Tag Archives: Drug Cases

DEA Chemists: In Drug Cases, Sometimes They Just Make It Up

I have written before how in criminal drug prosecutions, the government analyst should be cross-examined  and their case file and other information should be requested to prepare a defense case. A colleague sent me a great example of this effort paying off.

D-L Color Test of Three Suspected Marijuana Samples

D-L Color Test of Three Suspected Marijuana Samples

A chemist at the DEA Mid-Atlantic Laboratory wrote in a report that three samples suspected to be marijuana turned purple in a Duquenois-Levine color test. The problem is that the picture of the test (not included in the report but in the analyst’s case-file) showed only one sample that might conceivably indicate the sample was marijuana (and even that one is weak). Continue reading

Special Counsel’s Questionable Testimony in Support of DC’s Draconian Liquid PCP Possession Penalties

Unlike every other drug you can (illegally) possess in the District, the D.C. Council has made possession of any amount of liquid PCP a felony punishable by up to 3 years and/or $3000 fine.* In part, this was because the D.C. Council felt that PCP is a more dangerous drug than other so-called “hard drugs,” in that the Council believes that:

Although a person might commit a crime related to heroin or cocaine (usually a robbery to obtain the money to purchase the heroin or cocaine), individuals often commit crimes because they are on PCP. PCP give users the feeling of strength and invulnerability.

Obviously, the D.C. Council has collectively forgotten the ’80′s and the heyday of powder cocaine. Anyway, the D.C. Council then goes on to list several bizarre crimes committed on PCP as testified to by Patricia Riley, special council to the U.S. Attorney for D.C. Ms. Riley testified that:

A friend I talked to about this testimony this morning remembered a case where a man stabbed his girlfriend 57 times. I remember a case where a woman put her baby in the microwave and turned it on.

There was no support or testimony about any actions Ms. Riley may have taken to verify that these acts actually occurred. Unsupported urban legends don’t belong in sworn testimony to the D.C. Council. Continue reading

Why It’s Important To Get Drug Lab Info In Drug Cases

To live up to its name, forensic science must conform to the scientific method, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.” The scientific method seeks above all to prove or disprove hypotheses through testing in order to determine whether a particular conclusion is reliable. If recent history has taught us anything, it’s that forensic science often falls short of this ideal. But we as criminal defense lawyers can’t expose these failings without better information on lab procedures. I have written about cross-examining drug experts here. Continue reading

In Drug Cases, Cross-Examine that “Expert”!

I was in court just before the Christmas break, waiting for a chance to talk to the clerk, and I got to see part of a colleague’s misdemeanor marijuana possession trial. I was very disheartened to see that when it came time for the DEA chemist’s testimony, the defense lawyer did not challenge her qualifications, did not challenge the identification of the seized evidence as marijuana, and did not cross-examine the chemist at all, not even to have the chemist at least list the procedures performed, etc. Continue reading