Unconfirmed reports suggest that the Connecticut Department of Public Safety forensic laboratory is at the eye of a storm. A federal review of the lab, its policies and procedures has resulted in a 160-page report highly critical of the lab. Recent DNA tests, the so-called gold standard of the forensic science, must be redone. There will be a change in leadership of the lab.
Or so I am told by a source with ties to the lab.
I do not know whether the reports are true, but if you are a criminal defense lawyer practicing in Connecticut and you are facing evidence tested at the laboratory, the existence of this federal report might be the sort of exculpatory evidence you need to win your case.
Here are some questions for Department of Public Safety Commissioner Reuben Bradford:
Is it true that federal investigators have given you a 160-page report highlighting the lab’s shortcomings and requiring the lab to engage in extensive retesting of evidence?
If it is true, in what cases is retesting being done? How far back will the department be looking to retest evidence?
Will an unedited copy of the federal report be released to the public, and, one hopes, posted on the DPS website?
Will notices be sent to each lawyer appearing on behalf of a client against whom the results of questionable tests have been produced?
What efforts are being made to determine the identity of those defendants convicted, either by way of a verdict or a guilty plea, in cases on which the state relied on tainted evidence?
Is it true that there will be a change in leadership of the DNA unit, including the replacement of Dr. Carll Ladd?
Will there be a list of all cases in which Dr. Ladd supervised testing so that defense counsel, including counsel in post-conviction relief claims, can request new tests?
Will the DPS agree to creation of a broad-based commission to review the performance of the forensic crime lab, including members of the criminal defense bar?
Several years ago, the National Academy of Sciences published a report critical of the use of the so-called forensic sciences in criminal cases, referring to much of the work as little more than junk science. At the time, Dr. Ladd was openly contemptuous of the study. Notably lacking from the NAS inquiry were Connecticut contributors. Will the DPS consent to review of Connecticut’s lab by the NAS?
Spread the works, folks. There appears to be trouble in the lab. Our clients deserve answers to these questions, and soon. If the reports of a federal report critical of the lab are untrue, if reports of massive retesting is untrue, then we should be told so.