• 2000 Cases Could Be Affected By Botched DNA Testing In DC Lab

    DNA testing at D.C.’s new crime lab was shut down nearly two weeks ago by a national accreditation board after an audit discovered the lab’s procedures were insufficient.

    Roger Mitchell Jr., interim director of the Department of Forensic Sciences, which oversees the lab, told the D.C. Council Monday that around 2,000 cases could be affected by the findings, dating back to October of 2012.

    Mitchell had it rough during the council hearing on his second day on the job. He wasn’t prepared to answer many of the council’s questions pertaining to the audit, which he said would be more appropriate at a later date.

    He took over the head position at the DFS Thursday when the former director stepped down amid the DNA lab controversy. Along with former director Max Houck, two other senior officials were fired, clearing out most of the senior management staff.

    Mitchell said during testimony about the agency’s budget for the upcoming year that the U.S. Attorney’s Office first notified the DFS about concerns with its DNA lab in October of 2014. The department was of responding to those concerns when the attorney’s office initiated its audit.

    Currently, the DFS has more than 300 cases that will need to be sent to an outside lab for testing. Mitchell said the agency usually averages about 50 new cases a month, which will also need to be analyzed by the outside vendor. (Related: ‘Incompetent’ DC Crime Lab To Cost Another $1 Million)

    The DFS has a contract with an outside lab it has been using on a case-by-case basis up until this point, but Mitchell said it will be using that lab exclusively moving forward.

    The current contract with the lab costs $800 per case to analyze DNA, but Mitchell said the two labs are negotiating the contract and he expects the price to go down due to the quantity of cases it will be handling.

    The terms set forth by Mayor Muriel Bowser after the audit require the lab to address its concerns within 30 days of when it was released. There are now 20 days left in that time frame.

    Mitchell, however, said it would take much longer than 30 days to correct the “non-conformities” in his agency and he is unsure how long it will take.

    The DFS has acquired two outside consultants who will start working with the agency on Thursday to evaluate the issues and help formulate some corrective action.

    “Before the end of the week we will have a clear path forward,” he said.

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