Amidst Investigation, AG Biden Calls For Independent Crime Lab - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Amidst Investigation, AG Biden Calls For Independent Crime Lab

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DOVER, Del. - Since February, the Delaware's Chief Medical Examiner's office has been under fire because of drug-evidence tampering in dozens of trials.

Next week, a Senate committee will discuss how to handle the case moving forward. Attorney general Beau Biden is now speaking out, asking to change the role of the office of medical examiner to a new, state-of-the-art crime lab.

"Delaware must have its own independent, state-of-the-art crime laboratory.  A new crime lab is the right thing to do for Delaware's criminal justice system and the right thing to do for taxpayers," said Biden.

"For too long, police and prosecutors have had to overcome the challenges posed by the current scenario that forces us to send different evidence to separate laboratories in Delaware, and in many cases, to private laboratories out of state because the Delaware facilities lack either the capability or the capacity. As a result, investigations and prosecutions can be significantly delayed, compromising, at times, the orderly administration of justice.

"Forensic evidence is incredibly important to the effort to build successful prosecutions in complex cases against the worst criminal offenders.  A new, state-of-the-art crime lab will make Delaware's criminal justice system more effective and efficient.

"It will help police and prosecutors arrest and convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent, and it will save taxpayers money in the long term.  Delaware cannot afford to wait any longer."

At least 65 known cases have been compromised at the Office of the Medical Examiner.

The issue started back in January when dozens of blue Oxycodone pills were reportedly missing from evidence in one case and replaced with pink blood pressure pills. This prompted an investigation into the Chief Medical Examiner's Office. Drug analysis at the lab was discontinued shortly after.

In February, Dr. Richard Callery was suspended as chief medical examiner amid an investigation of evidence tampering at a state drug-testing lab.

So far, eight Sussex County cases were continued until May so that the state can obtain sufficient labs to get the evidence tested for a final case review.

Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf and Department of Safety and Homeland Security Secretary Lewis Schiliro also released statements regarding the crime lab on Thursday.

Landgraf says that the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner "needs to be reformed and we have independent consultants doing a top-to-bottom review of that office."

"Whether we combine the forensic resources of the State Police and Medical Examiner in a new crime lab is just one of the things we will be discussing with our consultants and with law enforcement in the coming months," said Landgraf.

According to Schiliro, forensic science is an increasingly important part of "how we solve crimes today and we have some state-of-the-art resources already on the ground."

"We are always looking at options to improve our delivery of forensic sciences to the police and the public. One option would be building a new crime lab similar to Maryland's $24 million facility, which my department took deputies from the Attorney General's office to tour. 

"Whether we build something similar or not, we have to stay on top of the science and we have to improve our capacity to handle these cases. Our focus right now is on catching the person or persons who committed this crime, but we look forward to talking about this more."

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