New details have emerged in an evidence scandal that occurred within in the Delaware Medical Examiner’s office.
A new report from Attorney General Beau Biden’s office revealed numerous “systemic operational failings” within the Chief Medical Examiner’s Controlled Substance Unit. These failings allegedly led to missing or altered drug evidence in 46 cases.
An audit discovered at least 51 pieces of potentially compromised evidence. The missing evidence includes marijuana, Oxycontin, heroin and cocaine.
The preliminary investigation, conducted by the Department of Justice and Delaware State Police, demonstrated the absence of management, oversight and security within the lab. Detailing lax security procedures, employees were described in the report as propping the drug vault door open and turning off the security alarm system.
“Employees recall having observed the door to the drug vault propped open numerous times over the years,” stated the report. “When the DSP secured the drug vault on February 20, 2014, a well-worn, wooden chock was observed in the area adjacent to the door. Based on witness interviews, investigators believe this was used to hold the door open.”
At times, drug evidence was not handled, stored or tested according to protocol, according to the investigation. Records were mismanaged and evidence was removed without being properly logged out. Additionally, the report stated that some employees lacked the training or experience needed to perform some of the tasks to which they were assigned.
The investigation has lead to the arrest of two lab employees, Forensic Investigator James Woodson and Laboratory Manager Farnam Daneshgar, along with the suspension of Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Richard Callery.
Woodson was indicted on one count each of trafficking cocaine, theft of a controlled substance, official misconduct, and tampering with evidence.
Daneshgar was indicted on two counts of falsifying business records. According to the report, witnesses accused Daneshgar of “dry labbing,” which is the “practice of declaring a result without performing the analytical testing to produce the result.”
The report was released as Delaware lawmakers prepare to vote on a bill that would abolish the chief medical examiner’s office and create the Division of Forensic Science. A director would oversee the division, which would be housed under the Department of Safety and Homeland Security rather than the Department of Health and Social Services.
The division would be responsible for overseeing the chief medical examiner’s office and would be responsible for working with the courts and law enforcement, investigating deaths, participating on the Criminal Justice Council and providing fatal incident reviews to the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council.
“Delaware must have its own independent, state-of-the-art crime laboratory,” said Biden in a statement. “A new crime lab is the right thing for Delaware’s criminal justice system and the right thing for taxpayers.”
The legislation is being considered in the state Senate.