Thousands of Drug Cases in Florida Under Review for Evidence Tampering

As reported earlier this year by Reuters, the State of Florida is undergoing a massive evidence review in thousands of drug cases handled by a crime laboratory chemist, who was allegedly taking illegal drugs from evidence storage in order to use or sell them for personal profit.

This is but the most recent in a nationwide series of crime laboratory scandals over the past five years, including the 2013 Colorado investigation of the laboratory services division of CDPHE ,which found that employees were not properly trained, blood-alcohol samples were not tested correctly in some cases, and there was pressure from supervisors for lab technicians to give testimony when they were not qualified to do so. The report also noted a bias in favor of helping prosecutors get convictions as oppose to seeking justice. DUI defense attorneys pushed out a report sent by the Attorney General’s Office during a press conference in June.

Other notable scandals include a finding by the California Department of Justice in 2010 that large quantities of methamphetamine had disappeared from its crime lab in Ripon, as well as the shutdown of a San Francisco crime lab over similar disappearances of cocaine in 2010, and DNA “mixups,” also in San Francisco, in 2009.

In 2013, a state chemist in Massachusetts was accused of tampering with drug evidence, potentially affecting 60,000 samples in 34,000 cases. This was on the heels of the Annie Dookhan scandal in 2012, in which another state analyst was accused of falsifying drug samples, forging paperwork and mixing up samples in as many as 34,000 cases.

A state- by-state list of similar scandals has been compiled by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and appears here.

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