- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 2, 2001

OKLAHOMA CITY A federal grand jury will begin an investigation today into the work of a former Oklahoma City forensic chemist whose laboratory techniques in numerous felony cases have been called into question.
Forensic chemist Joyce Gilchrist, 53, a 21-year veteran of the department's forensic lab here, was fired last week by Oklahoma City Police Chief M.T. Berry. Her forensic work has been under scrutiny for months by local, state and federal officials amid numerous complaints from defense attorneys and fellow scientists.
The federal grand jury wants to review 10 cases in which Mrs. Gilchrist either testified for the prosecution or handled the laboratory investigation. In nine of the cases the defendants already have been executed. The tenth convict is serving a life sentence.
They are but a small percentage of the felony convictions under scrutiny. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) and the FBI have been reviewing Mrs. Gilchrist's cases for months to determine the extent of the problem. An OSBI spokesman recently said 680 of Mrs. Gilchrist's cases had been reviewed by that agency, with 112 set aside for closer scrutiny.
"So far," said Kym Koch, "the team has concerns with roughly 17 to 20 percent of the cases they have reviewed. It's possible that further review of court testimony will provide sufficient answers to those concerns. It's also possible further review could result in the evidence being re-tested."
About 500 more cases are yet to be opened, she added.
A preliminary report by the FBI claimed Mrs. Gilchrist had done "shoddy" forensic work in five specific cases. The bureau suggested that all her cases should be closely examined.
Though charges of Mrs. Gilchrist's unprofessionalism had been rampant in recent months, the reversal of a rape conviction five months ago heightened the questioning.
On May 7, Jeff Pierce, a Michigan man, was released from prison after his 1986 rape conviction had been overturned. The FBI said hairs left at the scene were not Mr. Pierce's, as suggested by Mrs. Gilchrist at trial. Further, a DNA test of semen recovered from the victim did not match Mr. Pierce's.
"I'm happy it finally happened," Mr. Pierce told the Daily Oklahoman. "I was starting to doubt that it would. For 15 years I was hollering and screaming. Now everybody knows I was telling the truth."
Mr. Pierce said he felt a criminal investigation was needed, not only of Mrs. Gilchrist, but of the entire prosecutorial system.
"Joyce Gilchrist is not the only one," he said.
In a subpoena issued Sept. 7 but only made public last week, Chief Berry was ordered to present "all evidence, to include physical and forensic evidence, as well as investigative records," for the 10 cases in question. It said the grand jury also wanted "investigative notes, incident reports and any follow-up reports pertaining to the cases."
Mrs. Gilchrist has turned down numerous requests for interviews, saying her lawyer had advised her against speaking publicly. Melvin Hall, her lawyer, said she had not yet decided whether to appeal her dismissal by the police chief.
Mr. Hall said she was "totally and completely a scapegoat."

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