Attorney: CPD's drug lab caused my client to be charged with wrong crime

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - As investigators continue to re-test dozens of cases from the Columbia Police Department's drug lab, stories of past issues are coming to light.

Chief Skip Holbrook closed the lab two weeks ago after a solicitor's report questioned practices and the training of the department's chemist.

Now, Columbia attorney Victor Li says mistakes at the drug lab caused his client to be charged with the wrong crime.

Li says this particular case all came down to measurements, specifically how much of the drug his client was found to be in possession of. He says his client was looking at at least three years in prison for trafficking cocaine. He says that charge was based on test that came out of the drug lab at CPD.

Li says those tests have been proven wrong twice.

"He was very sure of what the actual weight was and he told me, he said, 'I know the lab said it was 10.7 grams, but it's definitely less,'" said Li.
Li says he took that argument very seriously and pursued it. He says Columbia Police argued his client, Isaac Jones, was in possession of at least ten grams of cocaine when they raided a hotel room he was in last year. Under the law, that amount warrants a drug trafficking charge -- a serious offense that Li says could have followed his client for years. 

"Ten grams, that's the magic number kind of," said Li.

Li says his client continued to question the amount of cocaine seized right up until he was supposed to go to trial. In July, Li arranged a meeting between the chemist at CPD's drug lab and his own forensic scientist. The drugs were then weighed on this table at Li's office.
"We watched him weigh both of those and they added up to roughly about 8 grams, a little over 8 grams," said Li.

Eight grams, which according to Li, warrants a lesser drug charge of possession with intent to distribute. He says a second measurement of the cocaine -- this time at the lab at CPD -- would confirm that amount.

Holbrook closed the drug lab at the end of August just weeks after this case was resolved.

"The public demands accountability, and it's very important that we have that confidence from the public," said Holbrook.

Since the closing of the drug lab, test results from 190 of its pending cases are still being reviewed.
CPD's only chemist on staff, Brenda Frazier, has resigned. Now some concerns linger that there could be more cases out there similar to Li's client. 

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