Multiple media sources report that the Delaware Public Defender's Office has filed hundreds of motions in the last several weeks seeking to reopen and overturn old drug convictions. They intend to continue filing similar motions for the foreseeable future. Up to 9,500 felony and misdemeanor convictions on drug charges could be overturned as a result of the public defender's efforts.
The cases in question are those involving convictions that took place between 2010 and February of this year. Reopening these cases is the result of what investigators have alleged are massive errors and poor management at Delaware's state drug-testing lab at the Medical Examiner's Office. Drug evidence in multiple cases allegedly disappeared, was tampered with or mishandled while at the lab.
The Medical Examiner's Office has been under tremendous scrutiny over the last several months as the Chief Medical Examiner was suspended in March with pay. Though he has not been charged with a crime, he was allegedly moonlighting in Rhode Island as a contract pathologist. He is currently under investigation for misuse of state funds to support his own consulting business.
The investigation regarding missing and mishandled drug evidence continues but if a person with so much responsibility is not dedicating their attention to their most important duties, errors seem nearly inevitable. The criminal investigation involving the Medical Examiner's Office has been ongoing for several months. The impact of that investigation may be felt for a very substantial amount of time. If people were convicted without strict attention to the Constitution, due-process and the rule of law, the criminal justice system is obligated to correct the errors. Perhaps drawing attention to the problems in the Delaware Medical Examiner's Office will lead to increased protections of people accused of criminal offenses.