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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Public Defender Jeff Adachi Says D.A. Kamala Harris Blowing Off Crime Lab Scandal -- and Him

Posted By on Wed, Apr 14, 2010 at 1:31 PM

Public Defender Jeff Adachi ain't happy with D.A. Kamala Harris
  • Public Defender Jeff Adachi ain't happy with D.A. Kamala Harris
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi sharply criticized District Attorney Kamala Harris' handling of a growing scandal at the San Francisco Police Department crime lab today, saying the city's top prosecutor had ignored repeated requests to meet with him and failed to disclose the full extent of problems at the lab.

"Anytime I've asked the District Attorney for a meeting, I've been told the District Attorney is out of town or not available," Adachi said, noting that Harris had initially scheduled -- but then canceled -- a meeting when the Public Defender's office first learned of alleged tampering with drug samples by lab technician Deborah Madden. "We need a District Attorney who will give this the attention it deserves."

The remarks came at a press conference Adachi held in the wake of a judge's order yesterday that prosecutors turn over thousands of pages of documents about Madden and problems at the crime lab's narcotics unit. The records include the transcript of an internal police interview with Madden wherein she described startlingly sloppy protocols for measuring drug weights -- an important factor in criminal sentencing -- and stated that she and other lab technicians routinely "just laughed" at testing errors.

Adachi said Madden's statements underscore the need for an independent investigation of the lab, and asserted that police investigators had gone easy on Madden in their interrogation. "There are softball questions throughout the interview. At various points in the interview, the inspectors even attempt to suggest an alibi for her," he said.

He pointed to what he called a "deplorable" statement by investigators that the public defender said was an encouragement to mitigate problems at the lab: "They're going to need your help on this," the investigator said to Madden. "A lot of people are going to be trying to take advantage of it. You know, it's kind of like the bus is going to be going by and Muni gets into an accident and three or four people jump on so they can say their neck hurts, right?"

Adachi also said the transcripts revealed that Harris' office had understated how far back problems at the lab went, noting assertions by Madden in her interview that there were "discrepancies all along throughout the years" in drug testing. He also said he found it "hard to believe" that prosecutors were unaware of problems at the drug lab and of Madden's criminal history. (She was convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence in 2008 in San Mateo County.)

Problems at the lab could affect tens of thousands of cases going back for years, Adachi said: "The reality is that this is not going away."

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Peter Jamison


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