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Alaska Crime Lab Standards Under Investigation

By Austin Baird, Political, Rural Reporter, abaird@ktuu.com
Published On: Jan 15 2014 11:07:52 AM AKST
Updated On: Jan 15 2014 10:34:57 PM AKST

An investigation into drug contamination issues at the Alaska State Crime Lab.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -

A criminal investigation is being conducted by the Alaska State Troopers due to irregularities found in the state crime lab.

The Department of Public Safety discovered irregularities involving six controlled substance reference standards: morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, opium, codeine, and amphetamine.

Reference standards are used to determine whether a substance is an illegal drug and are pivotal to the outcome of many criminal cases. Despite the fact that 6 drugs were compromised the Director of the Criminal Division of the Department of Law, John Skidmore, stands by the testing done at the crime lab.

“I'm sure someone will argue it's compromised but I'm confident in my ability to defend those convictions,” he said.

Skidmore said the irregularities were discovered with the reference standards Friday when the lab started using new, more sensitive equipment.

When new testing instruments were used by the lab, researchers realized there were irregularities in the standards, which prompted a broader review that includes a criminal investigation by the Alaska Bureau of Investigation.

The Department of Public Safety insists the irregularities do not impact the Crime Lab’s ability to identify suspected controlled substances.

“You don't need those standards,” said Skidmore. “There are some labs that operate without those standards.”

The department said the validity of past lab tests is not in question.

But defense lawyers who may have cases that involved the standards are being notified, according to the department.

"It's hard for me to believe that you could have contaminated substances in the crime lab and not have them impact a wider scope of cases then what they're referencing," said defense attorney James Christie with the law firm Tetlow Christie.

KTUU's Mallory Peebles contributed to this story.