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Dakota County Drug Cases Come Under Scrutiny, Review Looms

The St. Paul Crime Lab, which has been used almost exclusively in Dakota County drug cases for the past five years, has come under scrutiny for "questionable testing practices."

Years of Dakota County drug cases could come under fire with revelations that the St. Paul Crime Lab, which handles the bulk of the county's case work, may not be compliant with best practices, possibly endangering the reliability of drug tests in criminal cases.

According to a report in the Star Tribune, two defense attorneys have alleged the lab may be convicting people using "bad science." During a multiple-day evidentiary hearing last week, the two defense attorneys—Lauri Traub and Christine Funk—called on a number of St. Paul Crime Lab employees who testified the lab has no written procedure, no formal training program and does not keep documentation of when drug evidence is accessed.

It's unclear, however, if the results from this hearing could affect previous convictions or outstanding cases in Dakota County.

The hearing comes as a result of a motion filed by Trab and Funk on behalf of eight cases in Dakota County. But Traub told the Star Tribune she's not concerned with just those eight cases.

"Have there been people convicted on bad science or who pled? That should concern everyone," she said in the report. All told, the St. Paul Crime Lab conducts tests for cases in Dakota, Ramsey and Washington counties.

According to a story by Sun Thisweek, Dakota County will likely look for other options for its future evidence testing. That said, Dakota County Sheriff Dave Bellows gave credit to the lab for efficiency and quick turn-around time, according to the story.

As for the motion filed by Traub and Funk, Judge Kathryn Messerich should decide the case by early fall.

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Jim Sanders July 19, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Why do we keep wasting time an money on the War on Drugs, with the cost of enforcement, the cost of courts and incarceration, and these kinds of things happen, and it is a war we are losing and will never win. Seems like just a way to keep the cops busy instead of speed traps for the honest folks and "real" crime.

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