OSBI reviewing cases of embattled police chemist

Friday, May 11th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation have begun reviewing the cases of an embattled former police chemist, but found three years of case files from the Oklahoma City Police Department are missing.

Police identified 1,694 criminal cases assigned to Joyce Gilchrist, but the department's case files for 1980, 1981 and 1990 cannot be found, OSBI spokeswoman Kym Koch said Thursday.

Except for two or three files, all files are missing from those years, Koch said. The missing files are not only cases that were assigned to Gilchrist.

``They've (police) looked pretty much every place they know to look,'' Koch said.

The OSBI received police files on 1,448 cases assigned to Gilchrist Wednesday night. No lab analysis was done in 424 of them so no review is needed, Koch said.

``We believe we might be able to eliminate at least 400 others, but we want to take a closer look,'' she said.

The FBI accused Gilchrist of shoddy forensic work in five criminal cases, including her hair analysis in the prosecution of Jeffrey Pierce. A jury convicted Pierce in 1986 of sexually assaulting an Oklahoma City woman, and he spent nearly 15 years in prison before being freed Monday. A DNA test of semen collected from the victim exonerated him.

The FBI recommended a review of all cases where the 21-year police chemist's forensic work was significant to a conviction.

Gilchrist denies the allegations. At least six federal, state and local agencies are re- examining her work.

Koch said officials don't know how many police files are missing. Without the paperwork, the OSBI will be unable to check the lab procedures Gilchrist may have performed, she said.

``The logs are missing too so we don't know how many we are supposed to have for those years,'' she said.

Police spokesman Capt. Charles Allen had no comment on the missing files Thursday night.

Trial transcripts might still be available for review, and it's possible the physical evidence in the missing cases may be found, Koch said.

According to an internal poilce memo, Capt. Byron Boshell, supervisor of the laboratory services division, told Police Chief M.T. Berry in January the files were missing.

``Without these files no further evidence of case analysis can be made,'' he wrote. ``It would be virtually impossible for a chemist to testify in these cases should a new trial be granted.''

The police lab was temporarily closed in October ``to correct 25 years of evidence storage and packaging problems,'' Boshell's memo states.

Koch said some files may have been lost in the late 1980s when the police lab was moved to a new location.

Five OSBI senior criminalists will be assigned to review the Gilchrist cases, Koch said. They will review her lab work to determine if proper scientific techniques were followed and check her testimony, Koch said.

The findings will be given to the state attorney general's office and the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System, which will be reviewing trial transcripts to determine how important Gilchrist's testimony was to the conviction, she said.

If deemed significant, the physical evidence in the case will be retested, Koch said.

The Indigent Defense System is receiving $725,000 from the Legislature to pay for DNA testing and two attorneys.

DNA tests will be done at private labs because the OSBI lab cannot perform certain DNA tests on hair that likely will be needed, Koch said.

The Gilchrist investigation is a priority, Koch said. OSBI staff will be working 12-hour weekdays and four hours on Saturdays to complete the review, she said.

``It's going to take a long time. We are going to have to put some of our cases on the back burner.''