7,827 Criminal Cases In Question After Lab Tech Faked Drug Case Results in New Jersey
PASSAIC COUNTY – According to state officials, a lab technician for the State Police allegedly faked results in a drug case, which has put 7,827 other criminal cases into question.
The technician, Kamalkant Shah, has been working as a laboratory technician for the State Police laboratory in Little Falls. He has worked on a total of 7,827 criminal cases. In one of the cases, he was found to have “dry labbed” suspected marijuana. A memo released on 29 February from Deputy Public Defender Judy Fallon to Public Defender Joseph Krakora stated that Shah’s essentially accused of making up data.
The memo, which was released Tuesday on the New Jersey Municipal Court Law Update Service’s website, stated that Shah was basically observed writing ‘test results’ for suspected marijuana that was never tested.
The problem was discovered on 10 December, and Shah was removed from work immediately. The spokesman for the Office of the Attorney General, Peter Aseltine, reported. Shah was receiving a salary of $101,039, but was suspended without pay effective 12 January.
According to Aseltine, Shah has not been charged with any crime. He is believed to have retired from duty. Also, there was only one instance in which Shah was observed conducting the test improperly.
Director of the Division of Criminal Justice, Ellie Honig, wrote a letter to the county prosecutor’s offices on 22 February stating that Shah “failed to appropriately conduct laboratory analyses in a drug case.” Prosecutors were advised in the letter to disclose the information to the defense counsel. A copy of the letter was released to the NJ Advance Media Wednesday afternoon b the Attorney General’s Office.
According to Honig, Mr. Shah was observed spending insufficient time analyzing a substance in one case to determine whether it was marijuana or not, and recording the anticipated result without properly conducting the analysis.
Honig further stated that all cases have been identified that Shah worked on, ever since he began working in the North Regional Lab Drug Unit in 2005. County prosecutors have been notified to alert defense attorneys in those cases. There are a total number of 7,827 cases, with the largest numbers being in Bergen, Essex, Morris and Passaic counties.
However, it is not yet clear what impact will the disclosure have on all those drug convictions. Several attorneys dealing with criminal matters said Wednesday that it would not affect those defendants who have already pleaded to drug possession.
Shah has been working at the Little Falls lab since the last 10 years, and all of Shah’s results are now under question according to Fallon’s memo. A policy or protocol has not yet been formulated by the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office yet in order to deal with these cases. As per the memo, the County Prosecutor’s Office is still trying to identify the cases that have been potentially implicated by Shah’s alleged conduct.
According to Fallon, the memo stated that in Passaic County alone, around 2,100 cases have been implicated in this conduct.
His LinkedIn profile shows that Shah has been working as a forensic scientist since the last 27 years. He has worked at various agencies, including the New Jersey State Police’s Office of Forensic Science. From October 1989 to March 2005, he worked at the State Police’s equine testing laboratory in East Rutherford. In April 2005, he joined the Little Falls lab.
Fallon also stated that the prosecutor’s office plans to submit the specimens for retesting from open cases. However, the more important question is how this impacts already resolved cases, especially those where the specimens may have been destroyed.
The State Police are working with prosecutors to address any potential issues in connection with Shah’s cases.
A statement was issued on behalf of the Public Defender’s Office Wednesday by Kevin Walker, an assistant public defender, saying that the office does not have “a practical mechanism for identifying all the cases involving” Shah.
The prosecuting attorneys will review the records from the Little Falls lab and cross-reference them with their files. “We assume the prosecutors will do that promptly. Pending that review, we are going to keep all our options on the table, including filing motions to vacate convictions in appropriate cases,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office referred comment to the Attorney General’s Office. However, the person who answered Shah’s listed telephone number declined to comment on the matter.
News Source: https://www.nj.com/