News Release ~ 04/15/1997

FBI Lab Report Raises Specter of National Scandal

Washington, DC (April 15, 1997) -- The Inspector General's investigation into practices and misconduct at the FBI lab raises more questions than it answers, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said today. The Justice Department's final report, released to the public today as a result of legal action brought by NACDL, identifies deficient work in the few high profile cases it analyzes, casting serious doubt on the integrity of the entire lab. Concentrating primarily on misconduct in only three departments -- the Explosives Unit, the Materials Analysis Unit, and the Chemistry-Toxicology Unit -- the edited 517-page report raises the specter of a national scandal of mammoth proportions.

"There are over 20 different units in the lab, and the Inspector General was only able to look at three," said NACDL President Judy Clarke, a federal public defender in Spokane, WA. "The prevailing culture of the lab, which involves examiners not properly performing or documenting tests, and preparing inaccurate reports, and agents testifying about matters beyond their expertise, and much more, suggests that thousands of prosecutions may have been tainted.

"Questions of who, what, when, and how remain. Whose cases have been compromised? What has been ignored, covered up or covered over? When will these persons get a fair trial? How can possibly innocent Americans, wrongly convicted, identify their particular case from the limited scope of this review?"

There is more at stake here than the reputation of the FBI, Clarke said. "The lives and liberty of American citizens are on the line. If the FBI takes the report's recommendations to heart, future injustices may be avoided, but what about those condemned to prison who were cheated out of a fair trial? How will this report help them?"

NACDL sued the Justice Department in federal court in Washington, DC, Feb. 24 to force public release of the draft report. Attorneys for NACDL and the Justice Department will be back in court Wednesday (Apr. 16) before U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler, "to try to determine what further steps can be taken to ensure fairness and due process. This now-documented miscarriage of justice may impact literally thousands of pending and past prosecutions," said Clarke.

A copy of the report is available by clicking on the button below:
The FBI Laboratory: An Investigation into Laboratory Practices and Alleged Misconduct in Explosives-Related and Other Cases (April,1997) 

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 9,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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