Nika Elise Larsen, a forensic scientist and crime scene investigator for Oregon State Police Crime Lab, faced a federal court on Aug. 15, 2016. Larsen pled guilty to tampering with evidence and theft of Schedule II type drugs through direct access to evidence in lockers while working out of Bend and Pendleton Oregon Crime Labs since 2008. Sentencing will commence on Dec. 12, 2016. The prosecution and the defense are recommending a three-year prison sentence. Due to Larsen’s tampering, around 1,500 cases are being reviewed by John Hummel, District Attorney for Deschutes County, Oregon, and by several Deputy District Attorneys. Reportedly, Larsen’s mishandling and tampering of evidence occurred with her own cases and those which she might have accessed in her eight years of employment at OSP. This case is one of several which have cropped up in the last eleven years through mismanagement and lack of oversight at OSP Crime Labs. Jeff Dovci allegedly overstated evidence in a 2005 criminal trial before he retired from the Central Point Oregon Crime Lab in 2013. He is now a private forensic consultant. OSP did an internal investigation and John Hummel found that Dovci had, “overstated scientific findings and minimized things that could have hurt the state’s case.” After reviewing the two cases that came into question, Hummel found that the convictions in question still stood on solid ground. A previous OSP forensic scientist, Kristopher Kyes, missed drugs and other substances in urine he tested at the Clackamas Oregon Crime Lab, which led to a review of 120 cases, 10 of which had potential discrepancies. This led investigators to reevaluate those 10 cases. The troubling trend of misconduct continues with OSP evidence technician, John D. Parrish, who was indicted on June [...]
A report released February 2014 by the National Registry of Exonerations, a joint project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, shows that there were a record number of exoneration nationwide. The number of reported exonerations of people who were wrongfully convicted of a crime they did not commit-- and who served prison time-- rose to 87 in 2013. The previous record was 83 in 2009. Samuel Gross, editor of the National Registry of Exonerations, notes that while the number may seem small, "The great majority of people who are innocently convicted are never exonerated because they are never discovered." More on the report can be read at Here & Now.