State handwriting analysis unit quietly shuttered

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 15, 2014 at 6:41 pm •  Published: February 15, 2014
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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The troubled state unit that analyzed handwriting in criminal cases quietly shut down more than a year ago after police discovered two of its examiners committed a serious error in a suspected murder-for-hire case.

The Oregon State Police didn't formally announce the closure in December 2012.

The unit's two handwriting analysts, who handled about 80 cases a year, were put on paid leave for nine months, and the unit was then quietly shuttered and the workers laid off, The Oregonian reported (http://is.gd/ZZBGnk ).

The newspaper filed an open-records request and found allegations of bias, sloppy work and dishonesty.

State police officials identified 45 cases that required outside reviews by qualified handwriting examiners.

Lt. Gregg Hastings, a state police spokesman, says it appeared no criminal cases were significantly altered or harmed by the findings.

Experts also say handwriting examination had lost some of its relevancy as technology improved.

Oregon State Police weren't the first to drop as it a forensic discipline, said Randy Wampler, who used to head the Forensic Services Division.