- Associated Press - Saturday, September 19, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The Oregon State Police says a second forensic analyst at its crime lab has been investigated for misconduct.

The revelation comes less than a week after state authorities said evidence in hundreds of criminal cases was being reviewed following accusations that a forensic analyst who worked at the agency’s lab in Bend tampered with drug evidence.

State police notified district attorneys across the state about those findings and issued lists detailing the affected cases.

OSP said late Friday that a second analyst, who worked at its Central Point lab, overstated evidence during a criminal trial in 2005. That analyst retired in 2013. Shortly thereafter, OSP found materials with potentially exculpatory information related to the case.

In April 2014, state police alerted 20 of the state’s 36 prosecutors about the second analyst’s work.

The first analyst, identified by The Oregonian (https://bit.ly/1iYAkBQ ) as Nika Larsen, 35, was placed on leave earlier this month. She is accused of stealing pills and other drugs and replacing them with over-the-counter pills. The newspaper said Larsen could not be reached for comment.

The discovery puts current cases and convictions in doubt and could cost counties thousands to retest and retry cases. State police declined to publicly release the number of potentially affected cases, citing its ongoing criminal investigation.

Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said he must retest the evidence in 502 cases dating back to 2012. In Klamath County, District Attorney Rob Patridge said he’s reviewing 328 cases dating as far back as 2007.

The majority of cases with evidence worked by Larsen are from eastern Oregon. Ulys Stapleton, district attorney in Lake County, said only about a dozen of his cases were affected and that two cases remain pending.

The second analyst was identified as Jeff Dovci. State police said in reviewing records for a subpoena, forensics staff and an Oregon Department of Justice attorney found material that “potentially cast doubt on the analyst’s future testimony.”

Authorities said the problem with the second analyst’s work wasn’t that he tampered with evidence, but that he came to too strong of a conclusion based on the evidence.

Dovci, now a private forensic consultant, said he did not steal anything, did not falsify results, and the state’s allegations about his interpretation of evidence are a matter of opinion.

The state police operates five labs across the state. Others are in Springfield, Pendleton and Portland. Lt. Bill Fugate, a state police spokesman, said the forensic labs have very strict policies and procedures in place, including regular audits. But, he said, the disclosures about the analysts are prompting further reviews.

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