Archive for February 9th, 2009

Blood Test Error Nearly Sends Man to Prison

Monday, February 9th, 2009

I’ve posted in the past about various problems, such as fermentation and coagulation, in analyzing human blood samples for alcohol content.   But human error in the lab is just as insidious.  I mentioned in an earlier post one of my firm’s cases in which we had our client’s blood sample analyzed for DNA — which proved that the blood tested was not our client’s.  See How Do You Know the Blood They Tested Was Yours?  Human error in the crime lab happens more often than is appreciated — and is extremely hard to detect.

Following is another recent example of a lab screwup that almost sent an innocent man to prison for a long stretch.  Fortunately, one of those "obstructionist" defense attorneys had the blood restested, forcing the prosecution to have it retested as well.  The blood-alcohol content, which had been reported as .19% — over three times the legal limit — was in fact .00%.


Homicide Charge Dropped Following Blood Test Mistake

Tooele County, UT.  Jan 28 – The Tooele County Attorney’s Office is dropping vehicular homicide charges against a man involved in a fatal Tooele accident in December. Steven Jakeman was facing the charges in connection with the death of UPS driver Alan Christofferson…
 

According to the attorney’s office, there was a mistake in the initial blood test. After retesting his blood, prosecutors are sure he wasn’t under the influence at the time.

Turns out it was a human error made at the state lab that resulted in the blood-alcohol content reading double the legal limit…

That mistake started with the initial testing of Jakeman’s blood. Apparently, a technician misread the digits on a sample tube of his blood: a rare mistake. Gambrelli Layco with the Bureau of Forensic Toxicology said, "We did make an error in this case for transposing one number from a nine to an eight …"

When prosecutors had the blood retested at a private lab, Jakeman’s BAC levels came back triple zeros, no alcohol at all. To be safe, they had it retested with the state lab. Same result.


Hmmm.  How does "transposing a number" change a .00% blood sample into a .19%?


(Thanks to Glen Neeley)
 

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