Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Former Dallas crime lab employee to file whistleblower suit against lab

A former forensic biologist in the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Science (SWIFS) lab in Dallas has announced he will file a "whistleblower" lawsuit against the institute, alleging that he was fired in retaliation for pointing out problems with Dallas County's crime lab.

"The evidence may have blood flakes on them or hair and fiber on them," Nulf explained. "If you have a box fan going in the background, those fibers could be blown across the evidence, lost forever or cross-contaminated into someone else's evidence."

According to Dallas County officials, Chris Nulf, Ph.D., was fired from SWIFS for insubordination, unsatisfactory progress, being unproductive and not following procedures. Dr. Nulf begged to differ.

Dr. Nulf, in a lawsuit to have been filed today, noted the following problems in the lab:

• an outdated protocol manual used by analysts to conduct their daily work;

• equipment that isn't calibrated;

• analysts using expired chemicals;

• criminal case files stored in an unsecured hallway; and

• a box fan which blew over areas where evidence is examined.

Dr. Nulf and his attorney, Raul Loya, believe that cross-contamination and improperly maintained equipment raise questions about convictions obtained largely as a result of testing performed at SWIFS.


Anonymous said...

Is the HPD Crime Lab selling franchises?

Anonymous said...

The whistleblower was too busy identifying the mistakes of management, and correcting the errors that the other analysts were making (and propagating to unsuspecting new hires).

According to the SWIFS Response (August 2009)...

"...The trainee correctly notes that in the protocol for performing microscopic examination of sexual assault kit smears, the category for estimating the approximate number of spermatozoa on smears does not include the range of 8-14 spermatozoa…In the revised protocol (effective 2/13/209) the category now covers the ranges of 1-10 (Rare) and 11-20 (Occasional)..."

"...The Trainee is correct that the practice of the laboratory regarding storage of swabs from autopsy sexual assault kits differs from the guidance given in the manual…The manual was subsequently revised to reflect this practice in February 2009 as part of a broader revision of the manual..."

"...The Serology Procedures Manual specifies that condoms should be stored in a freezer until analysis…The Institute is in agreement with the Trainee that the manual requires updating to reflect the practices of the laboratory..."

"...The Trainee is of the opinion that a statement in one of the serology protocols that describes the placement of an “Item Stored” label on the packaging of evidence items that have been stored does not reflect current practice…The Committee agreed that the practice of placing an item stored sticker was not current and that the manual needed to be revised to remove this..."

"...The Institute agrees with the Trainee that certain retired procedures can be removed from the Serology Procedures Manual..."