Thursday, April 8, 2010

San Francisco Crime Lab Scandal

As many of you have no doubt heard, the San Francisco Police Department Crime Lab, specifically technician Deborah Madden has had its share of problems lately, including the latest problem..feral cats(!) The scandal began to surface when Deborah Madden suddenly retired in December after almost thirty years on the job. She left the crime lab shortly after a drug lab audit showed that drug evidence was missing.

Information from the National Academy of Sciences Report on forensic labs and the need for more "science" highlight the importance of up-to-date knowledge of lab issues and investigation. (previous blog post here)

San Francisco City and County Public Defender Jeff Adachi has aggressively sought discovery and has been leading the charge for the many dismissals that have already happened. Materials have been gathered at the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice website (available here). There you can access materials including motions, investigative reports, and news collections. One can also add new materials as the litigation develops.

For some background, start with this excerpt from (full article here)

The extent of the fallout from Madden's work in the lab continues to grow: First the San Francisco district attorney's office said only a half-dozen cases might be compromised, then began to drop hundreds of cases. Now, with the investigation of the lab expanded to look at the potential involvement of other crime lab employees, the DA's office last week was analyzing 1,400 pending felony narcotics cases they might be forced to drop. And while prosecutors scramble, defense attorneys are doing their part to broaden the implications beyond pending cases, beyond superior court prosecutions, and beyond the criminal courthouse.

Assistant District Attorney Brian Buckelew, a spokesman for the office, said Friday that it's still unclear how far the crime lab implications reach, and that the office strategy is an individualized review of cases. "We're going to salvage the cases that we can salvage," he said. On Friday, the DA's office dropped 25 more narcotics cases.

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said a recent audit of the crime lab indicates institutional problems bigger than Madden, and that his office has identified about 5,500 pending and post-conviction drug cases since 2008 for which it's preparing to file motions or writs of habeas corpus.

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