San Francisco Crime Lab Tech Pleads Not Guilty

As we wrote last month, the San Francisco crime lab is a mess, hundreds of prosecutions have been ditched and the lab itself shut down. Today, Crime Lab Tech Deborah Madden who is at the center of the scandal, pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of possession of cocaine. Police found 1/10 of a gram of coke in her bedroom during a search. (1/10 of a gram of cocaine is a felony in California. Under federal law, possession for personal use is a misdemeanor.)

Thanks to CACJ (California Attorneys for Criminal Justice) the materials, including pleadings, related to the crime lab scandal are available here.

There's also this report, False Positives Equal False Justice. [More...]

From the Executive Summary:

One only has to look at the decades-old War on Drugs to see how we’ve handed over personal privacy and reason to law enforcement in the name of reducing the perceived harmful impacts of drug use. Tragically, the extensive array of lab and field drug tests used today, while intended to aid the government in law enforcement, too often mislead police with false results that punish Americans with wrongful prosecutions and incarcerations.

Contained in this report are the results of experiments performed with field drug test kits that expose and document that they render false positives with legal substances. Based on the false positives, people continue to be wrongfully
charged with, and prosecuted for, drug crimes. It is all too clear from the new research that there are numerous victims of false positives who have had a traumatic and costly experience that sometimes involves being held in jail for days, weeks or longer while waiting for more accurate confirmation tests to exonerate them. It is also revealed that the false positive based arrests can lead to costly lawsuits for local and state governments by outraged victims.

The documents in the report show police use faulty tests, even for pot:

False Positives Equal False Justice documents that law enforcement officials, forensic drug analysts, and prosecutors knowingly employ the flawed Duquenois-Levine and KN Reagent tests as well as mere conclusory police reports to
wrongfully prosecute and convict millions of individuals for anti-marijuana law violations. These wrongful prosecutions and convictions violate Supreme Court rulings, specifically Jackson v. Virginia and Daubert v. Dow Merrell
Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which prohibit the use of inaccurate, nonspecific tests and/or conclusory reports because they do not prove the presence of marijuana in a seized substance.

In other words, millions of people have been, and continue to be, prosecuted and convicted of marijuana charges without proof that they possessed marijuana.

No charges have been filed as yet pertaining to the lab scandal.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Legalization is too threatening to... (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Yes2Truth on Mon Apr 05, 2010 at 05:26:11 PM EST

    a large number of special interests.  They aren't about to support something which would kill the goose that lays such fine golden eggs.

    police/prisons/justice system would lose (none / 0) (#10)
    by jeffinalabama on Mon Apr 05, 2010 at 05:28:24 PM EST
    big time, and so would the big time drug importers.

    Here in Alabama, we have some 'dry' counties-- no alcoholic beverages sold legally. two segments want to keep these counties dry-- preachers and bootleggers.


    I am curious what is the stance of people here ... (none / 0) (#1)
    by nyrias on Mon Apr 05, 2010 at 02:09:14 PM EST
    are people here oppose tough sentences on drug possession?

    Are people here going to support Deborah Madden?

    Assuming she didn't acquire the (none / 0) (#2)
    by oculus on Mon Apr 05, 2010 at 02:14:07 PM EST
    cocaine she ingested from the lab, and given legalization/decriminalization is a goal here, she should be supported by this blog.

    Even if she swipe the cocaine from the lab .. (none / 0) (#4)
    by nyrias on Mon Apr 05, 2010 at 02:20:02 PM EST
    should the blog support her on the charge of possession?

    The blog can condemn her on theft and mishandling of evidence separately.


    The answer to your question is (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Apr 05, 2010 at 02:28:12 PM EST
    yes, this blog would support her on the cocaine possession charge. The lab issue is separate. Our focus is on cleaning up the lab issues and protecting the rights of defendants convicted based on faulty or inadequate testing.

    No one should get a felony conviction for possessing a small quantity of a drug.


    I don't think we're all (none / 0) (#3)
    by cawaltz on Mon Apr 05, 2010 at 02:19:56 PM EST
    the same on decriminalization. I support decriminalizing marijuana. Cocaine is a whole nother ball game for me. One is extremely addictive. The other not so much. Although I would say that if this is her first offense I completely support rehab.

    No one mentioned legalization (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Apr 05, 2010 at 02:28:58 PM EST
    But possession of small quantities for personal use should not be a felony.

    Don't you think .... (none / 0) (#5)
    by nyrias on Mon Apr 05, 2010 at 02:21:06 PM EST
    if informed people want to fry their brains with cocaine, we should just let them do it (in the safest environment possible) and let them live with the consequences?

    You cannot legislate stupidity away.


    And The Feral Cats? (none / 0) (#6)
    by squeaky on Mon Apr 05, 2010 at 02:21:33 PM EST
    Sounds like a mess over there..