BEND, OR -- Governor Kate Brown announced Friday the formation of a workgroup to evaluate the Oregon State Police Crime Lab, following allegations of evidence tampering at the Bend facility.
Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel commended the Governor’s move, even as he continues to investigate the actions of Bend analyst Nika Larsen. "The investigation isn’t over yet, but we’re seeing evidence that drugs that she would analyze, that were sent to the crime lab, sometimes she would take them and drugs would be missing. Other times she would take drugs and ‘backfill’ to try and hide her tracks, it seems like. Like, if there were 50 pills that were supposed to be oxycodone, you go back and look and two are oxycodone and 48 are an antihistamine."
That investigation involves his office, OSP and the Attorney General. Hummel says more than 500 cases must be re-evaluated, including more than two-dozen pending prosecution. "There are some cases that are still pending; those are a little easier to address because we can still try and fix any wrongs before any improper convictions would occur. But, the convictions that have already occurred, those are more difficult, but we’re going to look at every one of those."
Larsen is one of seven analysts at the Bend lab; Hummel says there’s no indication any others are involved, but he praised the Governor's move to look deeper. "You can bet your bottom dollar that the Nika Larson case will be discussed by that work group. But, I think that it’s important for that work group to look overall at policies, procedures and controls at crime labs across the state, don’t just look at one person who had misdeeds at the Bend crime lab. So, it’s appropriate that they’re taking a broader look at the crime lab." The 7-member group is made up of lawmakers, the Keizer Police chief and current and former attorneys. They may also recommend changes for discussion during the February Legislative Session.