San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi called a press conference today, two days after the San Francisco Police Department shut down drug testing at its crime lab amid allegations that a former technician had stolen and used cocaine from the lab.
“We were completely blindsided by this,” Adachi said. “Obviously, it’s very sad that this happened. But what’s even sadder is that hundreds if not thousands of people might have been convicted (with tainted evidence).” About half of the office’s 12,000 annual cases are narcotics cases, he said.
District attorney’s office spokesman Brian Buckelew said there’s no evidence that the technician tampered with evidence beyond six known cases at the end of 2009.
Her last day at the lab was December 8, 2009. The office has no reason to believe it goes farther than that, he said, and “guessing how many cases are affected is pure conjecture at this point.”
But Adachi’s office called for a more urgent handing over of information. “We will need to have a list of those cases so we can take appropriate remedies,” said Teresa Caffese, chief attorney in the PD’s office.
Adachi’s office also said that clients arrested prior to 2008 might never be able to get a fair trial, since drug evidence has since been destroyed.
Buckelew said that an independent audit of the crime lab is just now getting underway.
At his press conference, Adachi criticized the DA’s office for not updating his office sooner. Buckelew said his office found out in late February and “acted with great expediency. It underscores why everyone needs to take a deep breath, we’ll assess the evidence in a very independent, neutral way, and we’ll see where the evidence takes us.”
About 20 public defender clients had felony drug cases dismissed Wednesday morning alone, according to Adachi’s office.