Gaffes at Austin DNA lab could cost taxpayers up to $14 million


Travis County and the city of Austin will be forced to spend up to $14 million, according to some estimates, to review and reopen thousands of DNA samples from the shuttered Austin police crime lab — an unexpected cost so high it could result in a significant hike to taxpayers, the American-Statesman has learned.

Officials are still trying to estimate how much it will take to ensure that faulty lab work has not resulted in wrongful convictions and that forensic analysis in pending cases is accurate.

The revelations about the expenses are the latest unwelcome surprise concerning the lab that centers on its troubled DNA unit. Those issues have ranged from lab staff not using commonly accepted national practices to a supervisor’s decision to keep mum about a freezer housing hundreds of vials of DNA evidence that sat broken for eight days, potentially damaging the samples. The lab closed six months ago and its future remains uncertain.

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