Dr. Sliter’s presentation on forensics was both enlightening and thought-provoking. In addition to his advice that, as attorneys, we should be attuned to differences among laboratories with regard to instrumentation, DNA kits, and interpretation standards, it may be worth mentioning that defense attorneys should feel out whether there is any bias by lab workers or expert witnesses from the lab by virtue of a relationship with the DA’s office. Because it’s likely that the DA’s office will hire the same expert witness(es) time and time again, a relationship between the prosecutors and the expert witness can feasibly occur, which can potentially lead to bias against defendants or even misconduct. (The risk of this is obviously higher in smaller counties). In cross-examination, defense attorneys can and should explore this possibility before the jury if there is reason to do so. For example, the defense attorney can always ask the expert witness if he/she was ever told by the prosecutors what to say or do, specifically before trial or during recess.
On a more general note about bias, in the state of Texas, the Texas DPS Crime Laboratory System claims to consist of independent, accredited labs but also claim that it is a state system. Their webpage, which is part of the Texas Department of Public Safety’s website, explains that “[t]he Texas DPS Crime Laboratory system is the largest state system that has undergone this level of accreditation.” (Emphasis added). The laboratories work directly with law enforcement officers and prosecutors to have evidence worked. It could be argued that these laboratories are actually an arm of the state rather than independent entities in and of themselves, thus making the process fundamentally unfair to defendants.
Here’s a link to the Crime Lab site: