Delaware AG's Office Asks to Halt Drug Cases Over Evidence Mishandling

Several cases are said to have had their drug evidence compromised after going to state laboratory

The Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden's office is requesting that all drug-related criminal trials be halted over issues with handling of drug evidence in several cases.

AG Office spokesman Jason Miller tells that state prosecutor Kathleen Jennings sent a letter to all chief justices on Monday asking for a 60 day stay in the trials. The move comes as officials investigate issues at the state's Controlled Substance Lab.

A dozen cases that were set to begin this week are expected to be halted, Miller said. He said the delay will allow the state and defense attorneys to review and retest any evidence that is deemed to have been compromised. As well, he said avoid verdicts being levied based on incorrect information.

Miller said the state is not suggesting, however, that any of the cases were affected.

Delaware State Police Sgt. Paul Shavack said troopers on Friday shut down and secured the Controlled Substance Lab, which is part of the Office of the Medical Examiner, after some drug evidence was "tampered with, missing and/or substituted."

The lab accepts substances suspected to be illegal confiscated by Del. law enforcement agencies and tests them. It most commonly tested for marijuana, cocaine, prescription drugs and others, according to the M.E.'s website.

"The Controlled Substances Lab remains secured as investigators conduct interviews and continue to inspect and audit drug evidence to determine if there are additional compromises," Shavack said.

The sergeant said "several" cases were affected by the evidence mishandling, but couldn't provide a total number citing the ongoing investigation. Miller said he did not have information about whether any past cases that are currently on trial or where verdicts have been delivered had the compromised drug evidence. He added that the state is still determining

State police and Biden's office has asked all Delaware law enforcement agencies to conduct audits and inspect all drug evidence that may have been sent to the state lab.

"This is an ongoing process and is in varying stages and degrees. It would be premature to provide a timeline until the conclusion of this process to determine the entire scope of the compromises," Shavack said.

State officials are looking at alternative labs to do testing and analysis. Shavack says the M.E.'s office is cooperating with the investigation.

Contact Vince Lattanzio at 610.668.5532, or follow @VinceLattanzio on Twitter.

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