Here is a copy of the article originally printed in Seattle PI:
State crime lab chief resigns after problems raised on DUI evidence
Director, who leaves in March, says problems now fixed
by TRACY JOHNSON
The head of the state labs that test crime evidence is stepping down, a move that prosecutors and defense lawyers say could help bring back lost confidence in the way drunken-driving cases are handled around the state.
Barry Logan's resignation, effective March 14, comes after a series of problems at the Washington State Patrol toxicology lab have cast doubts on breath tests for suspected drunken drivers. “Barry has done an excellent job of addressing the issues during this difficult period,” State Patrol Chief John Batiste said. “But he and I agree that forward momentum will require different leadership.”
The decision stunned attorneys who have worked with Logan on criminal cases and saddened his staff, leaving some in tears, but the lab has drawn stinging criticism about errors and ethical problems in recent months.
“Too many things went wrong on his watch,” said defense attorney Francisco Duarte, who specializes in DUI cases. “I believe he wanted to run a laboratory that was based on integrity — and ultimately, he failed to do so.”
DUI attorney Ted Vosk, who has worked to uncover problems at the lab and has persuaded judges to throw out many breath-test results, said he believed Logan's departure was appropriate.
“His stepping down now seems to represent, at least in my mind, that we were right,” Vosk said.
Logan has served as the state toxicologist since 1990 and became director of the Forensic Laboratory Services Bureau — overseeing toxicology and crime labs — in 1999, managing 220 workers at eight lab locations.
On Thursday, he said he has dedicated his career “to quality evidence in DUI cases” and, after spending months trying to fix the lab's problems, wants the public to know it “can have confidence in the results of these tests.”
“I have done as much as I can,” he said. “I feel that it's going to help move things forward to have a new director.”
Logan, a 46-year-old native of Scotland who is well known and respected in his field, said he remains proud of the labs' work and takes responsibility for many of the Seattle-based toxicology lab's errors — though he believes they were “dramatically overstated” by defense attorneys.
“With the benefit of hindsight, I can always say that I might have handled things differently,” he said.
Doubts about the lab's work surfaced last summer, when lab manager Ann Marie Gordon was accused of signing off on scientific tests she hadn't actually done.
Some of the criticism toward Logan was about how he handled a vague tip about the wrongdoing. He assigned Gordon to investigate the matter, apparently unaware that she was the problem.
Then other errors came to light involving the same issue: how the lab tests an ethanol-water solution used to make sure breath-test machines give accurate readings. The solution is critical in tens of thousands of drunken-driving cases each year because if it's off, people may face charges based on faulty results.
The State Patrol has maintained that inaccurate results have been extremely limited. Defense attorneys have argued that the lab's shoddy practices call all of its work into question.
In October, two Skagit County judges challenged Logan's credibility as they cited careless and potentially flawed work at the lab.
Last month, three King County District Court judges questioned his ability to serve as state toxicologist and found that the lab was fraught with ethical problems, scientific errors and carelessness — making all breath tests unreliable.
On Thursday, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said Logan built “a solid foundation” of forensic science and suggested that his resignation “is a positive step toward rebuilding the professional reputation of the lab.”
Prosecutors, he said, “are eager to work with the State Patrol and the new toxicologist to make sure that they have corrected questioned administrative procedures … and ultimately restored the confidence of the court system” in breath tests as evidence.
Batiste said he would immediately begin a search to replace Logan. Crime Lab Division Manager Larry Hebert, a 34-year veteran, will take over in the interim.
The state has already appointed Fiona Couper, who most recently served as chief toxicologist in Washington, D.C., to serve as the state toxicologist.
Her job will now be a separate position from the director of the Forensic Laboratory Services Bureau because having someone fill both jobs, as Logan does, is “too much to ask of any one person,” Batiste said.
P-I reporter Tracy Johnson can be reached at 206-467-5942 or [email protected].
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