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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

DA Kamala Harris Says She Never Saw Report Criticizing Crime Lab

Posted By on Wed, Dec 15, 2010 at 3:53 PM

click to enlarge Kamala Harris
  • Kamala Harris

SFPD Chief Also Denies Awareness of Critique Written by Prosecutor and DNA Expert

District Attorney Kamala Harris and San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón both said today they have never seen and were not aware of a report in which a renowned prosecutor says he criticized the supervisor of the SFPD crime lab's DNA unit.

Their statements, made following a press conference held in San Francisco on Harris' transition to the office of California Attorney General, are at odds with the assertions of Rockne Harmon, a highly regarded prosecutor and DNA expert who worked on the O.J. Simpson case.

Harmon, whom Harris herself once called "the guru of DNA evidence in the state," said in an interview with SF Weekly last week that he produced a report for Harris' office earlier this year that was "critical" of DNA lab supervisor Cherisse Boland's conduct in a murder case, and that he "was and still am concerned" that the document has not been shared with defense lawyers, who might use it as exculpatory evidence.

"It wasn't earth-shattering, but it's something that should be out there," Harmon said. "I think what's earth-shattering is what's happened to it."

Harmon, who was employed as a consultant on DNA evidence at the San Francisco DA's office from 2007 through July of this year, said he had submitted the report in March or April to both officials at the DA's office -- whom he encouraged to share it with the defense bar -- and SFPD Assistant Chief Jeff Godown.

However, in a brief interview, Harris said she had no knowledge of the report. Her statements echoed a denial of the report's existence, in writing, that Paul Henderson, chief of administration at the DA's office, sent to SF Weekly in response to a request for the document under San Francisco's Sunshine Ordinance.

"I think there's some confusion over it, and my office is looking into it," Harris said. "I'm not aware that there's a report."

click to enlarge George Gascon
  • George Gascon
Gascón likewise said the police department could not find a copy of the document, and that Godown "has no recollection" of ever having received a report on the crime lab from Harmon.

"I'm concerned, because if we lost that report, that would indicate a breakdown," Gascón said. "I can tell you there is no way I would hide any allegations of misconduct."

Gascón said his office has asked Harmon for the report. When pressed for details of that conversation, he said he did not know what Harmon's response had been.

The ongoing mystery over the document's whereabouts raises questions

about whether Harris has adequately complied with a judge's order in May

that she turn over all documentation of problems at the SFPD's crime

lab to defense lawyers.

Reached by telephone today, Harmon said he would not make any further comments about his report. "This is not about me," he said. "I'm done talking about it." Harmon said last week that he would not share the document himself, citing past contractual obligations with the DA's office.

Click here for past and ongoing coverage of problems at the crime lab's DNA section.

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Peter Jamison


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