COLUMBIA — Columbia Police have shut down the city’s drug lab because an analyst wasn’t properly trained and the lab’s handling of evidence was likely flawed.
Solicitor Dan Johnson sent a letter to defense attorneys Friday about the problems. Johnson said he hasn’t determined how many cases overseen by drug analyst Brenda Frazier may be compromised. She handled cases over the past three years.
A report found several problems with the lab, including failing to keeping samples at proper temperatures or using quality controls when weighing evidence.
“If you can’t trust the weight, we have problems. That’s because the more an illegal substance weighs, the higher a prison sentence a defendant is exposed to. Everybody needs to be able to rely on that information,” Johnson told The (Columbia) State.
Police Chief Skip Holbrook said the problems were found when he decided to assess the quality of all the divisions in the police department after he was hired earlier this year. The city will now send its drug cases to the State Law Enforcement Division’s drug lab.
Defense attorneys are worried the flawed work may have sent some people to prison wrongly, said 5th Circuit Public Defender Doug Strickler.
“At this point, we’re doing a case-by-case review,” Strickler said.
Johnson said the solicitor’s office is also doing its own review and he will move immediately to free anyone whose can show their conviction was wrong because it was made with compromised evidence.
“I didn’t get elected to send anybody who’s innocent to prison,” he said.
Information from: The State, http://www.thestate.com