Lawyers want forensic labs examined

May 5, 2001

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said Saturday it would form a task force to address what it calls ``systematic corruption'' in forensic laboratories across the country. 

Members plan to review cases where defendants were convicted on DNA evidence analyzed by scientists whose work or testimony in other cases has been questioned. 

``We're very serious about litigation and winning in this area,'' association president Edward Mallett said Saturday at the spring meeting of the group, which claims 10,500-members. 

The task force will be led by attorney Barry Scheck, who co-founded The Innocence Project, a group that helps inmates challenge convictions with DNA evidence. 

Defense attorneys say juries often convict based on testimony from scientists, rarely questioning their methods or motives. 

Lawyers say forensic labs must work independently from police and prosecutors. They say labs must do a better job of making sure employees are qualified and that evidence and results remain sealed. 

Scheck said a recent Oklahoma case was an example of ``forensic fraud.'' Police chemist Joyce Gilchrist has been criticized by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals for allegedly testifying to results that were not scientifically supported. 

In 1999 a federal judge accused her of giving ``untrue'' and ``misleading'' testimony for her work in an Oklahoma murder case. 

Gilchrist was placed on paid leave after an FBI report accused her giving testimony ``that went beyond the acceptable limits of forensic science'' and of misidentifying hair and fibers in at least six criminal cases. 

Gilchrist, a 21-year employee of the police department, has denied the allegations. 

Scheck said 25 people on Oklahoma's death row were implicated by Gilchrist's testimony about hair and fiber analysis. He urged members to help review those cases. 

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