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Delaware Headlines

State Supreme Court rejects drug lab appeals

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Tom Byrne/Delaware Public Media
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Dozens of drug offenders received no relief from the Delaware Supreme Court in appealing their guilty pleas over potential evidence tampering by the state’s drug lab.

 

 

45 defendants won’t have their sentences overturned according to Chief Justice Leo Strine because they all share one common trait: none of them deny carrying illegal drugs.

 

The crux of their argument rested on shoddy oversight at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, where some workers were accused of selling drugs from evidence lockers and operating in a lax security environment.

 

In his opinion issued four days after oral arguments, Strine says, “...the poor evidence-handling practices at the OCME, however regrettable, were not a license for every defendant to obtain a get-out-of-jail-free card.”

 

Strine goes on to say the defendants may have had more bargaining leverage had they known about the state’s problems, but it doesn’t mean they were unfairly convicted.

 

35 of the defendants entered guilty pleas before evidence collected was even processed, according to the state.

 

The Public Defender's Office, which has handled similar cases since troubles at the crime lab were discovered in early 2014, argued that the problems were so serious that vacating the pleas would make a recurrence less likely.

 

Those accused workers at OCME either avoided charges, pleaded to less serious crimes or were given probation – including Chief Medical Examiner Richard Callery, who won’t face prison time.

 

The new Division of Forensic Science now handles evidence processing under the Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

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