The Crisis in America’s Crime Labs

By Michelle Malkin

Handcuffs Arrest Resistance
The Crisis in America's Crime Labs
Michelle Malkin
Michelle Malkin

USA –   -( Junk science endangers lives. Forensic junk science in the hands of overzealous prosecutors, ignorant police detectives and reckless experts threatens liberty.

There is a crisis in America's government-run crime labs — and it's not just the result of a few rogue operators. The problem is long-festering and systemic.

In April, Massachusetts state crime lab chemist Annie Dookhan made national headlines after investigations and lawsuits over her misconduct prompted the state's Supreme Judicial Court to order the largest dismissal of criminal convictions in U.S. history.

Prosecutors were forced to dismiss a stunning 21,000-plus drug cases after Dookhan admitted to forging signatures, misleading investigators and purposely contaminating drug samples en masse over nearly a decade. Dookhan pleaded guilty to dozens of charges of obstruction of justice, perjury and tampering with evidence. Hundreds of defendants have had their convictions tossed on appeal.

Despite a district judge concluding that her actions were “nothing short of catastrophic,” Dookhan served a measly three years in prison before being released last spring.

Another Massachusetts state crime lab worker, Sonja Farak, abused her position to pilfer and ingest the drugs she was supposed to be testing over an eight-year period. Instead of cleaning up, two former assistant attorney generals covered up for Farak and misled a judge who last month dismissed several of the cases tainted by the narcotics-addicted lab worker. Upwards of 10,000 prosecutions may eventually be overturned.

The fraudster's fate? Crackhead and meth junkie Farak received a mere 18-month jail sentence for snorting the evidence, plus 5 years' probation. The two assistant AGs left their jobs for higher-paying positions in government.

Law journals and scientific publications are filled with similar horror stories that have spread from the New York City medical examiner's office and Nassau County, N.Y.'s police department forensic evidence bureau to the crime labs of West Virginia, Harris County, Texas, North Carolina and jurisdictions in nearly 20 other states.

It's the wrongfully prosecuted and convicted who suffer the heaviest deprivations — and taxpayers who must foot the astronomical bill for all the costs and damages incurred by crime lab corruptocrats and their enablers.

As I've been chronicling in my AmmoLand News columns and investigative reports, many state crime labs and police departments are particularly ill-equipped and inadequately trained to interpret DNA evidence, especially “touch” or “trace” DNA — minute amounts of DNA of unknown origin often transferred through incidental contact — which has resulted in monstrous miscarriages of justice against innocent people.

The aura of infallibility conferred on crime lab analysts by “CSI”-style TV shows exacerbates the problem when juries place undue weight on indeterminate DNA evidence of little to no probative value. Just last week, North Carolina's Mark Carver, who was convicted of murdering a college student based on dubious touch DNA that was likely the result of investigators' contamination, won a new court date for a hearing that may set him free.

Costly errors and gross misconduct will continue as long as politicized prosecutors operate with a “win at all costs” agenda and stubbornly refuse to admit their failures. Dark history seems to repeating itself at the Oklahoma City Police Department, home of the late forensic faker Joyce Gilchrist. Known as “Black Magic,” Gilchrist conjured mountains of phony DNA evidence out of whole cloth in collaboration with an out-of-control district attorney over two ruinous decades.

Gilchrist, whose tainted testimony sent 11 inmates to their deaths, passed away two years ago unpunished and unrepentant.

Now, nearly a quarter-century after Gilchrist's misconduct was first exposed, Oklahoma City has been rocked by secret hearings held two weeks ago in the case of former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw. He was convicted in 2015 on multiple sexual assaults after being railroaded by incompetent and biased police detectives and a DA's office more concerned about appeasing the social justice mob than seeking the truth.

My investigation of Holtzclaw's case helped publicize the flawed, sloppy testimony by OCPD crime lab analyst Elaine Taylor and assistant district attorney Gayland Gieger, who misled jurors with false assertions about trace skin cell DNA tied to one accuser found on Holtzclaw's pants — the only indirect forensic evidence in the case. One of the key attendees at the secret hearings last month was Taylor's OCPD crime lab supervisor, Campbell Ruddock.

