1,100 drug cases could be challenged after lab investigation

1,100 drug cases could be challenged after lab investigation
NAMPA, Idaho - Gary Allison of Nampa has a checkered past that includes serving time for a drug conviction. But now his days are filled with homework.

He recently received a two-year degree in computers and is now working on a four-year degree.

"I've stayed clean, I've changed my life, turned it around," Allison said.

But the other day his past came back. Allison received a packet of documents from the State Appellate Public Defender's Office.

"I received the information because they said it may affect my case," Allison said.

Inside were three memos that give details on an Idaho State Police investigation into its own drug lab in Pocatello. The memos give details on broken policies and protocols, investigators say, lab workers committed over several years.

One memo says some of the employees “… hid the unauthorized display drugs from auditors to avoid detection of this practice." Another memo says when a worker was questioned she “climbed up on the drug bench, lifted the ceiling tiles, and pulled out a box of drugs."

ISP investigators discovered a third lab worker violated policies as well saying "(she) deliberately kept the GHB secreted within the lab.

ISP has refused to comment on the matter saying it is an internal personnel issue. All three lab workers involved have resigned as a result of the scandal. They are not facing criminal charges since they are legally authorized to handle the drugs as long as they don't leave the lab.

The incident is alarming for criminal defense attorneys like George Patterson.

"Now they've thrown reasonable doubt into every drug case," Patterson said.

Patterson is preparing for a flood of calls from former clients he's defended in the past. He already knows the question he'll ask the lab workers on appeal.

"Can you tell me how much drug product you have floating around the lab that's unaccounted for?" Patterson said.

The State Appellate Public Defender's Office says up 1,100 cases could be affected by the lab fiasco.

It sent the ISP memos to convicts and ex-cons so they may review them, consider whether to investigate the issue further, and determine whether to pursue any post-conviction challenges. There is no public assistance for ex-cons looking to reopen their case. They’ll need to hire an attorney.

Allison says he likely would be hard pressed to find enough money to get back into court and challenge his case.

"Most people in prison have no resources to fight cases and get them expunged and get back into court," Allison said.


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