SFD avoids re-opening cases following crime lab misconduct




Posted on June 14, 2013 at 6:47 PM

Updated Saturday, Jun 15 at 1:22 PM

CHENEY, Wash.--None of the Spokane Fire Department investigation impacted by misconduct at the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory will be re-opened. Fire Dept. leaders made the announcement on Friday.

“It could have had a devastating impact, and we take that very seriously, and I know the WSP does also,” said Brian Schaeffer with the Spokane Fire Department.

The manager of the WSP Crime lab resigned in April amid allegations of misconduct.

An internal investigation found that Kevin Fortney failed to process evidence in at least 20 cases. The Crime Lab investigation included five arsons cases which were being handled by the Spokane Fire Department. The cased dated back to as far as 1999.

It forced agencies statewide to re-examine each and every case that Fortney handled to determine if any of them would need to be re-opened. The effort involved manpower from the SFD and its legal team.

“It took a lot of staff time to go back and find those files and then review those files,” said Schaeffer.

SFD leaders said workers spent at least 12 hours poring over evidence and legal documents. Yet, none of the local cases ever involved a suspect conviction.

Leaders with the SFD said that are confident the Washington State Patrol has been transparent about its shortfall from the very beginning. Crime Lab employees said they are confident none of the unprocessed evidence ever resulted in a wrongful conviction.
The WSP investigation affected several cased from across the Washington including several murders. The final decision on those cases is still being determined.

Fortney resigned and will not face any criminal charges.