Taylor and Gieger failed to fully inform the jury of unknown male DNA found on Holtzclaw's pants, as well as DNA mixtures from multiple unknown female and male contributors, which clearly supported the hypothesis of innocent, nonsexual DNA indirect transfer. But Gieger baselessly claimed the DNA came from vaginal fluid (when Taylor conducted no such confirmatory tests for body fluids nor used an alternate light source). Gieger recklessly yoked the phony DNA “smoking gun” in one accuser's case to all of the accusers' allegations. At least two jurors publicly stated after trial that the shoddy DNA evidence persuaded them of Holtzclaw's collective guilt.

Secrecy about the crime lab crisis is a toxic recipe for more wrongful convictions. The solution lies in greater transparency, external scrutiny, stiffer criminal penalties and real financial consequences for forensic fraudsters and fakers. It's time to incentivize more whistleblowers, instead of more destructive witch hunts.

About: Michelle Malkin
Michelle Malkin is host of “Michelle Malkin Investigates” on As well as the author of “Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks and Cronies” & “Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild“. Her e-mail address is [email protected]

  • 18 thoughts on “The Crisis in America’s Crime Labs

    1. Nothing quite like Mass., thank goodness might here be appropriate. That said, re Crime Labs, seems like the Crime Is In The Labs.

    2. Despite a district judge concluding that her actions were “nothing short of catastrophic,” Dookhan served a measly three years in prison before being released last spring.

      THIS is why this corruption of justice continues. When laws are seriously broken, unless there are REAL consequences with a high probability of being meted out to the law breakers, the proscribed behaviour will continue. That;s why, in some parts of the country, housebreakings are on the decline…. because homeowners are armed and DO shoot to protect themselves. Other places, they increase, because the local jurisdictions have disarmed the populace, leaving no serious consequences for the perpetrators.

      In the quote above, from the article, we see the root cause of the continuance, even proliferation, of this behaviour: no real consequences.

      I have long favoured the Biblical prescription for those who bear false witness against another (which falsifying evidence to be presented in court, or knowlingly presenting false evidence, (or withholding exculpatory evidence) are just that, bearing false witness against another. The Biblical prescriptioni in EVERY case of false testimony is for the one presenting it to receive the punishment the accused would receive if the false statements were true.

      So the crime lab dweebs falsify DNA evidence, or even lie about its reliabiltiy, in the trial, and the accused is convicted and executed. When discovered, and proven that the dweeb did in fact falsify the evidence or its signficance/reliability, thus wrongly persuading the jury, that dweeb must suffer the fate of the one executed.
      With a sword like that dangling over their heads, I do believe the dweebs in the crime labs would straighten out, pretty quickly.

      But in liberal bleeding heart money driven America, that is highly unlikely. So, the abuses will continue.

    3. Let’s take the point of this article to its logical conclusion. The present system of policing & prosecuting isn’t working. It’s way to fraught with abuse. Prosecutors run roughshod over our rights while law enforcement has become the standing army that many Founders warned us not to have. Let’s do away with prosecutors & police forces in favor of private prosecution clubs private security, community/volunteer security groups, & militias.

    4. One way to help address the problems with false conviction, for myriad reasons, is being pursued by the Fully Informed Jury Association/American Jury Institute (FIJA/AJI). The FIJA group is a grassroots organization advocating for laws requiring judges to advise jurors of their right ((which may also confer an actual obligation) to rule on the law itself, as well as the actual facts of the case being tried. This is a right recognized by scholars and jurists all over the nation, one that has never been successfully challenged, yet judges routinely not only fail to advise jurors of their rights, they often lie to them (sometimes inadvertently) and even make them swear “Juror Oaths” to abide by the judge’s decisions whenever in doubt. In fact, if a juror is in doubt, not only about the defendant’s guilt in a specific case, but also about the law itself, that makes a good argument for voting for acquittal. It only takes one unconvinced juror to “hang” a jury. In the early days of our country, conviction rates in trials were often around 25-30 percent, whereas now, they are much higher. This is probably not because the evidence today is so much better, but rather because of a widespread belief by jurors/citizens generally, that anyone who is actually brought to trial is probably guilty. If jurors were more skeptical, and understood their right to “vote their conscience,” our overall conviction rates would probably drop, primarily because of the reduction in false convictions of innocent people.
      The AJI group is a more formal legal organization that conducts seminars and continuing education for attorneys about the rights and obligations of jurors, the legal underpinning of those rights, and the proper function of the judge in the trial setting.

    5. Thank God that these crime lab, prosecutorial, and police bureaucrats were caught. And these situations underline the need for more powerful controls over our employees. And I am glad the the States, and counties that fail to supervise their bureaucrats will pay through the nose. And finally, I am appalled at the low rent, timid, unskilled defense attorneys that represented these people. At no time in your life will you need a knowledgeable and brilliant defender, than when the State points its accusatory finger … at you!

