Manager resigns from state lab

Published July 28, 2007

The leader of the Washington State Patrol’s toxicology laboratory has resigned, and the agency is investigating some of her practices.

The Breath Test Program prepares a solution used to check the accuracy of the breath-testing machines. Lab manager Anne Marie Gordon didn’t personally check each batch of the solution despite signing certificates swearing she had done so, said Barry Logan, director of the patrol’s Forensic Laboratory Services Bureau.

Among other things, lab workers vouch for the accuracy of evidence used in drunken-driving trials. Whether the certification problem will affect any trials is unclear. “She was basically responsible for signing off on all the work that the lab did,” Logan said.

The certificates are on a Web site so lawyers and others can access them. The lab has removed the certificates Gordon signed from the site, Logan said.

“Each solution is tested by all of the analysts in the lab. None of those test results are in question,” Logan said. “My opinion is that this ultimately has no bearing on the outcome of driving-under-the-influence trials.”

Gordon could not be reached for comment.

Past issues

Administrative failures at the lab have affected trials before by throwing evidence into question, said John J. Sinclair, a Thurston County defense attorney. The Breath Test Program posted a notice about the certificates on its Web site Thursday, but Sinclair said what it meant was unclear.

“If they pull the certificates, that goes against their rules, then? It’s going to be an interesting issue,” Sinclair said.

Gordon was in the news recently when Logan, her boss, testified that Gordon had inadvertently destroyed evidence in a high-profile vehicular manslaughter case. Blood samples from a fatal 2001 crash near Pullman were destroyed three years later, Logan said. The suspect in the case, Frederick Russell, had fled the country and was caught in 2005. He now faces trial. Whitman County Prosecutor Denis Tracy was infuriated at the loss of the evidence, an Associated Press report states.

Another analyst at the state crime lab resigned in May. The agency accused firearms and tool-mark examiner Evan J. Thompson of getting a bullet trajectory wrong and prematurely releasing information. He defended his work publicly after his resignation.

Adam Wilson - The Olympian