understatement of the day

by twit

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on January 30, 2008:

Court throws out DUI breath tests

The twit suggests “screaming with irony” as a good place to start in developing a snappier way to capture this report:

In the 29-page ruling, Judges David Steiner, Darrell Phillipson and Mark Chow listed a litany of lab errors involving an ethanol-water solution that needs to be precisely mixed to make sure that breath-test machines are accurate.

They said various problems affected solutions that were used for more than 18,000 breath tests, and they found that the lab’s work simply could not be relied on by judges or juries.

“Simply stated,” they wrote, “without the reliable evidence that a correctly functioning breath test instrument can provide, the discovery of the truth in DUI cases suffers; the innocent may be wrongly convicted, and the guilty may go free.”

The judges cited concerns with the lab’s scientific standards, its limited ability to catch mistakes and its failure in “pursuing an ethical standard which should be reasonably expected of an agency that operates as an integral part of the criminal justice system.”

The judges found a culture of cutting corners and criticized state Toxicologist Barry Logan’s handling of two anonymous tips last year that eventually revealed wrongdoing at the lab.

In what the judges called “a situation screaming with irony,” Logan assigned lab manager Ann Marie Gordon to investigate the first tip — the very person who was later found to have lied about testing the solution when she hadn’t.

The judges said questions about how her actions were investigated “cast a long shadow over Dr. Logan’s ability to serve as the State Toxicologist.”

State Patrol Chief John Batiste said he remains confident in Logan’s abilities at this point and believes in the workers at the lab.

“Those folks bring great integrity to the agency as they set foot into the workplace every day,” he said. “They have my full confidence and support.”

and I thought the Post Office was bad. Here’s the order. The State admits that the lab is unacceptable, just didn’t want the particular tests at issue in the present cases to be thrown out…

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