The Jefferson Parish District Attorney's Office is retesting DNA evidence in 22 cases pending in 24th Judicial District Court after procedural problems at the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office crime lab were discovered during a recent recertification inspection.
Prosecutors with District Attorney Paul Connick’s office informed the court of the issue last month, filing notices in the affected cases that a technician at the JPSO’s Regional DNA Laboratory “improperly processed one of the control samples for the test she performed.”
The filings explain that observers determined the problem was confined to a single technician, who was removed from casework to receive additional retraining and competency testing before being reinstated.
“Even though merely control samples were at issue, all affected cases will be reworked simply out of an abundance of caution,” the District Attorney's Office wrote.
A spokesman for the office confirmed that 22 pending court cases were affected, along with an unspecified number of open investigations in which no one has been charged by prosecutors.
JPSO spokesman Jason Rivarde said a total of roughly 50 cases may have been affected by the improper procedure, but he said the Sheriff’s Office doesn’t think the problem affected the outcome of any of the tests.
Rivarde said that when materials are tested for DNA, they are combined with reactive chemicals and compared with a mixture of the same chemicals in an empty sample.
The issue was with how the empty samples were handled, not the evidence, he said.
One affected case was that of Byron Montgomery, of Marrero, who is accused of killing his mother, Patricia Davis. Davis' body was found along Interstate 10 in New Orleans East on Oct. 31.
Prosecutors in that case asked for and received permission from Judge Henry Sullivan to retest swabs and other materials.
Although Rivarde said the Sheriff's Office believes there are additional materials to test in each case, the District Attorney's Office noted in its request to run the additional tests in the Montgomery case that doing so would destroy the rest of the evidence, leaving none for the defense to test if it were to wish to do so.
Prosecutors said the findings of the second round of tests would be shared with the defense.
Despite the problem, the crime lab did get its recertification last month.