Let a Thousand ‘Rogue’ Grand Juries Bloom!
by William Norman Grigg
Amanda Culbertson has a conscience, which is another way of saying that she wasn’t well-suited to government “work.” Until recently she was employed by the Houston Police Department as a crime lab supervisor. In 2009, she became aware of serious problems with the reliability of the department’s roadside blood alcohol testing vehicles, more commonly known as BAT vans.
Over the past decade, hundreds of police departments nation-wide have purchased the vehicles with the help of federal grants. The testing device deployed in them, the Intoxilyzer, is considered infallible by law enforcement agencies and most trial judges. However, the Kentucky-based company that manufactures the the Intoxilyzer has refused to disclose its source code. Without access to the source code, the device’s findings are unverifiable. As one defendant points out, the machine could simply be a gimmicky random number generator, rather than a finely calibrated scientific instrument.