WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today issued the following statement after the Council held its first vote to pass legislation introduced by Councilmember Charles Allen to reform the Department of Forensic Sciences, the District’s crime lab. The lab examines forensic evidence that is used in criminal cases by prosecutors and defense attorneys, including the Office of the Attorney General, to ensure the integrity of evidence.
“The Department of Forensic Sciences’ failures are, sadly, the most significant of a forensic lab in the history of the United States. The severe and wide-reaching challenges at the lab have been called out by our office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Public Defender Service, DC Superior Court judges, and significantly, the independent accrediting body for forensic labs. For our justice system to function, the public must have confidence that police, prosecutors, and forensic experts are operating with integrity. But that cannot happen when the lab faces poor management, inaccurate scientific testing, and efforts to coverup its failures. To fix these problems, it requires fundamental change,” said AG Racine. “The first vote on this bill – and its passage – is a needed and encouraging step toward having a well-managed, independent lab that can restore the integrity of scientific testing and results in the District’s criminal cases, support public safety for all residents, and be a steward of taxpayer dollars. To help accomplish those goals, the bill would ensure the Council has more direct and ongoing oversight of the lab and empower the Science Advisory and Review Board. I urge the Council to pass this bill. But legislation alone is not enough. We need leaders at the agency who are committed to transparency and the necessary checks and balances that reflect the best practices of forensic labs. District residents deserve nothing less.”