New Jersey Drug Lab Scandal, Dry Labbing’ and cutting corners while testing marijuana samples

The Massachusetts drug lab scandal impacted thousands of drug cases and resulted in new trials and convictions overturned in many.  Now New Jersey faces a similar scandal.

Lab technician Kamalkant Shah was found to have “dry labbed” suspected marijuana samples. Shah was observed writing ‘test results’ for suspected marijuana that was never actually tested. Shah recorded anticipated results and recorded those anticipated results without properly conducting the analysis. This disclosure has called thousands of test results into question.

In May 2015, a case of ‘dry labbing’ was reviewed by the Massachusetts Supreme Court to determine how many cases need to be looked over again. Over 40,000 cases may have been tainted by Annie Dookhan may have been tainted by Annie Dookhan, a forensic scientist who pleaded guilty to forging initials of other chemists, intentionally contaminating samples, and just glancing at samples during analysis, instead of actually testing them. Dookhan pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence in 2013, and is serving 3 to 5 years.

A similar situation has also occurred in Oregon, where an Oregon State Police lab technician was accused of tampering with evidence.  The tampering by one technician called over 500 other samples into question.

Though ‘dry labbing’ situations are rare, their consequences are catastrophic. This kind of misconduct is a violation of due process. These results are admitted as evidence and lead to wrongful convictions. Hundreds of cases of ‘dry labbing’ that have been reviewed have lead to convictions being overturned.

No one wins with ‘dry labbing.’ For every case that is brought to light, there are numerous that are never discovered. We will never be able to find out the number of defendants that have been wrongfully convicted due to ‘dry labbed’ evidence. Even when cases are discovered, it raises doubts about both the forensic and court systems. To ensure that ‘dry labbing’ situations do not continue to happen, labs must make sure that their technicians are not cutting corners and actually testing the evidence that comes in.

For more information about the admissibility of evidence, check out my Massachusetts Criminal Defense blog.

To read more about defending drug crimes, visit my website.

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