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Florida Drug Cases to be Re-evaluated Due to Evidence Tampering

  1. Beenthere2Hippie
    FLORIDA - Florida's state police agency on Saturday announced a massive evidence review in thousands of drug cases handled by one crime-laboratory chemist, saying its findings could lead to some criminal cases being quashed and drug dealers set free.

    The chemist is suspected of taking illegal drugs out of evidence storage and replacing them with over-the-counter medication, the agency said.

    "It could be for personal use. It could be for trafficking. We don't know," Gerald Bailey, head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), said at a news conference. Bailey declined to identify the FDLE chemist, who was ordered to take vacation and accrued compensatory leave time pending disposition of the case. He said the man has hired an attorney and is not cooperating in the investigation. He said the chemist will be fired if a case is documented.

    "We've identified nearly 2,600 cases spanning 35 counties that chemist processed between 2006 and the present day," Bailey said.

    "So far, we've identified several dozen evidence submissions where prescription drugs were substituted with over-the-counter medications. This has the potential of impacting hundreds of drug cases across our state."

    Bailey said the investigation began when the Escambia County Sheriff's Office reported missing evidence in several drug cases last week. Last Thursday, he said, it was determined that one chemist had handled laboratory submissions in which substances believed to be illegal drugs were replaced. Bailey said there was no indication that the chemist was bribed to tamper with evidence and get cases dismissed. Bailey said he never would have suspected the man, hired in 2006, of any wrongdoing.

    "This is a shock and a disappointment," he said. "This individual would have been way down on my list of potential bad apples."


    By Bill Cottorell, Reuters/ The Chicago Tribune

    Source: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-rt-us-usa-crime-florida-20140201,0,7734454.story

    Newshawks Crew

    Author Bio

    BT2H is a retired news editor and writer from the NYC area who, for health reasons, retired to a southern US state early, and where BT2H continues to write and to post drug-related news to DF.


  1. Diverboone
    Thousands of DUI results statewide could be in jeopardy after a TBI employee was fired this week for mishandling evidence.

    Of the 2,800 cases handled by the former special agent, there are 323 cases in Hamilton County alone.
    All samples obtained in the cases will be retested for blood-alcohol content. Based on those results, convictions could potentially be overturned or pending cases dismissed. The TBI said it plans to add an additional step to its testing process to ensure the same mistake doesn't happen in the future.

    Former Special Agent Kyle Bayer was fired on Monday after an internal investigation revealed he mistakenly switched two blood alcohol samples in a vehicular homicide case in Hamilton County.

    "All indications are that this was an isolated incident by an examiner who, despite extensive training, switched two adjacent blood samples at the onset of the analysis process and then failed to follow a number of procedural checkpoints which would have caught the error," writes Robert Daniel Royse, assistant director of TBI, in a letter dated Tuesday and obtained by the Times Free Press.

    The case came to light after Chattanooga defense attorney Jerry Summers sent a client's blood sample off to a private lab, Aperian Lab Solutions, to cross-check the results. Dale Edward Ferrell, who was charged with vehicular homicide and DUI, submitted a blood sample after a fatal car crash on March 16 resulted in the death of Knoxville architect Edward Bankston.

    TBI results showed that Ferrell's blood alcohol came back at 0.24 -- three times the legal limit, which is 0.08. Summers submitted the same sample to Aperian, which returned a result of .01. As a result of the switched results, Ferrell's charges of DUI and vehicular homicide were dismissed by the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office.

    Summers has 11 clients whose cases could potentially be affected depending on other evidence.

    On Tuesday afternoon, the district attorney's office authorized the release of the names of 323 defendants potentially affected in Hamilton County along with their TBI test results to be distributed to the Chattanooga Criminal Defense Bar and Chattanooga Bar Association. Results ranged from zero to 0.40, according to the list.

    TBI plans to send all of Bayer's cases to a private lab for retesting. "I'm glad the TBI is diligently looking into this. Hopefully if there have been people convicted wrongfully, it will be corrected," Summers said Tuesday afternoon. "There may be several people who might be wrongfully convicted and that's not the way our justice system should work."

    It's unclear how much the testing will cost and which lab has been selected. Efforts to reach TBI officials were unsuccessful. Royse's letter states that TBI is hopeful the retesting results will be back by the end of February. "But again, we have no control over certain aspects of the contracting procedure," he writes.
    Royse's letter also stated that an extra step has been added to the lab process. "As a corrective action, an additional procedural checkpoint by a second analyst was added to the blood alcohol methodology."

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