Failed tests stop GBI from doing handwriting analysis
The Georgia State Crime Lab has stopped providing handwriting comparison analysis for criminal cases until the scientists in that unit pass an assessment required by a national accrediting agency.The Georgia Bureau of Investigation -- which oversees the lab -- told prosecutors and law enforcement agencies throughout the state that the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors had determined that GBI scientists who do handwriting comparisons did not meet the "requirements for our quality system." There are two questions on the handwriting assessment. All three scientists missed one of the questions -- the same one, according to GBI spokesman John Bankhead.
The scientists will undergo more training and retake the test, GBI Director Vernon Keenan said Monday.
Handwriting analysis has dwindled in importance to prosecutors over the years. Tests for DNA and firearms matching and drug and alcohol screenings are far more critical to criminal prosecutions. Handwriting analysis is most often useful in forgery cases.
Accreditation of the lab is not required but enhances the credibility of the testimony of any scientists who do the analysis, according to Bankhead and John Neuner, accreditation program manager with the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors.
But Neuner said many labs nationwide are putting fewer resources into handwriting analysis.
"It's dying across the country," Neuner said. "I think the reason it's dying is a matter of resources. There just isn't as much demand in an electronic world. It's dying just because laboratories can better utilize their [staff and financial] resources for other things. The FBI has historically provided services that are specialized that the local labs cannot support. The FBI still has that service if and when it's needed."