Court-appointed drug tester accused of hiding results




Posted on September 13, 2012 at 10:28 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 13 at 11:29 PM

DALLAS -- Jim Turnage of Forensic DNA and Drug Testing of Dallas is already accused in an earlier News 8 investigation of inflating his credentials. Now he's accused of helping to cover-up a positive drug test result in a divorce case.

The allegations against Jim Turnage, the man conducting of most of the drug tests in the Dallas County family court system, first surfaced in a News 8 Investigation last June. The allegations were later laid out in a lawsuit filed by a father (unnamed to protect his child’s identity) fighting for custody of his daughter.

The charge laid out in the lawsuit that Turnage is an "impostor" with "no college degree," rendering "unqualified interpretations" of test results.

Turnage denies the allegation in his answer to the court, and has counter sued the father for slander.

But fueling the father's passion further is a court-ordered random drug test of his ex-wife last June, which came back positive for marijuana. But the father and his attorney say they never saw the test results until they took Turnage's deposition this past January, six months after the test was taken.

In the deposition, attorney Keith Nelson questioned Turnage about why the test result had not been earlier provided.

Nelson: “Why is it that this was not previously produced?”

Turnage: “It was put off in a separate file. It was private. It was put off in a different cabinet."

A positive random drug test would have presumably negatively affected the mother's custody case. But hand written on the test results was the word "private." Someone had marked through the word "random" and had written the word "private."

The results were tucked away and effectively negated.

"And under the court order he was duty bound, because it was random, to send it to both lawyers,” Nelson said. “But instead, he communicated with only one of the lawyers about her client's test result coming back positive."

Why would Turnage do that?

In his deposition, Turnage said he was instructed by the mother's attorney, Lisa Duffee, to make the change.

Nelson: “And when did it change from random to private?”

Turnage: “When Lisa asked that it be changed from random to private if they pay for it."

But in a later deposition, Duffee said she did not instruct Turnage to alter the test.

Nelson: “Is that true or false?”

Duffee: “I wouldn't even -- no, that's false.”

Nelson: “You never at any time asked Mr. Turnage to make exhibit number one a private test?”

Duffee: “No."

But did Turnage say what he really meant to say in that videotaped deposition?

Not according to eight pages of legal papers filed by his attorney at the time, Bob Hinton, changing his answers from "yes" to "no," and "correct" to "incorrect."

"That's called a core agenda,” said Turnage’s new attorney, Jose Portela. “That's a procedure that's established by law. Again, there’s nothing nefarious about it."

Portela said all changes were made because the father originally refused to pay for the random drug test, as he was required by the court to do. When the mother paid for the test, it then became private.

Portela said no one tried to hide the results.

"[The father and his attorney Nelson] knew about the test within days of it happening and could get it,” Portela said. “There's no question about that. Ask them, why didn't they just ask for the test?"

Nelson said he shouldn't have had to ask for the test, the results should have been shared automatically. He also said the alleged hiding of the results supports earlier allegations that Turnage should not be trusted by Dallas County family courts to continue drug testing.

"In my opinion, it totally destroys his credibility,” Nelson said. “He is court appointed, multiple judges still appoint him."

Turnage said he is fully qualified to perform drug testing duties for Dallas County, and that he has never proclaimed himself to be an expert in forensic toxicology.

Lisa Duffee has declined to comment.