A DNA expert witness who has testified on behalf of defendants in several high profile trials was dismissed from a Colorado courtroom for being unqualified. The expert’s dismissal could result in attorneys being less likely to use him, however, he argues the judge’s decision to denounce his qualifications was made in error and his expert testimony is scientifically validated.
High Profile Expert Witness Dismissed from Colorado Trial
Richard Eikelenboom is a forensic scientist who has testified as a DNA expert witness in several high profile trials across the country, most notably on behalf of Casey Anthony who was acquitted by a Florida jury in 2011 on all charges stemming from her 3-year-old daughter’s death. Eikelenboom took the stand in the Casey Anthony trial as a DNA expert, and told jurors that there was not sufficient forensic evidence to connect Anthony to her daughter’s death. His DNA expert testimony contributed in part to her acquittal, and Eikelenboom has been called as a forensic expert for several years in trials across the country.
Last week, Eikelenboom’s reputation and position as a DNA expert witness suffered a significant blow when a Denver judge discredited his qualifications to testify about forensic evidence in court. During testimony in a 2013 sexual assault case, the judge presiding over the trial found that Eikelenboom had committed serious errors in his DNA analysis by failing to follow proper scientific standards set by other professionals in the field. According to prosecutors in the case, Eikelenboom admitted on the stand that he did not have experience directly extracting or analyzing DNA, that his lab is not properly accredited, and that he himself failed proficiency tests in 2011 and 2012.
After hearing about flaws in Eikelenboom’s analysis and proficiency level, the Denver judge rejected his testimony by finding he was unqualified to take the stand. Since being dismissed as an unqualified expert, Eikelenboom has attempted to dispute the judge’s conclusion and offer assurances that his forensic expert testimony is built on sound principles and methods.
Debunked Expert Witness Defends Qualifications
Speaking to the media after being dismissed from testifying as a forensic expert witness, Richard Eikelenboom attempted to address the accusations that he does not produce reliable DNA analysis. Calling the claims that his methodology is fundamentally flawed “completely unfounded,” Eikelenboom told reporters that the prosecutors manipulated his responses in order to paint an inaccurate portrayal. According to Eikelenboom, the trial judge did not completely understand his work or his qualifications, and therefore made the decision to reject his testimony without all of the relevant facts.
Eikelenboom also pointed out that his lab has received accreditation from two separate professional organizations, including the American Society of Crime Lab Directors (ASCLD). Additionally, some of the disputed DNA testing which prosecutors used as proof that he was not qualified was conducted decades ago, and Eikelenboom maintains that he has received the proper training and education to act as a forensic science expert witness. He also told the press that his professional name and reputation has been slandered, and announced intentions to contact a lawyer.
Forensic Expert’s Dismissal Could Limit Future Opportunities
Prior to last week’s challenge to his professional reputation, Eikelenboom testified in several criminal trials, several of which resulted in defendants being acquitted of fairly serious charges. In addition to Casey Anthony, the forensic expert was called by former Indiana State Trooper David Camm who was acquitted of killing his wife and children, and helped overturn a murder conviction of Tim Masters, a Colorado man who spent more than 20 years in prison before DNA analysis conducted by Eikelenboom’s lab was used to exonerate him. While none of the past work can be impacted by last week’s decision, Eikelenboom’s future as an expert witness may be in jeopardy.
Forensic science expert witnesses are widely used in criminal trials across the country, and competition for the opportunity to testify as an expert can be significant. Experts rely on their professional reputation in order to market their skill set, and Eikelenboom’s recent dismissal will likely impact his opportunities going forward. Attorneys will be hesitant to hire an expert whose qualifications have been questioned, even if the expert has testified successfully in high profile cases.