D.C. Appeals Forensic Lab Suspension, Alleges Misdoings By U.S. Attorney's Office The city's Department of Forensic Sciences defends its work and alleges that "fatal" conflicts of interest and inaccuracies.
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D.C. Appeals Forensic Lab Suspension, Alleges Misdoings By U.S. Attorney's Office

D.C.'s crime lab lost its accreditation earlier this year over allegedly concealed information other fraudulent behavior. Aaron Yoo/Flickr hide caption

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Aaron Yoo/Flickr

More than two months after D.C.'s troubled crime lab lost its national accreditation, the city has filed an appeal, alleging that "fatal" conflicts of interest and misrepresented information within the U.S. Attorney's Office led to its suspension.

The D.C. Department of Forensic Science's appeal blasted the decision, deeming it "so fundamentally improper as to warrant remand."

Local journalist Tom Sherwood was first to report the news, sharing the full appeal provided by Washington City Paper's Mitch Ryals.

The crime lab, whose director, Jenifer Smith, stepped down last month, lost its accreditation in April, after the ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB) concluded that the lab "deliberately concealed information from the ANAB assessment team," and engaged in other forms of fraudulent behavior.

ANAB's allegations stemmed from an audit of the lab, commissioned by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, which found that the lab had erroneously connected casings from two 2015 killings to the same gun, and later misrepresented the mistake to two national accreditation boards. (These allegations also sparked a criminal investigation by the D.C. Office of the Inspector General, which is still ongoing.) Racine's audit followed earlier concerns raised by the U.S. Attorney for D.C., whose office worked with the D.C. Attorney General to select experts to handle the investigation into the lab.

Prior to Smith's resignation from DFS, Racine had called for immediate changes to the lab's leadership. D.C. councilmembers also expressed doubts about the lab's ability to handle evidence

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The DFS's 18-page appeal denies that there is any evidence of "deliberate concealment, fraud, or misrepresentation," in the materials concerning ANAB's decision. It goes on to allege that the accreditation board accepted a complaint about the lab's processes from the U.S. Attorney's Office for D.C. without properly investigating the USAO's claims.

"ANAB's decision to adopt or otherwise incorporate as its own the Final Report of a body with documented, undisclosed, and fatal conflicts of interest is a violation of [ANAB codes]," the report reads.

The U.S. Attorney for D.C. office and Karl Racine's office did not immediately return DCist's request for comment on DFS' appeal. ANAB spokespeople did not immediately return a request for comment.

In its argument, DFS claims that the U.S. Attorney's Office assigned experts with several conflicts of interest to investigate the alleged errors of the crime lab. Notably, one investigator on the team is described as a "disappointed applicant" for the Department of Forensics director position, according to the appeal. (Smith ended up getting the job). The appeal also claims that this person has testified that he is personal friends with Michael Ambrosino, the special council for DNA and Forensics for the U.S. Attorney.

The city further argues that the U.S. Attorney's Office failed to disclose several pieces of relevant information in their final report on the lab's errors, including conflicting accounts made by the USAO's own examiners when reviewing DFS reports and evidence.

"DFS respectfully asks that ANAB remand the April 2, 2020 accreditation determination for reconsideration," reads the DFS appeal. "DFS is confident it will be able to provide as fulsome a response as it has in the past. DFS remains dedicated to working with ANAB to fully address any nonconformities discovered as a result."

The appeal states that DFS is currently working with independent forensic quality assurance resources to address concerns, and is collaborating with other D.C. agencies to identify whether the allegations made in the accreditation suspension report are true.

The lab, currently without a director or accreditation, is not processing any evidence. Instead, the city is sending any criminal evidence to federal or private labs for processing.

This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.

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