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Several cases have been affected after drugs were discovered missing from the Medical Examiner‚??s Office last month. / Suchat Pederson, The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal

WILMINGTON, Del. -- The Delaware Attorney General's Office released a scathing report Thursday on the troubled Office of Chief Medical Examiner, detailing massive systemic failures, sloppiness and incompetence that allowed years of thefts of drug evidence by an employee or employees.

The report states at least 51 pieces of evidence were compromised in some way involving 46 cases.

"The impact of the issues identified in this report on Delaware's criminal justice system is profound," wrote the authors. "Criminal cases have been dismissed, charges have been reduced and thousands of offenders are seeking to overturn their convictions."

The problems documented in the 36-page report included security systems and procedures that were inadequate, outdated or ignored by employees and management.

Problems at the lab were so widespread and security lapses so frequent that "the loss of evidence is not always traceable to any one individual," according to the report, implying that there may be no more arrests in the case beyond the two employees charged last month.

Investigators found reckless and careless handling of drug evidence at the lab, including lost evidence and "loose" drugs being found on the floor of the lab locker, in lab employees' coat pockets or other places that could not be reunited with the evidence folder they came from. Tracking systems for drug evidence was not used properly and had frequent inconsistencies.

Among the more egregious discoveries by investigators was that the pass-key system, to document who entered the drug storage locker and other sensitive areas, was malfunctioning and for the past 14 years every date of entry has been listed in records as "Jan. 1, 1970."

The office had no consistent polices for handing out or securing keys, pass keys and security codes providing building alarm codes to seasonal employees and failing to retrieve keys from employees that were no longer working or had retired. In one instance, investigators found that an employee that left the office in 2008 still had a key and passkey in February 2014.

The report confirmed a News Journal investigation that revealed that forensic investigator James Woodson had been hired by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in 2010 despite explicit warnings about Woodson's departure from the New Castle City Police Department in 2006 amid suspicions that he was responsible for the theft of $600 cash seized as evidence.

Woodson was one of two employees charged last month and is accused of possession of cocaine, theft of a controlled substance and tampering with physical evidence

One chemist who failed proficiency tests was not fired but was instead assigned to analyze Family Court Cases because few of those cases went to trial, according to the report.

And at least one employee who left the office in 1990 amid allegations he was "dry labbing" ‚?? or reaching a result without actually performing a test ‚?? was re-hired in 2006, and has been suspected of continuing to "dry lab."

That employee, Farnam Daneshgar, a chemist, was the other employee charged last month along with Woodson in relation to thefts at the lab. Daneshgar is facing two counts of falsifying business records, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Richard Callery, who has headed the office since 1995, was suspended with pay on Feb. 25 while a human resources investigation and a criminal investigation for alleged misuse of state resources got underway.

The report, offers no details on Callery, noting that the investigation of Callery is ongoing.

As a direct result of the drug lab scandal, 200 drug cases have been dropped and charges in over 60 cases have been reduced.

The Delaware Public Defender's office has filed more than 500 post-convictions motions seeking to re-open and overturn drug cases due to the scandal.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Report cites systemic failures at Delaware drug lab

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