San Francisco News

Prosecutors dismiss more drug cases

Friday, March 26, 2010

The drug lab scandal in the San Francisco Police Department is expanding on a number of fronts. More than one lab worker may be involved in tampering with evidence and thousands more cases may be tossed as a result.

The San Francisco district attorney's office says they were ethically compelled to dismiss every single felony narcotics trial on the calendar Friday because of new evidence now emerging about the police crime lab.

"We have a situation where every drug case in San Francisco is going to be called into question," San Francisco public defender Jeff Adachi said.

More than 40 more drug cases were thrown out of court Friday because of potentially tainted evidence. The district attorney's office announced most were strong cases that otherwise could have been prosecuted.

"There was a lot of evidence revealed this week to us; we're not comfortable going forward with jury trials and that's why we took today's action in dismissing the cases," assistant district attorney Brian Buckelew said.

Hundreds of drug cases have already been called into question or dismissed and thousands more could now be in jeopardy.

"This is like the Titanic; we're only at the tip of the iceberg," Adachi said.

The discrepancies in the San Francisco crime lab first surfaced earlier this month when a 29-year veteran criminologist was accused of skimming cocaine for personal use. In the last day, new information points to other lab workers possibly being involved, tainting even more evidence.

"There are weight discrepancies based on retests, as compared to San Francisco tests, that are inexplicable," Buckelew said.

"Drugs don't just disappear unless someone takes them; there are other tests involving other chemists that don't add up," Adachi said. "None of the results from the crime lab are credible."

The district attorney's office says they are going to go through the evidence and work with police this weekend to come up with a decision on how to handle other cases going forward into next week. Right now, other Bay Area crime labs are processing evidence for San Francisco. The public defender's office is calling for an independent lab to step in.

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