Recently, a chemist in Massachusetts allegedly tampered with criminal evidence in the state’s drug laboratory. Allegedly, the chemist contaminated samples, mixed different samples and manipulated the weight of drugs. The chemist worked for nine years in the laboratory and handled approximately 60,000 drug samples over that time period.
The chemist’s work could have potentially affected 34,000 criminal cases involving drugs, drunk driving and other related charges. This case may have far-reaching repercussions that could affect evidentiary standards in states all across America.
This case has affected public confidence in the justice system generally. Police officers, lawyers and people who were sentenced because of the alleged mishandling of evidences may have a hard time reconciling what has occurred and what it may mean for them in the future. For example, some individuals are pushing to have cases reopened if their evidence was handled by the chemist. Ultimately, some convicted prisoners may be freed based on the alleged tampering in the laboratory.
Because of this experience, authorities in many states have become much more cautious and as a result, backlogs of criminal drug, alcohol and blood evidence are becoming a significant issue. As a result testing samples for individual cases may take much longer to complete than ever before.
When accused or convicted persons are waiting for evidence to come back from the lab, the time it takes may feel like an eternity. However, this experience highlights just how critical it is to have evidence handled properly and carefully, even if doing so takes precious time.
Source: Boston.com, “Police chief’s, justice system brace for fallout from drug lab scandal,” Mark Arsenault, Sept. 17, 2012