Ohio's Bureau of Criminal Investigation has fired one scientist and suspended five others after case reviews revealed that scientists failed to properly document the results of 140 toxicology tests over just a six-month period in 2016.
This is just the latest fallout from one of the biggest forensic lab scandals in the nation's history. In 2016, it was revealed that one of the state's longtime forensic scientists, G. Michele Yezzo, had slanted evidence to help prosecutors build cases against defendants.
Over the three decades she had worked with Ohio's BCI, Yezzo's colleagues and supervisors had raised questions about her biased testimony and presentation of evidence. Crime lab forensic scientists are supposed to be neutral parties, interested in the test results only -- not invested in the outcome of cases.
Coworkers had also said that the lead forensic analyst used suspect methods while examining trace evidence. They also questioned her mental health, given some bizarre behavior and her open hostility to other employees. Yezzo admitted to most of the allegations, citing job and personal stress as the reasons.
Despite the fact that at least one murder defendant was eventually freed due to Yezzo's credibility issues and attorneys for another are fighting for his freedom, Ohio's Attorney General, Mike DeWine, says that he conducted two reviews of her work and found no issues.
Defense attorneys and judges aren't so certain. Several officers of the court have said that had her behavior been known, she could have been discredited as a witness by defense attorneys. One has called her work "shoddy at best."
Apparently, the problems at the lab are continuing even though Yezzo has now retired. The current disciplinary actions are the result of the scientists' failure to document the results of color tests used for presumptive drug testing.
Rather than run a clarifying third test when follow-up testing doesn't match preliminary testing, scientists were just updating the results of the first test to make them look as if they'd matched the second.
The BCI has notified prosecutors in the 140 cases involved that it will retest any drug samples upon request but insists that it's unlikely to be a problem.
If you've been charged with a drug crime based on evidence out of Ohio's BCI, it might pay to have a conversation with your attorney about the latest news to see if your case is potentially involved.
Source: Cleveland.com, "Ohio BCI scientist fired, five suspended for failing to properly document drug testing," Evan MacDonald, Jan. 20, 2017