The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that former Special Agent Kyle Bayer handed 2,800 cases before being dismissed Monday after an internal review revealed he mistakenly switched two blood alcohol samples in a vehicular homicide case in Hamilton County.
All samples obtained in the cases will be retested for blood-alcohol content. Based on those results, convictions could potentially be overturned or pending cases dismissed. The TBI says it plans to add an additional step to its testing process to ensure the same mistake doesn't happen in the future.
"All indications are that this was an isolated incident by an examiner who, despite extensive training, switched two adjacent blood samples at the onset of the analysis process and then failed to follow a number of procedural checkpoints which would have caught the error," writes Robert Daniel Royse, assistant director of TBI, in a letter dated Tuesday and obtained by the Times Free Press.
Chattanooga defense attorney Jerry Summers said the mistakes could have led to wrongful convictions. The case came to light after Summers sent a client's blood sample off to a private lab, Aperian Lab Solutions, to cross-check the results.
Dale Edward Ferrell, who was charged with vehicular homicide and DUI, submitted a blood sample after a fatal car crash on March 16 resulted in the death of Knoxville architect Edward Bankston. TBI results showed that Ferrell's blood alcohol came back at 0.24 — three times the legal limit, which is 0.08.
Summers submitted the same sample to Aperian, which returned a result of .01.
As a result of the switched results, Ferrell's charges of DUI and vehicular homicide were dismissed by the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office.
TBI plans to send all of Bayer's cases to a private lab for retesting.
"I'm glad the TBI is diligently looking into this. Hopefully if there have been people convicted wrongfully, it will be corrected," Summers said Tuesday afternoon. "There may be several people who might be wrongfully convicted and that's not the way our justice system should work."
Royse's letter states that TBI is hopeful the retesting results will be back by the end of February.
"As a corrective action, an additional procedural checkpoint by a second analyst was added to the blood alcohol methodology," Royse wrote.