Report shows tampering in 46 drug cases

Biden calls for state-of-the-art Delaware crime lab
June 19, 2014

A preliminary report released June 19 by the Attorney General's Office found systemic failures at the state's controlled substances lab under the Office of Chief Medical Examiner.

The report identified 51 pieces of evidence from 46 drug cases from 2010 to 2013, sent to the lab for testing, had potentially been tampered with.

As a result of the investigation, Attorney General Beau Biden said, more than 200 drug charges have been dismissed, drug charges in more than 60 cases have been reduced, and hundreds of offenders are seeking to overturn their convictions.

Biden also said an outside laboratory has been retained to test drugs seized by Delaware law enforcement agencies at a cost to-date of well over $100,000.

The number of tampering cases prompted Biden to call for a new, state-of-the-art crime laboratory.

“The lack of oversight and inadequate security at the Medical Examiner’s drug lab is deeply disturbing,” Biden said.  “A new crime lab is the right thing for Delaware’s criminal justice system and the right thing for taxpayers.”

After four months of investigation, the preliminary report found systemic failings at the controlled substance laboratory resulted in an environment in which drug evidence could be lost, stolen or altered. Biden cited lack of management, lack of oversight, lack of security and lack of effective policies and procedures as major failings.

Biden said the 51 pieces of evidence that were potentially compromised include lost or missing Oxycontin, marijuana, heroin and cocaine.

However, only one person in the Office of Chief Medical Examiner has been charged with tampering with evidence, and the charges involve only cocaine.

Forensic Investigator James Woodson was indicted May 27 on one count each of trafficking cocaine, theft of a controlled substance (cocaine), official misconduct, and tampering with evidence. Woodson is accused of removing cocaine from an evidence bag at the controlled substances lab.

He was also charged with improperly accessing a Department of Justice database in April.

Also indicted May 27 is laboratory manager Farnam Daneshgar who faces two counts of falsifying business records in connection with failing to produce reports documenting discrepancies in drug evidence he reviewed in two specific cases.  He was also charged with one count each of possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia related to evidence seized during execution of a search warrant at his home.

In addition, Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Richard Callery is the subject of an ongoing investigation related to his position as Chief Medical Examiner.

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