Dakota County Attorney Faces Tough Questions About St. Paul Crime Lab
Court records indicate the Dakota County Attorney's Office knew about potential problems at the St. Paul Crime Laboratory several months ago.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reviewed the documents with a criminal defense attorney who says they documents raise serous legal and ethical questions for Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom.
A legal review of the St. Paul Crime Lab came to the conclusion last week that there are serious deficiencies in the way the lab conducts its testing of evidence in drug cases. Since then, three counties, including Dakota County no longer send drug cases to the lab.
The court documents we reviewed show an Assistant Dakota County Attorney was told about the potential problems at the lab on March 30, 2012. An another email indicates the second in command at the Dakota County Attorney's Office was appraised of the situation on April 27th. Defense attorney, Chuck Ramsay, tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that, in his opinion, the Dakota County Attorney's Office, at that point, had a legal and ethical obligation to notify every defendant in a pending drug case about the possibility of that exculpatory evidence.
Dakota County told us it could not give us an accurate count of the number of drug cases that were sent to the St. Paul Crime Lab between April 1, 2012 and July 15, 2012. We checked every criminal complaint in that time frame and found 52 arrests for illegal narcotics that had some type of testing done. Of those, we found 15 cases where the criminal complaint specifically identifies the St. Paul Crime Lab as the location of the drug testing. Ramsay says those cases could now be in jeopardy.
The Dakota County Attorney's Office told us County Attorney, James Backstrom, was the only one who could answer our questions and he is out of town and unavailable. In a statement they say, in part, that people from their office met with Crime Lab officials on several occasions and were assured there were no problems with the lab. They say the first they knew of it was after the legal review last week.
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