Doubts about failed DNA technician surfaced in 2010

S.F. Examiner File PhotoPolice Chief Greg Suhr

Complaints about the conduct of a technician in the San Francisco Police Department's crime lab who failed a key competency test last year surfaced as early as 2010, police Chief Greg Suhr said Friday.

Up to 1,400 prosecutions in which DNA evidence from the crime lab was used in court — including sexual assaults, rapes, and murders — are under review after it was revealed that crime lab supervisor Cherisse Boland and lab technician Mignon Dunbar failed a proficiency exam last year.

These include 20 cases that are still pending in court, a spokesman for District Attorney George Gascon said Friday.

However, “Our belief is that few, if any, convictions are in jeopardy,” Suhr said.

A review of 600 of the cases could be completed as early as next week, he added.

2010 was the year drug lab technician Deborah Madden was discovered to have been stealing cocaine and other drugs seized as evidence from the lab for personal use. Over 700 cases were dismissed as a result. Madden resigned from the lab and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor drug possession in 2013.

Separately, Boland — who served as the lab's technical leader until the summer of 2010 — was investigated for unspecified “unethical conduct” beginning in April 2010, police Chief Greg Suhr said Friday.

After an internal review, no wrongdoing was found, but Boland was asked to step down as technical leader that year, Suhr said.

She still remained in a key function, overseeing DNA entries into a key nationwide DNA index system.

Boland was in that role when she failed a proficiency test in April 25.

Her failed test results and the failed results of Dunbar, who worked under Boland at the lab, were made known to police brass on July 31, Suhr said Friday.

The pair were removed from cases the following day. The district attorney's office was notified of the failed tests in September, Suhr said.

Boland had worked at the lab since 2005, and Dunbar was hired in 2009.

The Police Department’s crime lab has been under fire for a multi-year backlog of rape kits, some of which had not been tested for years.

The rape kit backlog has since been cleared.

Boland and Dunbar’s failed tests came to light during the trial of Marco Hernandez, 38, who was accused of sexually assaulting his stepdaughter in December.

The pair submitted faulty genetic profiles, ostensibly Hernandez’s, to a nationwide crime database.

A jury nonetheless convicted Hernandez in February.

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