Could it be over here or over there?
On Monday, The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times broke the news regarding the Government’s Response to Defendants’ Joint Motion to Compel Discovery. The article and the associated response from the USAO probably generates more questions than answers about the evidence in possession of the MPD, given the extensive collection of materials from the crime scene at 1509 Swann Street, and the existence of electronic communications evidence between the victim and the Defendants.
The acknowledgment that the BlackBerry used by Robert Wone had not been imaged as part of the evidence collection is particularly troubling. Is this disclosure really the tip of the iceberg in the management of evidence for this case?
In 2007, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) conducted an audit of the MPD’s “Management of Seized and Confiscated Property/Evidence” and focused primarily on the operations of the Evidence Control Branch. The final report, released in January, 2008, portrays a facility and management system with inadequate infrastructure and controls. The report’s synopsis is an eye-opener:
“The ECB facility is in need of vital repairs. Our observation of the facility disclosed problems such as an inadequate heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, a poor electrical system, leaky pipes and roof, severe overcrowding in storage areas, and poor physical security. In addition, the ECB facility does not meet all required health and safety code regulations. These facility-related conditions increase the risk of theft, misuse, or loss of evidence, which may compromise the District’s ability to successfully prosecute criminal cases, thereby hindering the ECB’s mission. Further, these conditions pose a hazardous working environment for ECB personnel.”
In commenting on the inadequate HVAC system, the OIG expressed the following concerns:
“Biological materials (i.e., blood, semen, body fluids, etc.) in ECB’s custody should be stored in a climate-controlled and moisture-free environment to properly preserve evidence. However, we found that biological materials stored in the warehouse are subject to extreme temperatures and humidity levels.”
Were the blood stained sheets, towel, and comforter confiscated from 1509 Swann Street stored in these conditions? If so, has the integrity of the evidence been compromised? The following photographs excerpted from the OIG report are worth more than a thousand words.
The upside: a draft contract for the design and build of a new ECB facility was submitted to City Council on March 12, 2009 for approval.
– posted by Michael