SF Weekly released a comprehensive and damning report a few weeks ago uncovering what would be the second major scandal in San Francisco crime labs this year. Affecting the DNA lab, this scandal involved basic poor evidence handling procedures and seeming apathy towards correction. Now, defense attorneys in the area are beginning to call for their clients’ charges to be dropped for fear evidence in many of the most violent offenses can’t be trusted.
Earlier this year, the SF drug lab was in the hot seat, after a lab worker was found to have been pocketing drugs for her own personal habit and side-business. Now, it’s the DNA lab. While the DNA lab handles far fewer cases, these cases are far more likely to be serious violent crimes.
According to the SF Weekly report, there is evidence of sample switches, lost reports, misleading grand jury testimony, and general shoddy work. Some are calling on a full investigation into the lab, an investigation independent from the local DA and the State AG’s office. Others are saying it’s time to completely outsource the lab’s work.
On a smaller scale and in the immediate future, however, defense attorneys representing defendants whose criminal evidence has passed through the DNA lab are asking for charges to be dismissed or at the very minimum put on hold while an investigation is held.
The integrity of a crime lab is crucial in ensuring the integrity of the evidence in a criminal case. If a crime lab, like the SF DNA lab for instance, cannot be trusted to handle a single piece of DNA evidence, how can we be certain that all of the other evidence passed through the lab has been handled correctly? Short answer: We can’t.
Two particular cases currently being held up in the courts are detailed here in this post on The Snitch. Both rape cases, the defense lawyers are asking for a dismissal of all charges claiming their clients’ rights were violated with the DA failed to turn over evidence of criminal evidence handling mistakes.
This won’t be the last we hear of the lab scandal or the fall out. There will likely be many similar calls for dismissed charges and a long list of appeals based on evidence that has cycled through the lab in recent years.
When you are facing criminal charges, it’s your defense lawyer’s job to ensure your rights are protected. This includes ensuring the evidence against you is handled appropriately and acting accordingly if it isn’t. If it’s believed the evidence was collected illegally or if it was handled inappropriately at any stage, your defense attorney can request it be ruled inadmissible and potentially even ask to have your charges dropped.
What are known as the “rules of evidence” can be confusing to the average person. If you are facing criminal charges and have questions about the evidence against you, contact us for a consultation today.