More drug cases dismissed over SF lab scandal

March 19, 2010 7:17:33 PM PDT
A San Francisco judge dismissed more drug cases on Friday as a result of a scandal at the drug lab and tainted evidence. The lab has been closed since March 9. The district attorney's office has dropped nearly 200 new cases. Meanwhile, there are major changes going on with that lab.

The lab's commanding officer and lab manager have both been reassigned to other duties -- a decision made by San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon.

The lab remains closed so no retesting of drugs is being done there. Only by retesting the evidence, can these cases be tried. On Friday, six minor cases were dismissed.

"These people don't have extensive criminal histories and at this point we are making a judgment call on a certain very small set of cases don't warrant the expense of retesting," said district attorney office spokesperson Brian Buckelew.

The district attorney's office is focusing primarily on defendants with extensive criminal records. So those samples are being retested by outside labs.

Friday, a judge set trail dates for those defendants whose samples were retested this week.

"It was a gram of heroin and two stolen T-shirts, that's what I was caught with," said defendant Mauricio Tejada.

The lab was closed after technician Debbie Madden reportedly stole and used some of the cocaine she was supposed to analyze.

"I don't know if she was even the analyst on these particular cases," said Madden's attorney Paul DeMeester.

Attorneys for some of these defendants say most of these cases should be dismissed.

"I'm concerned that if this evidence was tampered or opened to tampering and was kept in the manner that wasn't proper, should he really face that time in state prison?" said defense attorney Lauretta Komlos.

In the meantime, there has been a mad rush to train some San Francisco police officers to do drug testing in the field, something other police departments in the Bay Area have done for years.

"It's very simple. You drop a sample of the narcotics into a bag, flick the bag and it turns a certain color. That is going on line at the beginning of next week. Once that goes on line we will be able to file every single new case that comes our way," said Buckelew.

A second, more comprehensive test, to analyze the evidence, must be done in the lab before the defendant goes to trial.


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