Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Former crime lab analyst to sue Dallas County

DALLAS — A forensic biologist who was fired by Dallas County's crime lab said he will file a whistleblower lawsuit against his former employer on Wednesday about conditions inside and the overall credibility of the lab.

"I worked there for fourteen months," said Chris Nulf, Ph.D. "I started off in the serology lab which means we analyzed evidence for blood or semen."

Dallas County terminated Nulf in May for insubordination, saying he displayed unsatisfactory progress as a trainee, was unproductive and did not follow procedures at the Southwestern

Institute of Forensic Science, also known as SWIFS.

But in a lawsuit to be filed Wednesday, Nulf says he was terminated for pointing out problems inside the lab, including:

• an outdated protocol manual used by analysts to conduct their daily work
• equipment that isn't calibrated
• analysts using expired chemicals
• criminal case files stored in an unsecured hallway
• a box fan which blew over areas where evidence is examined

"The evidence may have blood flakes on them or hair and fiber on them," Nulf explained. "If you have a box fan going in the background, those fibers could be blown across the evidence, lost forever or cross-contaminated into someone else's evidence."

"From what we've been able to gather, there are high school labs that are cleaner than the lab at SWIFS," added Nulf's attorney, Raul Loya.

Loya said the lawsuit could force the district attorney to review hundreds of cases. "This is evidence that has the power to exonerate a suspect or imprison him for life," he said. "This is a serious matter."

Dallas County's medical examiner, who oversees the lab, did not return two phone calls from News 8 seeking comment, but he did respond to the national board that accredits SWIFS.
The medical examiner told that group that Nulf's accusations are unfounded, and reminded them that Dallas County has received its most recent accreditation.

Still, Nulf's lawsuit will likely raise questions about the lab from those it helped convict.

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