Harris County forensic analyst terminated

- The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences Crime Laboratory has terminated an analyst following two marijuana cases, each of less than four ounces, where the results were recorded without completely analyzing the evidence.

In both of those cases, the analyst was testing plant material for the presence of marijuana. The standard procedure requires chemical analysis and a microscopic exam. The analyst tested both cases on a chemical analyzer but did not examine the material under the microscope, despite recording positive results.

The omission of the microscopic examination was discovered by the manager of the Drug Chemistry laboratory while reviewing video from that analyst's workstation. Each HCIFS workstation is equipped with a high-resolution motion-sensing video camera and recorder.  

The manager of the Drug Chemistry laboratory reviewed additional video from the analyst and discovered the other case. The manager subsequently reviewed video of all other Drug Chemistry analysts and found their full compliance with standard procedure.

Both cases in question have been fully tested by the laboratory and the presence of marijuana (less than four ounces) was confirmed in each. The lab will process marijuana cases again that were previously tested by the discharged analyst.

HCIFS has notified the Texas Forensic Science Commission and the district attorney's office of the violation.

"The public expects an extraordinary level of integrity and quality from the Institute," said Roger Kahn, Ph.D., HCIFS Crime Laboratory director. "We have a zero-tolerance policy for dishonesty. We acted swiftly to remove the employee and to ensure strict adherence to procedures by our laboratory analysts."

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