Fort Worth

Investigation into Suspended Fort Worth Police Scientist Could Impact Hundreds of Criminal Cases: DA

The Tarrant County District Attorney's office is postponing 117 criminal cases amid an investigation into whether a police scientist falsified DNA tests, prosecutors say.

Fort Worth police confirmed the department suspended the scientist, Amanda Schaffner, because of a "complaint."

City records obtained by NBC 5 show she was suspended March 5 after supervisors confronted her over an apparent falsified test.

"I don't want to be here. Never in a million years would I make up (data)," they quoted her as saying. "Why would I do that? That would ruin my career."

She started "crying to the point of being hysterical," a supervisor wrote.

The police department declined to provide details.

"Since the investigation is active and ongoing, we are unable to release any details at this time," said police spokesman Officer Jimmy Pollozani. "The Forensic Science Commission has been notified in accordance with state law."

The 117 pending cases include murders and sexual assaults – anything with DNA evidence, said Tarrant County District Attorney's spokeswoman Samantha Jordan. The cases involve 94 defendants, she said.

No court hearings or trials in those cases will take place until the investigation is over, Jordan said.

In addition, attorneys for another 142 defendants who were already convicted and sentenced may be notified about the issue, Jordan said.

Schaffner could not immediately be reached for comment.

She was hired as a police forensic scientist in May 2015 and was paid $67,000 a year, according to city records.

She signed off on a total of 382 reports, according to crime lab records.

The investigation was first reported by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

"It's a very big deal," said Fort Worth defense attorney Oliver Hassibi.

He said he hasn't been notified that any of his clients are involved but that falsified scientific evidence could put innocent people behind bars.

"A lot of these cases hinge on scientific evidence and it's critical," Hassibi said. "It can help the defense or help the state."

This isn't the first time the Fort Worth police crime lab has been under the microscope for the wrong reasons.

In 2003, the department suspended DNA testing amid concerns about the qualifications of another scientist and didn't resume testing for nearly 10 years.

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