Denver police say processing error led to DNA mistake in ’11 cases

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The DNA processing machine that Denver police say froze in 2011.

The DNA processing machine that Denver police say froze in 2011.

DENVER — A machine that processes DNA samples for the Denver police department stopped working properly in 2011 and may have caused test results to be mixed with the wrong case.

During a news conference Friday, spokesman Matt Murray said the machine froze on June 13, 2011 while analyzing 24 samples from 11 property crimes.

Technicians at the crime lab got instructions from the manufacturer and were able to repair the machine and went back to work, Murray said.

The same machine froze again on Nov. 22, 2013, he said. Technicians again got instruction on how to fix it, but they noticed that the instructions were different than the previous time.

Murray said the department conducted a review and determined the samples from the 2011 incident were likely skewed.

“The way we found this was our employees conducting a very high level of quality control,” Murray said.

Only three of the DNA samples from the 2011 batch were used in court, Murray said. Those cases involved property crimes. It is unclear how this DNA error has or has not affected the three cases.

“We are looking at those now to determine what kind of role DNA played in court,” he said.

The District Attorney’s Office and the City Attorney’s Office will be informing the defendants involved in the three cases affected.

Murray said the reason DPD decided to announce the mistake was because they wanted to be transparent during this process.