Toxicology Lab Errors Leave Criminal Cases In Limbo

Audit Reviews 14,000 Cases From State Lab

Discrepancies at the state's toxicology lab have left thousands of criminal cases in limbo.

Outside auditors are reviewing 14,000 cases from the Indiana State Department of Toxicology in Indianapolis, including every result produced between 2007 and 2009, 6News' Joanna Massee reported.

An audit of the lab's marijuana tests found an 8.2 percent error rate, said Scott Newman, a former Marion County prosecutor who was hired by the Indiana University School of Medicine to oversee the audit.

Newman said auditors are evaluating cocaine tests and will next focus on alcohol.

The audit is costing the department $150,000, while further testing will likely cost $250,000, Newman said.

Newman is sending letters to prosecutors and defense attorneys who worked on cases that were found to have data errors.

Defense attorney Andrew Maternowski received a letter last week about a Johnson County case.

"If these results are inaccurate, there may be a person who served some jail time based on what amounts to false evidence," Maternowski said. "Our entire Constitution is designed to protect your freedom and your liberty, and when we're convicting people based on unreliable evidence, that's a big problem."

Maternowski and other legal experts have also questioned the complicated analysis concerning errors with lab results.

"I think if I were a chemist, it would tell me a lot, but I'm not," Maternowski.

David Hennessy, a member of the Indiana Public Defender Council's board of directors, said the state should pay for experts to interpret the auditors' findings.

"You need an expert to understand them, to be able to identify what is exactly wrong with it, and that costs money," Hennessy said. "Who's going pay for that is the next question in my mind."