      1. You’re right! “Thank God” they were caught. However, without significant consequences, their prosecution and lenient sentencing will not do enough to dissuade others from following their lead.

    6. our justice system needs to be overhauled and some supervision.and the federal judges do need prison time for treason.

      1. @curt, “Treason is the only crime defined by out Constitution. See Art III, Section 3 Clause 1. Treason “…shall consist only in levying War against them (the united States), or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them (enemies) Aid and Comfort. Judges do not do this very often. But I do agree with you that We the People need stronger supervision and control over our judiciary.

        1. Treason is just the new buzz word and while for the most part I trust the police the judicial part makes me squirm.

    7. What we have in this country is a crisis in JUDGES! We have many Judges in this country that need to be disbarred and sent to prison!

    8. Kind of like the Old West where you could be a Sheriff and an outlaw at the same time like Henry Plummer. Best of both worlds son, the best of both worlds.
      this is why honest types with ethics and integrity are needed in law enforcement.

      1. I agree with you, VE Vet. It’s been almost 2 decades now since I raised my right arm and swore the oath to uphold the law (and before that I carried a rifle for Corps and Country, 0311 style.) I hold nothing but contempt for those that would bring degradation and disgrace to the rule of law. The same rule of law our Founding Fathers believed was the fundamental First Principle of a free and just government. However, if I may direct my comments to those others who have commented of corrupt police officers, prosecutors, or judges; do you really think this is a judicial dilemma? Let me be frank, it is not. I am here to tell you it is societal. I’ll submit to you, it isn’t getting rid of bad cops, aggressive win-at-all-costs prosecutors, corrupt judges, or even liberal/leftist politicians that will make all that much of a difference in the long haul. While those execrables do exist, they are merely symptomatic of a much larger problem. No, the crisis in America isn’t so much in our crime labs as it is in the corrupt national consciousness. Our morals have slipped to dangerously low levels. While navigating these forums/comments, I read ad nauseum about how getting rid of this liberal, outing these leftists, or annexing this blue state will solve the country’s problems. No, no, and no. Believe me, no one hates the left more than I. However, these are all just symptoms of a much larger fundamental problem. We have the greatest nation ever to have existed on earth, by God’s grace and by many an American’s blood sacrifice. But we have become victims of our own success and are now a nation rotting from within. Yes, perhaps the corruption has even now reached our inner sanctum, the judicial system. But I’d venture to say it is without doubt much more prevalent in most other facets of our lives that we just don’t want to talk about. It is so easy to point the finger at an authority figure like a cop or a judge and cry foul. How much harder is it to point the finger back at oneself and admit one’s own vices, shortcomings, or perfidy? I’m all for holding those in positions of authority to a higher level of responsibility and scrutiny. I spent several years of my career in Internal Affairs doing just that. But to all the quixotic keyboard killers that run around all day long ranting about this and that, you are playing the left’s game of whack-a-mole and its not a game you can win.

        Benjamin Franklin said it succinctly, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” More laws and bigger government are what is coming. Pres. Trump’s election was a wonderful stopgap to the runaway government that has become ever more oppressive. I don’t fault any for moving to states that offer more freedom and liberty. The sunset of the American democratic experiment is forthcoming. What can we do? Good question! I’m sure everyone on this site has dry powder and rifles aplenty, that is most evident. However, how stocked up on virtue and good will are you? That is what our country is in short supply of!

        1. Re the VICTIMS of sloppy lab operations, to say nothing of OUTRIGHT LIES by officials and lab personnel, whose lives might well have been ruined, what happens to them. How are they compensated for quite possibly ruined lives, compared to the “perps” who were sentenced to perhaps a couple of years in jail. What happens to police and prosecutors who might well have been party to official criminality that was involved, what indeed. any real answers to that question? One wonders.

        2. I agree with you on the moral bankruptcy of our country! But, We have laws in place, that were put in place when the country was virtuous, and moral. These laws are being circumvented by our judges!!! We as a people need to hold these judges accountable and remove them from the bench! We have local judges now circumventing the orders of the President which is against the law of the land! He is within the law to stop people from coming into this country as has been done many times before by many Presidents! These judges of the 9th district should be put in prison!

          1. @Philip, Those judges are our employees. Why is there no limit on their contract? Why can we not fire them?

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