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More developments in TBI blood testing error story

Last week we made note of the fact that a mistake by a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation lab agent is raising serious questions about the integrity of any evidence he may have been responsible for. This week we have more specific information about what could be at stake.

Readers may recall that the mistake regarding blood alcohol test results that was made in one man's case led to the successful dismissal of vehicular homicide charges against the suspect. Test results provided by the TBI said that the man's blood alcohol content was about three times the legal limit at the time of a fatal accident in March, but a retest done on the same blood by an independent lab showed a result of 0.01 percent.

A letter obtained by a Chattanooga news paper written by a top TBI official says the examiner inadvertently mixed up two blood samples and failed to follow proper double-check procedures he'd been trained to do to avoid such mistakes.

The examiner has since been fired and some 2,800 blood testing cases he handled will be rechecked for to confirm his BAC results. State officials express optimism that they believe the error was a one-time thing. But if more errors do turn up, more pending DUI charges could end up being dropped and some convictions could possibly be overturned.

One other bit of fallout from this discovery is that officials say they will be instituting a change in methodology and have a second analyst double check to be sure no mix-ups occur in the future.

Such steps may be helpful in restoring some sense of credibility to the output of the TBI lab for juries, but it likely won't lead any defense attorney to become lax in challenging the evidence on behalf of their clients.

Source: TimesFreePress.com, "Thousands of Tennessee DUI cases in jeopardy," Beth Burger, Oct. 30, 2013  

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