It seems like we hear about a new crime lab scandal about once a month. Here’s the latest, from the Miami New Times:
Though the broad outlines of the scandal at the Broward crime lab have been made public — two top staff members have resigned, and an internal affairs investigation is underway — New Times has learned it is likely more far-reaching than previously thought. An audit expected later this year is likely to show that drugs are missing in many more cases.
After reviewing hundreds of pages of court documents and police reports, the newspaper has found problems in everything from street-level drug busts to large-scale probes of heavy movers. Among them are [Kadesha] Roberts’ case and several others, including:
• The bust of a dealer with 363 pills that were field-tested as positive for MDMA in 2012, only to come up negative in the lab.
• A $60,000 Fort Lauderdale reverse sting conducted in 2012 in which cocaine was later found to be missing.
• The 2013 seizure, after a SWAT standoff, of marijuana that was listed at a different weight in police reports and lab analysis.
The common factor: All the drugs landed on the desk of forensic chemist Kelli McDonald. She is still employed at the Broward Sheriff’s Office but was recently transferred and could not be reached for comment. Her last known annual salary was $85,800 in 2012. “There seem to be multiple manners in which she has engaged in misconduct,” says Gordon Weekes, a chief assistant with the Broward Public Defender’s Office. “It creates an issue because it erodes the confidence of the entire criminal justice system.”
At one point, I was trying to keep a running tab of all these crime lab and forensics scandals. It quickly became clear that doing so while also covering other stories just wasn’t possible. Also, be sure to check out The Washington Post’s terrific ongoing reporting on the FBI’s forensics disaster.