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Crime lab under investigation
Seven meth samples handled by one analyst had lower weights then were originally reported
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A weight discrepancy involving narcotics sent for analysis at the state crime lab in Ripon has launched a full-scale investigation by the California Department of Justice and put thousands of cases in multiple jurisdictions in jeopardy.

The five district attorney’s offices that use the service of the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Forensic Services Central Valley Crime Lab announced jointly Thursday that an investigation was initiated after a weight discrepancy was brought to light. The five counties that use the service of the crime lab are: Stanislaus, Merced, San Joaquin, Calaveras and Tuolumne.

One criminologist at the lab, who has not been identified, has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, said DOJ spokesperson Christine Gisparac.

In early April, management at the crime lab were made aware of a protocol breach involving the handling and analysis of a methamphetamine evidence sample. This prompted a thorough check of other methamphetamine samples handled by the same analyst. In all, the retesting found seven methamphetamine samples handled by the analyst that had lower weights then were originally reported, Gisparac said.

The five district attorney’s offices have been notified of the testing results and are initiating a review of all the cases handled by the analyst dating back to 2006.

The District Attorneys have pledged to begin notifying defendants and defense attorneys in the affected cases.

“As prosecutors we have an affirmative obligation under the law to provide any potentially exculpatory information to the defense and we all take that ethical obligation seriously,” said Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager. “We appreciate officials from the Central Valley Crime Lab and Bureau of Forensic Services bringing this matter to our immediate attention.  We all have worked with the Ripon crime lab for many years and retain faith in the integrity of the lab and its personnel.”

The investigation puts thousands of cases in jeopardy of being thrown out or overturned. The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office said at least 2,400 cases will have to be reviewed in their jurisdiction.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.