Authorites Continue Investigation Into DNA Scientist Who May Have Faked Evidence For Nearly Three Decades

by State Brief

In the midst of an unfolding criminal investigation in Colorado, authorities are scrutinizing the actions of Yvonne “Missy” Woods, a once-celebrated forensic scientist, amid allegations that she may have fabricated DNA evidence, potentially leading to wrongful convictions of countless individuals over the span of nearly three decades.

Prosecutors are now seeking to determine whether Woods, Colorado’s star forensic scientist, was careless or if she was intentionally cutting corners to put people behind bars, according to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), which just published new statements from individuals connected to the investigation.

“This is a huge, unprecedented mess,” said George Brauchler, a former district attorney in the Denver suburbs whose office oversaw numerous cases in which Woods testified. “I want to know, what in the world did she do?”

The investigation has plunged the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into a painstaking review of approximately 3,000 DNA samples associated with thousands of criminal cases, following the discovery of irregularities in Woods’ work.

This extensive retesting effort, estimated to cost around $7.5 million, underscores the gravity of the accusations and the potential impact on the integrity of the state’s criminal justice system.

“The CBI is conducting a comprehensive review of the scientist’s full body of work to determine the impact — if any — on court findings on the DNA testing performed by the employee,” the department wrote in its funding request. “The Department takes this issue extremely seriously and is taking immediate action to address the allegations.”

Woods’ expertise played a pivotal role in several of Colorado’s most notorious criminal cases, including the 2004 rape case of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, the 1994 murder of Rhonda Maloney, the prosecution of Aaron Thompson in the murder of his daughter, and the murder of Susannah Chase, who was beaten with a baseball bat, dragged to a car, raped, then dumped in an alley.

Last November, when the CBI said it had discovered anomalies in Woods’ work, she abruptly resigned on the same day.

In a Dec. 5 email reviewed by WSJ, lab director Shawn West wrote, “CBI Forensic Services continues to review all cases worked by Ms. Woods during her 29-year career. The CBI is utilizing all available resources to expedite this process.”

Woods has testified in court as an expert witness at least 500 times. She testified as a forensic DNA expert in at least 370 of those cases.

Ryan Brackley, an attorney for Woods, told WSJ she is cooperating with the investigation.

“She continues to stand by the reliability and integrity of her work on matters that were filed in court, and particularly in cases in which she testified in court under oath,” he said.

Investigators have released few details and have not yet said what led to the review that uncovered the anomalies in Woods’ work, WSJ reported. They also have not said when the investigation will be completed and whether criminal charges will be filed.

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