San Francisco News

Thousands more drug cases may be dismissed

Monday, March 29, 2010
Thousands of drug cases may have to be dismissed because of misconduct within the San Francisco police drug lab. San Francisco crime lab

The disastrous scandal at the San Francisco police drug lab continues to get even worse. Thousands of cases are being re-examined and more lab technicians are being scrutinized.

The San Francisco District Attorney's Office now says they may have to drop as many as 1,400 cases because of the problems in the police drug lab. One public defender says the district attorney is not looking back far enough, claiming he has found problems with cases several years old.

"It's death by a thousand cuts for them," says defense attorney Ken Quigley.

In the past week, Quigley has had three of his clients' drug cases dismissed.

"They got dismissed because of the lab problem. The D.A. says they might re-file those, but it's very unlikely they'll be able to do that because the lab's a mess and the problems aren't just with that one chemist, but the whole chain of custody. Once the lab is corrupt, you can't trust anything that comes out of it," says Quigley.

This past week the District Attorney's Office announced they may have to drop as many as 1,000 cases due to the lab scandal. Another 400 cases are threatened, even though the defendants already pled guilty and are in rehab. They admit that drug tests may have been compromised by more than one lab technician.

"We're looking evidence, we're looking at the re-test results coming in, the criminal investigation, and were going to make a determination about handling the open 1,400 cases based on all the information," says the district attorney's spokesperson Brian Buckelew.

The public defender's office is disputing the number of drug cases in jeopardy. Police chemist Deborah Madden has been suspended, accused of taking drug evidence for her own use, and both sides agree the problem goes beyond her.

"Last week, I looked at the number of cases we've had since March of 2008. There may be as many as 5,000 cases which may have to be dismissed," says public defender Jeff Adachi.

"It's their job to try and make the problem bigger because it will benefit defendants, it will benefit their clients, especially those who have pled guilty to drug offenses," says Buckelew.

Dr. Joe Marshall is a police commissioner, who while trying to figure out this lab calamity, is also using the mess to provide a lesson to the youth he counsels at his Omega Boys Club.

"Well, No. 1, drugs are a horrible thing. They don't work for anybody. No. 2, I try to teach our young people to be good employees, to be righteous, and that your decisions affect everybody, not just you," says Marshall.

Marshall tells ABC7, as a member of the police commission, he wants and an explanation regarding the questionable drug cases. He hopes the district attorney attends the next commission meeting on Wednesday, because right now, they have been getting all of their information from the media.

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