1,700 cases affected by crime lab scandal

June 29, 2010 6:45:07 PM PDT
San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris says her office has finished counting all of the cases in which former crime lab analyst Deborah Madden was involved since her 2005 conviction on domestic violence charges. There are 1,700 cases in all. Harris says letters have now been sent to defense lawyers who represented suspects in those cases.

Madden also testified in seven cases since her conviction. Harris says her office is reviewing all of those cases. Prosecutors have a legal obligation to tell attorneys about the criminal histories of their expert witnesses. So far, prosecutors have dropped hundreds of cases since Madden admitted stealing cocaine evidence from the lab.

Harris says the re-testing of drug evidence from those cases continues at outside labs in hopes that her office can re-try cases that were dismissed.

The district attorney made the disclosures during a news conference Tuesday in which she introduced to the media her new top management staff. Veteran prosecutor David Pfeifer replaces Russ Guintini as chief assistant district attorney, Harris' second in command.

Guintini unexpectedly retired several months ago following the crime lab scandal. Sources say he was asked to leave because of his mishandling of the scandal. Monday, Harris said Guintini left because he qualified for a generous retirement package which had a June 30 deadline.

Among the new appointees is Sharon Woo, who was in charge of drug prosecutions. She is now the head of the Criminal Division. Woo wrote the now famous e-mail in which she told Guintini and other top district attorney officials Madden was becoming "undependable" and missing court dates for which she was an expert witness. That memo played a significant role in exposing other problems in the lab.

Woo spoke for the first time publicly about that e-mail to ABC7, saying she had no idea that memo would trigger everything that has happened since, nor did she know anything about Madden's alcohol and drug problems or her prior domestic violence conviction.

"I'm astounded all the time," she said. "I never imagined there was this underlying problem at the time in the crime lab or that the underlying problem would explode into what we've now seen. All I wanted to do in that e-mail was to point out the staffing problems at the lab and to underscore the importance of fully staffing that lab."


Load Comments