Issues in Columbia drug lab likely to lead to new legal challeng - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Issues in Columbia drug lab likely to lead to new legal challenges

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

The Richland County Sheriff's Department released a five-page report detailing nearly 24 problems found with the operations of the Columbia Police Department.

The report outlined issues with equipment, training, methodology, and even security concerns.

Currently, there is no inventory of drugs including cocaine and amphetamine stored in what was known as the "bank vault" and there's no clear idea who had keys and access to the lab and the evidence inside.

That means major credibility issues for dozens and possibly hundreds of cases.

"Bad habits, faulty equipment, bad methodology," defense attorney Joe McCulloch said. "If those were systemic and proceeded her arrival at the City of Columbia, that's another serious question that we need to know. Cases often arise and fall on the scientific evidence."

Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook had all lab functions terminated as of July 21. Now, authorities are combing through at least 188 pending cases.

McCulloch says prosecutors, law enforcement, and the courts can expect many new legal challenges from defendants with cases tried over the last few years.

"The tsunami that may occur is going to occur from the Department of Corrections and from the county jail," McCulloch said. "And that's an important thing because I think those people who have maintained their innocence, maintained that they did not have in their possession drugs, and who assert they are in jail wrongfully, those cases are going to have to be looked at."

One option on the table for Holbrook and the Columbia Police Department is to turn over drug analysis to Richland County. That possibility is under consideration by the City of Columbia.

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