Two audits of the lab were released earlier this month that highlighted serious problems with the lab’s testing of finger prints and suspected controlled substances. As a result of those reports, Jim Backstrom of Dakota, John Choi of Ramsey and Peter Orput of Washington announced today that they will begin their own review of all cases that relied on the lab for testing that resulted in a conviction at a judge or jury trial back to July 1, 2010.
The substances tested in those cases will be retested at a separate lab. If the retest leads to a negative result, the conviction will be vacated. If there substance was destroyed or there is not enough available for retesting, prosecutors will look for preliminary field tests and other “corroborating evidence” in the file to support the conviction. If there is no positive preliminary test or insufficient corroborating evidence exists, the conviction will be vacated.
So far, 192 retests in three counties have been completed. Of those, 189 confirmed the results and the existence of a controlled substance. Two retests identified a drug that the St. Paul lab missed. One case was dismissed after the retest came back negative.
The three prosecutors released a joint statement today:
As we have previously stated, we believe it is important for the public to keep in mind that the deficits and problems which have to date been identified in the St. Paul Police Department’s Crime Lab have not yet been shown to have resulted in the widespread misidentification of substances believed to be illegal drugs, as has been confirmed by the retesting process to date. This is not intended to minimize the seriousness of the problems identified at the Crime Lab. These are very serious problems which in many ways undermine the public’s confidence in the operation of our justice system.