing Started Back Up This Week

Headed up by Crime Lab Director Tom Stimpson, the  Fort Worth Crime Lab will have two scientists working now on DNA testing of evidence.  Three more forensic scientists are in the plans for the future, but training these three added worker bees won’t start until after the first of the year.  Which means that Fort Worth will still send lots of its DNA evidence elsewhere for scientific testing.

Stimpson told the press this week that not only was keeping costs down one of the benefits of getting the Fort Worth Crime Lab fully operational with all five scientists on the job (along with the Director), but having all the DNA testing done within the Police Department’s only laboratory allows the police department to keep control of all its evidence, all the time.

2003, Fort Worth Crime Lab Under Criminal Investigation After Flawed DNA Testing Revealed

Those who have lived and worked in the Dallas- Fort Worth area, especially local criminal defense attorneys, will remember that it was not that long ago that one of the Fort Worth forensic scientists was discovered to not be following standard operating procedures for testing DNA.

After Crime Lab senior scientist Karla Carmichael’s substandard work was revealed in the fall of 2002, a review of DNA evidence testing going back three years was done of the Fort Worth Crime Lab. By the following spring, the District Attorney of Tarrant County was overseeing a criminal investigation into the Forth Worth Crime Laboratory’s DNA testing as well as its testing of firearms, chemistry, and more.

DNA Testing In Police Crime Laboratories Notoriously Unreliable

Just by reading the Innocent Project’s work both in Texas and elsewhere (for example, read our earlier post on DNA testing clearing Michael Morton among others), it’s clear that law enforcement testing of evidence for DNA isn’t all that trustworthy.  However, to be fair, it’s not just the Fort Worth Police Department that has a history of bad acts here: the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s DNA testing in its crime labs haven’t been all that reliable either.

The answer?  For criminal defense attorneys, it is independent testing of evidence by scientists that they know to be expert and reliable; third party labs that aren’t buddy buddy with the local prosecutors.  Not that we’re suggesting prosecutorial misconduct is rampant here and elsewhere: the Texas Tribune is doing that quite well in this 12 minute video:

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