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View Diary: Tens of Thousands of Drug Convictions in IN. may have been based on false lab reports - who pays? (30 comments)

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  •  Indiana University is a public institution (2+ / 0-)
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    Bob Sloan, Calamity Jean

    The situation is appalling, but the state did not privatize its toxicology services. Rather, the government part of the state contracted out to the higher education part of the state. IU School of Medicine is highly regarded. I guess nothing should shock me anymore ... .

    The county coroner's office where I live is housed at the public university where I work, which is an NIH top 25 research institution. We have an appointed coroner-medical examiner who is required by law to be a board certified forensic pathologist. This person also is a professor of forensic pathology. Of course there is a whole facility with a staff of other physicians, including highly specialized experts normally not available in-house at the county level, as well as technicians and other support staff.

    At least in our situation, I would not trust that the county per se would provide better faciliticies or more highly qualified personnel. Probably, more exotic work would still have to be farmed out to the university. Or the state lab. Shudder. Ours is located in the capital city, is operated by the government part of the state, and is plagued by backlogs, bureaucracy and plain old politics.

    Just because you're not a drummer doesn't mean that you don't have to keep time. -- T. Monk

    by susanala on Tue Feb 28, 2012 at 05:09:34 PM PST

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    •  You're right about IU being a public institution (0+ / 0-)

      and thus the services they are providing to the state are not "factually" private.  There are certain functions which should be considered critical and governmental duties.  I believe the testing of chemicals and other evidentiary materials should fall to the judicial branch and not the educational branch of a local or state government  Some would argue - and make a good point - that as long as the service provided is accomplished by another arm of the same government, they're comfortable with that.

      In the case of a state that has the death penalty and a person's life hanging in the balance - or another with a 75 year sentence and loss of freedom at risk - I would rather see the judicial branch carry total responsibility.  Obviously a public university has a unique position within our communities and a duty to teach at the highest possible levels.  However, that teaching or performing such important tasks involving criminal convictions, should be professionally accomplished.  I know it costs the state less to have such operations performed by the University - and as you say previously IU SoM had an outstanding reputation.  But the result of such testing is of such importance the state has to have the facilities and personnel in place to handle such crucial testing - statewide.  Other states have such forensic laboratories operating strictly for law enforcement and I believe this is as it should be.  See the post right below though, about NC having similar issues with their state testing facility...so it isn't simply something problematic to outsourcing of those duties.

      Using public university labs for corroboration of the state findings - as a fact checking mechanism - or as an expert witness selection by the defense or state would be acceptable.  But in this case it has obviously been going on unchecked and without proper oversight for so many decades that the lives of thousands have possibly been harmed by the lack of proper regulation.  Another aspect is the reduction of funding for these public universities.  Every state has been doing it and I don't know if that has had any relationship with this kind of failures or not.  As the article indicated they had purchased equipment for breathalyzing testing and all of it had been sitting without being put to use - could that have anything to do with a lack of funding for that particular program?  Not sure.

      In the end another critical factor of importance are the students who participated in the testing performed by IU.  I know it was obviously supposed to have been under close supervision by the staff, but with bad protocols in place and no real effective oversight - how will this entire episode affect those students?  Will it lessen their "resume" as they graduate and move into the business world?  Again, not sure but this story will surely have a personal impact upon the students involved.  All the more reason to remove these procedures from the University and have it fall to the judicial branch for all such future testing.

      "Inmates should be reformed - not recycled" http://piecp-violations.com/

      by Bob Sloan on Tue Feb 28, 2012 at 07:01:01 PM PST

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    •  IU had a great reputation (0+ / 0-)

      Indiana University is one of the two state flagships, and its specialties and competencies are better aligned to running a medical lab than are Purdue's.  

      "Politics should be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage." -- Lucille Ball

      by Yamaneko2 on Tue Feb 28, 2012 at 07:22:54 PM PST

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      •  I know having been born and raised here with (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lostinamerica

        family and friends who attended both universities.  When this story first began to surface in 2004 I was skeptical.  By now I'm convinced that this has been ongoing for decades now and caused irreparable harm and I am devastated knowing it was IU that was responsible for these problems.  

        Back in 2004 Mayor Peterson relieved our Forensic
        Services Agency Director James E. Hamby of his duties amid growing concern that the crime lab chief had covered up problems in his agency - which supervised the IU program. That was the first indication of problems.  IU and the Forensic Services Agency have such important responsibilities to the community and courts that once this began to be exposed they should have taken immediate steps to correct and pull the covers off the coverup.  Instead they split their concentrations by trying to keep the lid on and by making necessary changes at the same time - and the findings over the past two years indicate they were not successful with either.

        I know I'll get pushback for this article, but dammit the criticism is deserving.  So many lives at stake and so many already ruined while the mess was covered up...and Daniels is still trying to keep the lid on and prisoners in their cells.  Just damn sad for Indy.

        "Inmates should be reformed - not recycled" http://piecp-violations.com/

        by Bob Sloan on Tue Feb 28, 2012 at 08:03:03 PM PST

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