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Fri May 27, 2011
Evidence abandoned in closed Detroit crime lab
A Detroit newspaper says a Detroit police lab closed two years ago was left unsecured,with evidence and live ammunition still inside.
The Detroit Free Press reports the lab recently had been left open for at least a week.
The report says evidence kits, personal information of rape and assault victims and live ammunition were scattered around.
The newspaper reported that the lab, housed in a former elementary school, also contained bulletproof vests, gunpowder and bottles of toxic chemicals.
David Moran is a professor at the University of Michigan Law School and co-director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic.
"This was even beyond the pale of your typical crime lab problem where you have a rogue examiner or tests that aren't being done properly," Moran says. "This is wholesale abandonment of the evidence, left for scavengers and potentially the elements, to ruin evidence, destroy cases and in the long run destroy lives.
Moran says the Innocence Clinic has asked for information about evidence in cases that are in the preliminary stages of investigation, but was either ignored or told the information is not there.
"There's not much you can do," Moran says. "What we need is for grown-ups to step in and take charge of the situation. Unfortunately there hasn't been that kind of leadership in the Detroit Police Department. The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office also has a big role, because they can't prosecute if the evidence can't be found."
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy played a key role in the closure of the lab nearly three years ago.
"I was the one who recommended to the then-mayor and then-chief of police that it be shuttered, because of the result of the audits done by the state police, finding a 10 percent error rate in the firearms section, and finding quality control issues throughout the entire lab," Worthy says.
She says she had repeatedly been told by police officials thatthe evidence was being categorized, inventoried, packaged and removed from the facility after it was shut down.
Worthy says it was never the prosecutor's job to monitor whether that actually happened.
"I wish I were the czar of everything, because if I were, we wouldn't have these issues," Worthy says.
She says she has called for an independent investigation into the break-in of the former lab. Detroit police also say they are investigating.