Yikes. Last October, Forensic Magazine reported the latest development in a string of DNA contamination cases by Utah-based forensics lab, Sorenson Forensic. Labs like Sorenson help police forces compare DNA obtained in a crime scene (or evidence kit) against a state database of DNA samples from convicted offenders and arrestees (depending on the state you reside in). This is called the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). A “hit” in CODIS could result in the linking of perpetrators and multiple crimes.
Early in 2018, the Utah lab found a DNA match from one sample and connected it to a 31-year-old person suspected of a previous crime. So, what’s the problem? The same DNA profile somehow matched another sample nearby at the same time. This resulted in multiple CODIS hits, spelling out trouble for the person at hand. Could this have been a solid link? Possibly. No official reason has been reported for the coincidence. But the lab’s track record might suggest a contamination.
An Investigation Ensues
The Texas Forensic Science Commission (TFSC), a security board watching over cases of neglect and misuse in crime labs, is currently investigating the lab for five other contamination incidents. The incidents first came to light when the Austin Police Department tasked Sorenson with the handling of some of its rape-kit backlog. During the process, experts reported “carryover contamination” to the TFSC.
These events prompted a massive internal audit, dating back to DNA matching events in 2008. The DNA-analyzing firm reported that 5, 578 of 60, 602 sample were matches, requiring further study. It was this audit that revealed four of the six cross-mixing incidents.
Interestingly enough, Sorenson has gone through a little bit of growing pains throughout this investigation. Recently, Kent Harman (the CEO of another genetics corporation) took over the company. Harman has reported that the agency will focus on “a culture of perfection over production.” Forensics Magazine reports that Sorenson’s workload had risen at one point from the analysis of 800 to 1, 200 samples per day.
Could a large workload have contributed to a mistake, leading to several contaminations? Currently, there have been no solid answers, which is troubling. More troubling still is that Sorenson remains one of the biggest sample-analyzing agencies used most often by the FBI. How many lives could have potentially been changed due to neglect? What does one even do if they are afraid of being a possible victim?
They call the Law Office of Michael L. Guisti. Our attorneys are dedicated to uncovering the truth and protecting your rights. If you were the victim of misconduct, don’t hesitate to call our offices at (888) 478-8999.