High-profile cases raise the stakes for forensic science professionals as every action and decision is publicly scrutinized and questioned. In some cases, such as O. J. Simpson, forensic scientists are provided with the opportunity to view mistakes from a different perspective that ultimately creates change and improves the quality of the work. Though the frequency of issues in forensic science is low compared to other professions, there is a great deal at risk when a scientist chooses to act unethically. In the case of Annie Dookhan, the scientist, her coworkers and superiors, the laboratory, the city, and the forensic science profession felt the impact of her actions. In the cases presented, personal gain, ego, competency, and abuse of power are central themes to the misconduct that occurred. Standards and policies may help to decrease these behaviors, or at the very least allow management and the profession a ruler upon which to judge the actions. Codes of ethics are a useful professional tool that provide general guidance for practitioners in a variety of situations and may help avoid future issues.


Augenstein, S. (2016), 3 years in prison for stealing drugs from evidence, Forensic Magazine, December 13.

Luis E. Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 557 U.S. 305, 129 S.Ct. 2527, 174 L.Ed.2d 314, June 25, 2009.

Meier, D. (2013), The identification of individuals potentially affected by the alleged conduct of chemist Annie Dookhan at the Hinton Drug Laboratory, August.

Mohr, E. (2012), St. Paul crime lab: Two public defenders exposed its flaws, Twin Cities, Pioneer Press, July 25 (Updated November 10, 2015).

Shiffman, M. (2000), Ethics in Forensic Science and Medicine, Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Publisher.

Steffen, J. (2013), Colorado lab report shows potential issues with testimony on blood-tests, The Denver Post, July 17.

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