Board of Supervisors investigates lab scandal

April 19, 2010 6:29:49 PM PDT
There's a new chapter in the on-going evidence-tampering scandal at the San Francisco Crime Laboratory. The police chief says the criminal investigation into who did what should be finished in a month, but the after-effects on hundreds of cases will continue indefinitely.

Monday morning, crime lab supervisor Lois Woodworth testified in a DUI case. This is following last week's events when Deborah Madden invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself. Woodworth was the one who told police in December that Madden had stolen cocaine from the lab after her sister reported the theft to her.

"There is no doubt this lab is a mess. I'm being as transparent as I can," said Assistant Police Chief Jeff Godown.

Across town at City Hall, the Board of Supervisor's Public Safety Committee was briefed on the growing scandal. Godown is heading the investigation. He says, while drug testing has stopped, lab work on weapons and DNA is continuing, but those cases are now backlogged.

"To clear the DNA backlog which is 250 cases, if we outsource that alone, it would be about $3.5 million just to get back to no backlog whatsoever," said Godown.

Both Godown and Chief Assistant District Attorney Russ Giuntini warned supervisors the lab scandal is costing them money and resources.

"We are stretched to the max to try to deal with the enormity of this problem and reviewing the legal processes," said Giuntini.

Public defender Jeff Adachi told supervisors up to 40,000 cases may need to be reviewed.

"We're being deluged with phone calls from individuals who are in prison, in some cases doing serious time, and they are asking that their cases be reviewed," said Adachi.

Adachi wants an independent investigation of the lab because he doesn't trust police to come clean.

"I think that the police department is a dog in this fight. They are more concerned with minimizing the impact of this technician's misconduct, I believe, than really getting to the bottom of it," said Adachi.

Police Chief George Gascon responded this way.

"Until somebody proves I'm not being transparent or doing the right things, I think that people need to back off," said Gascon.

The district attorney's office has dismissed more than 300 cases which were in preliminary hearings, plus 166 other cases which were set for jury trials, but the district attorney's office says it believes it can salvage most of those cases.


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