ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – The county attorneys for Ramsey, Washington and Dakota counties announced that they are planning to review all jury or court cases that ended in drug convictions for the past three years.
The announcement comes in response to a number of issues that have been raised about how the St. Paul Crime Lab handles narcotics cases.
Last year, prosecutors identified a number of problems with the lack of proper crime lab policies and procedures when it comes to its drug testing process. These problems reportedly led to the misidentification of controlled substances in some cases.
“As a result of the conclusions in these reports, we have determined to begin a proactive review process of all cases within our respective offices which resulted in prior convictions by jury or court trial since July 1, 2010,” announced a joint statement released by John Choi of Ramsey County, James Backstrom of Dakota County and Peter Orput of Washington County.
According to the statement released on Thursday, if the review determines that any seized substances available for retesting lead to negative results, the county attorneys would agree to vacate convictions relating to said evidence.
Furthermore, if the evidence has been destroyed, the attorneys said they still plan to review case files to see if there is enough corroborating evidence to prevent them from vacating those convictions as well.
Last summer, a number of reports noted shoddy procedures in the St. Paul Crime Lab. An internal review found that drug tests were insufficient and being performed by untrained analysts.
However, on Thursday, the three county attorneys said (in a letter addressed to Minnesota State Public Defender John Stuart) that they do not believe “widespread misidentification” of controlled substances actually occurred.