Lessons Learned from Toxicology Errors in Wrongful Convictions



This event originally occurred on August 24th, 2022 from 1pm – 3pm (EST). All presentations and materials have been archived for you to access as On-Demand content.

REGISTRATION: $125 per person

*All presentations must be attended to receive credit. The course content has been reviewed by the ABFT and ABC, and determined to be acceptable for submission to the ABFT or ABC for continuing education credit.


Course Description

Toxicologists benefit from rigorous professional and laboratory standards that are broadly accepted and enforced in public and private laboratories. Nonetheless, wrongful convictions have arisen from errors related to toxicological analysis. This webinar will provide a comprehensive review of these wrongful convictions, including root cause analysis and practical mitigation strategies.

While many errors relate to mistakes by an individual, wrongful convictions demonstrate that all errors relate to system and organizational deficiencies that are observable and can be ameliorated. Contributing factors may arise at any point from the crime scene to the courtroom, including evidence collection and tracking, laboratory analysis, quality assurance, communication of results, police investigation, and testimony. Thus, the most impactful responses will encompass systemic improvements in the entire process.

In a toxicology laboratory accreditation context, Class II and III deficiencies are commonly recognized and mitigated. A wrongful conviction will often be associated with a Class I deficiency, such as an erroneous identification, false identification, or false positive. Wrongful convictions provide an opportunity for toxicologists to observe Class I deficiencies and mitigate the risk of future errors through systemic reforms in the toxicology laboratory and among practitioners who rely on toxicological analyses. When unaddressed, Class II and III deficiencies may also contribute to a decline in trust among laboratory stakeholders and chronic gaps in practice that lead to wrongful convictions.

Specific case studies will encompass the full range of toxicological practice, including breath alcohol analysis, routine drug testing, and medical toxicology. Postmortem toxicology will be examined in detail, including cases involving poor sample handling, inadequate laboratory testing, misinterpretation, and misuse of toxicological analyses by investigators or officers of the court. Cases will be discussed within their historical context. The role of improvements in scientific standards and technology will be discussed, as well as the contribution of organizational factors, cognitive bias, and statistical frameworks.

The student will receive supporting materials related to the issues and cases reviewed in the webinar, including case documentation and analysis. The instructor will answer questions during and after the webinar to provide further details and perspective, as needed.

Detailed Learning Objectives:

• Develop a comprehensive understanding of wrongful convictions related to toxicology analysis, including individual, organizational, and systemic factors related to miscarriages of justice.

• Develop the ability to perform root cause analysis of deficiencies related to an erroneous identification, false identification, or false positive, including misinterpretation or misuse of forensic results.

• Understand the relationship between lower-level deficiencies and wrongful convictions and demonstrate a commitment to quality assurance practices that mitigate the risk of wrongful convictions.

• Improve the ability to develop policies and procedures that address organizational and system shortfalls that may contribute to wrongful convictions related to toxicological analysis.


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Price: $125.00