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Friday, March 30, 2012

Ind. Gov't. - "Indiana lacks answers on toxicology lab tests used in criminal cases: 30 percent of retested samples from 2007-09 had no trace of drugs"

Lengthy story today by the Indianapolis Star's Tim Evans on the continuing brohaha over the state Department of Toxicology and the veracity of its results. Some quotes:

But last year, after lawmakers voted to pull the lab from IU and make it a stand-alone state agency, members of the advisory panel appointed by the governor questioned the audit and its findings.

The major concern: None of the original samples had been retested.

"Until the re-analysis of the samples . . . can be completed, it is scientifically unclear if the result reported is incorrect," the three-member panel wrote in a July 22 report to the governor.

In the same report, [Retired Judge Linda Chezem, who chairs the Toxicology Department's advisory panel appointed by Gov. Mitch Daniels] recommended retesting hundreds of samples called into question by the audit. Members also said new test results "should be conveyed to the prosecutors, defense (attorneys) and public in understandable language. In other words, the explanations made should explain the significance of the findings and what they mean in lay language."

But, despite the panel's recommendation, the state denied The Star's request for the results provided to the lab last fall. Nor did it share them with the public or defense attorneys, leaving that up to prosecutors.

Eventually, the governor's office agreed to release the one-page summary to The Star.

When asked the basic question -- were the original results accurate? -- Chezem said she couldn't say.

"Maybe," she responded. "Maybe not."

Each case, Chezem explained, will have to be reviewed on its own merits to determine how significant the initial test result was to the criminal case.

Toxicology and legal experts told The Star there is another complicating factor: Drug compounds degrade over time.

A long side-bar story is headed "Wide range between old and new test results."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 30, 2012 07:45 AM
Posted to Indiana Government