Wednesday, July 6, 2016

More breath test shenanigans

If you have been a long time follower of this blog the name Dee Wallace should ring a bell. She was the technical supervisor in charge of breath test machines in the Houston area who faked test and calibration data.

Now there's a new name to add to the Forensic Hall of Shame. Let's say hello to Marianela Martinez, late of the League City Police Department. It seems that Ms. Martinez had a contract to oversee the breath test programs in League City and several other small towns in southern Harris County and in Galveston County. It would also appear that Ms. Martinez also participated in creative maintenance of breath test machines.

Ms. Martinez was fired last month for unsatisfactory job performance. In a detailed write-up, the Chief of Police for League City, Michael Kramm, set forth a laundry list of problems with Ms. Martinez' job performance over the years. Interestingly enough, Ms. Martinez received excellent mark-ups in her annual job evaluations - even though she was doing piss poor when it came to audits of her work from the State of Texas.

According to Mr. Kramm

"Documentation from State auditors and regional supervisory staff demonstrated lengthy down time for instruments under the care and control of Martinez. Audit documentation demonstrated a pattern of poor time management, last minute inspections, poor record keeping, missing maintenance records and deficient hardware/technical knowledge on behalf of Martinez."

Ms. Martinez was afforded a great deal of latitude with respect to running the breath test program in League City. No one looked closely at DPS audits when it came time to reviewing her job performance. It wasn't until someone higher up the chain of command began looking into problems pointed out by the audits that anyone gave her performance a second thought.

In addition to her failure to maintain the breath test machines under her control, Ms. Martinez also failed to calibrate and prepare the new Intoxilyzer 9000 machines that were to be put into service in her area.

Keep in mind that the estimations from these machines were used in drunk driving prosecutions. We have no way of knowing whether any of the machines used to test those breath samples were in proper operating condition. We have no way of knowing whether they were properly maintained. And but for Ms. Martinez' bumbling inepitude with the roll out of the Intoxilyzer 9000, we might never have found out she wasn't doing the job she was supposed to be doing.

This is the problem with breath testing. These machines are placed under the control of persons who are rarely held accountable for what goes on under their watch. It's only years after a problem was discovered that we find out what went on behind the curtain.

This is the primary problem in leaving these forensic "tools" in the hands of the people who are doing the arresting. There is no accountability - until it's too late. There is a built in bias on the part of the folks who maintain these machines since they get their paychecks from the same agency that arrested the test subject in the first place.


Anonymous said...

So what does this mean for a dwi conviction or pending dwi case?

Paul B. Kennedy said...

It all depends on the circumstances of each case.