Monday, July 30, 2012
No charges for Tarrant County worker who didn’t test rape kits
The person at fault is no longer employed by Tarrant County.
The Tarrant County district attorney will not impanel a grand jury to evaluate the actions of a lab worker in the medical examiners office who allegedly reported negative test results from at least five rape kits without having ever opened most of the evidence, the Forensic Science Commission was told yesterday by their general counsel Lynn Robitalle. (For whatever reason, I've not seen any press coverage of this episode besides a couple of mentions on this blog.)
The lab worker had failed to perform tests on five rape kits where the offense report said no penetration had occurred, simply reporting falsely that the tests came up negative without actually doing them. Dr. Sarah Kerrigan said she'd closely examined the reports themselves for any ambiguity, but the analyst had clearly listed all the unopened items of evidence specifically as having been tested.
There was some confusion as to whether the lab worker was allowed to resign instead of being fired for cause, but in any event, there apparently will be no legal consequences beyond termination of employment. The FSC found that this "drylabbing" episode amounted to "professional misconduct," though the finding brings with it no substantive punishment.
This type of fraud cannot be caught through regular "tech reviews," the commission was told, and as a result, the Tarrant ME will begin doing periodic audits of case work in addition to tech reviews.
FSC members praised the Tarrant Medical Examiner's Office -- which is run by Dr. Nizam Peerwani, a commission member who was not present at the meeting -- both for diligently vetting the lab worker's old cases and for self-reporting the violation when it was discovered. But it's also notable that the commission didn't interview the employee in question because the Tarrant ME wouldn't give them his contact information. Robitaille said the former employee had told the Tarrant ME he didn't remember the cases in question. FSC Chair Vincent DiMaio said it may have been just as well, noting that "anyone with any intelligence would not talk to you," anyway.
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