Family courts drug test 'expert' faces new criticism

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on July 9, 2012 at 10:51 PM

DALLAS - Another North Texas father said he has been unfairly labeled as a drug user and denied from full access to his child.

He is the latest parent to complain about the man most Dallas County Family Court judges are using to conduct and interpret court ordered drug tests. A man some say is not qualified as an expert at all.

Jim Turnage has testified in over 700 cases in family courts all over North Texas. In Dallas County, he is the go-to guy, conducting court-ordered drug tests that often determine child custody. In an earlier News 8 investigation, Turnage admitted his expertise is limited.

One anonymous father, who said he was wrongly labeled a drug user, recently sued Turnage.

"He's not who he says he is, and the consequences are far-reaching and they are very painful," said the plaintiff dad.

Now comes a new father, who also wants his identity protected.

He said after failing a drug test in 2010, he tested negative for three consecutive months. Then, he said, Turnage testified in court that his creatinine level of 27.1 indicated he was purposefully diluting his urine.

"So he postulated that I was trying to cheat the test and I was diluting the sample in order to basically fake the test because I was still doing drugs,” the second father said. “Basically, once the judge heard that, no matter what I said after that she labeled me a drug user."

News 8 showed the same test result to certified toxicologist Dwain Fuller.

"All the drug tests on here were negative,” Fuller said. “Like I say, the creatinine was 27.1. which is well above the 20.0 threshold, it doesn't even meet the minimum criteria to be considered diluted.”

Turnage's attorney, Bob Hinton, said Fuller is using a federal standard not applicable to family courts. He also said even though his client has worked in the drug testing business for 30 years, he has never billed himself as a toxicologist or an expert.

Yet the power of Turnage's testimony may have set off a chain of events allowing this father's ex-wife to move three hours away. That father is only allowed to see his son eight hours a month in a remote setting, with a stranger supervising his visits, as was the case last Christmas.

"That's the sad part,” the father said. “I just wish they could look into my heart and know I would never hurt him or put him in a position to be hurt. The sad part is all of that gets lost."

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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