Hundreds of DUI cases in Scottsdale could be thrown out thanks to a blood testing machine that may give out faulty results. It's a story we've been reporting on since April of this year, and a judge recently ruled that the machine is not reliable.
In the late 1990s, attorney Cliff Girard said he noticed issues with Phoenix's breath testing machine. He tells us he not only won his case, but he was also awarded attorney's fees for uncovering the issue. He also happened to notice a sequencing error in his client's blood test results from the Scottsdale crime lab.
"None of us had ever seen anything like this before," Girard said. He said he took the results to several experts.
"There was a suspicion that there could have been a software problem," Girard said.
Since then, emails have been made public showing Scottsdale crime lab employees knew there was an issue. A judge recently ruled there are reliability issues with the machine and threw out the blood alcohol level as evidence in eleven cases.
"We're willing to cut corners to put convict people of crimes, maybe people to death, put them in prison, what kind of science is that?" Girard said.
"It's like if you have your car serviced and it breaks down, and you get it fixed and it's working again," said Sergeant Mark Clark with the Scottsdale Police Department. "The machine is a little different because you have to go through validation processes, but we did those."
Clark said they've worked with the manufacturer of the machine, and while the one in question is not in use, it's not because something's wrong with it.
"That's just the one we're using because this still is, this particular machine is in court, it's still open in the appeals process," Clark said.
He said if their case load increases, it will go back in service.
"Certainly when case law comes down, whether it's these eleven cases or other cases, then we may change what we do," Clark said.
Clark said another sample is always collected in case the defense wants its own independent analysis. The Maricopa County Attorney's Office has filed an appeal to the judge's ruling throwing out that blood evidence.
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