The district attorney of Boulder County said Monday that he does not think any cases in his jurisdiction were affected by an apparent bias the state’s toxicology lab had toward prosecutors.
Even so, District Attorney Stan Garnett said he plans to notify criminal defense attorneys whose clients were convicted in cases involving evidence from the lab that may have been compromised.
As Boulder County residents may know, a May 13 report indicated that the former director of the state toxicology lab may have demonstrated a preference for prosecutors. The former director stepped down from her position last week. Although the report seems to have been prepared in May, it seems it was not widely circulated until late last week.
That potential bias is a problem, of course, because it calls the impartiality of the lab into question, and by extension the fairness and accuracy of any criminal trials that used evidence from the lab.
Garnett has said he is confident that all convictions in Boulder County remain sound, because they rely on “all kinds of evidence” rather than just lab results, but he plans to review any potentially affected cases all the same.
While we are glad that Garnett has confidence, his attitude (as expressed in media coverage, at least) seems a trifle cavalier.
The integrity of our court system is a foundation on which our criminal justice system rests and any suggestion that it is cracked or flawed in some way needs to be taken very, very seriously.
Incidents like this are an excellent example of how important it is for all criminal defendants to have access to legal representation. Criminal defense attorneys are often able to be the strong advocates defendants need in situations just like these.
Source: The Daily Camera, “Boulder DA had concerns about state toxicology lab prior to new report,” Mitchell Byars, June 10, 2013