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St. Paul Crime Lab Woes Mount: More Embarrassing Revelations

Problems for the troubled St. Paul Crime Lab keep appearing. The storm around the St. Paul Crime Lab began brewing earlier this summer after a Dakota County court challenge revealed the unaccredited facility may have contaminated samples that were tested at the lab with other narcotics.

In court testimony, lab staff admitted to having no set guidelines or procedures for testing and confessed that some employees did not even have the requisite training necessary to adequately use the sophisticated equipment within the crime lab. The revelation resulted in the suspension of all drug testing within the crime lab.

The deficiencies in the beleaguered crime lab led to an investigation of other departments. A review of the qualifications of St. Paul's three latent fingerprint examiners revealed another embarrassing blunder. Nobody is certified with the International Association for Identification. According to the Pioneer Press, it is the world's oldest and largest forensic organization.

Although certification is currently voluntary, the absence of anybody on staff with certification stands in stark contrast to Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and the Minneapolis Police Department, who all have latent fingerprint examiners certified with the IAI.

According to the St. Paul Police, the St. Paul Crime Lab, which analyzes latent fingerprints for Ramsey and Washington Counties, is on the path towards certification. The process itself is extensive. In addition to specific fingerprint identification training, applicants must complete 80 hours of IAI-approved training. In addition, applicants must have two years of

full-time experience comparing and identifying latent prints.

The Pioneer Press reported that final certification testing requires applicants to take an eight-hour examination and to accurately identify 12 out of 15 fingerprints as well as accurately interpreting the patterns on a minimum of 32 out of 35 inked impressions.

This most recent revelation could open the door for future challenges to evidence coming out of the crime lab. Identifying deficiencies in the gathering and handling of evidence is an essential part of a strong criminal defense. Experienced criminal defense attorneys look for these kinds of problems when preparing a client's defense.

Source:, "St. Paul crime lab: Its 3 fingerprint examiners not certified," David Hanners, 20 August 2012

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