Fired chemist sues city

By Diana Baldwin Published: April 26, 2002
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Fired Oklahoma City police chemist Joyce Gilchrist had a competent, highly praised work record until she reported a sexual misconduct complaint against her supervisor, she said in a federal lawsuit.

Gilchrist is suing the city of Oklahoma City, City Manager James D. Couch, Police Chief M.T. Berry and eight other people in the police department for more than $20 million and her job back as the police department's forensic laboratory supervisor.

Problems with Gilchrist's work became known nationwide when Jeff Pierce was released from prison last year after a DNA test on semen and re-examination of hair from the crime scene proved he had been wrongfully convicted 15 years ago.

Gilchrist linked Pierce to the sexual attack with her microscopic hair analysis and testimony at trial.

Pierce, released from prison May 7, filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit April 18, naming Gilchrist as one of the defendants.

In her lawsuit, Gilchrist said she received 17 "fully-competent" or "commendable" evaluations during her 21-year career at the police department.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, describes the awards and praise she received for high-profile cases in which she analyzed the evidence and testified.

Some of those cases came back to haunt her when appellate judges criticized her work, ordering new trials or overturning convictions. The criticism dates back to 1988 when Gilchrist was accused of giving "personal opinions beyond the scope of scientific capabilities."

Despite the criticism by appellate judges, Gilchrist continued to receive top evaluation marks from police supervisors, awards and letters of praise, the lawsuit states.

Gilchrist said she became the victim of retaliation after she complained in 1998 that a woman teaching a class at the police department told Gilchrist she was the victim of unwanted touching and caressing by Maj. Garold Spencer, then the director of the serology laboratory and Gilchrist's supervisor, the lawsuit states.

Her complaint resulted in an internal investigation in which Spencer did not receive disciplinary action, the 41-page lawsuit states.

Spencer blamed Gilchrist for costing him the assistant police chief promotion, she maintained in the lawsuit.

Spencer refused comment Thursday about the lawsuit.

Gilchrist said Deputy Chief Robert A. Jones, Capt. Byron "Bo" Boshell, Berry and Spencer conspired to demote and terminate her after she reported the sexual misconduct complaint, according to the lawsuit.

She wasn't fired until Sept. 25 after a pre-termination review board recommended her termination.

Assistant Police Chief Bill Citty, chairman of the review board, and four board members - Maj. Johnny Kuhlman, Maj. Ken McDonald, chemist supervisor Richard Dawes and chemist Matthew Scott - are being sued individually and in their official capacity.

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