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Expert: OHP Lab Violations Raise Doubts In Integrity Of Samples

An expert is weighing in on the findings of an investigation at the Ohio State Highway Patrol Crime Lab.

An expert is weighing in on the findings of an investigation at the Ohio State Highway Patrol Crime Lab.

The investigation raises concerns about the quality of work done by a criminalist, issues that already led to a lighter sentence for a five-time drunk driver.

The OSHP lab tests for drugs and alcohol, the evidence used to convict or exonerate accused drunk drivers and drug crime suspects.

An internal investigation found one employee guilty of cutting corners and violating policy, in the words of a Columbus City Prosecutor, calling the entire process into question.

Emily Adelman caught the attention of her bosses by spending too much time online, and not enough time on task.

That launched an investigation of the criminalist that turned up numerous violations of policy.

"And that just can't be accepted in the environment of a forensic lab," said Forensic Toxicologist Doctor Alfred Staubus.

He says in such a high-stakes environment, there's no room for error.

"In this business, the results affect someone's livelihood. Whether they're going to be sent to jail or not. Whether or not they're going to lose their job as a result of being convicted of a crime," he said.

The State Patrol's internal investigation found Adelman:
            -listed the wrong assignment date on 48 drug screens
            -in two drug screens reported using a testing substance that had already been depleted
            -documented transfer of samples several days after they'd been completed
            -destroyed a daily status report, recreated it three days later, and backdated it.
So why do these violations matter?

Staubus says they raise doubts about chain of custody and the integrity of the samples.

"Who had possession of those samples? That raises the question of if those samples were not in her possession or just sitting out where anybody could walk by and alter them if they wanted to, that raises the question of tampering."

Adelman's supervisor admits she's not happy with the situation, but insists it's not representative of her lab or the results it produces.

"That net is there to catch those errors prior to releasing them to the field,” said Lab Director Deana Nielsen. “And so I have 100 percent confidence in the system that we've built here at the laboratory."

Lab officials say they conducted an audit of one month's worth of Adelman's samples, and found 100 percent accuracy.

She was given a one day paid suspension as punishment.