Mishandled Evidence May Mean New Appeals
Reprinted with permission from:
Forida Prison Legal Perspectives
Vol. 6, Issue 6; ISSN#: 1091-8094
Stunning revelations of forensic evidence missing from or mishandled by the Medical Examiners Office for Orange and Osceola Counties, located in Central Florida, shocked public defenders, defense attorneys and Floridians during October and may lead to a wave of new post conviction appeals by dozens or even hundreds of criminal defendants who are still in prison.
According to a report that was only recently released, during the mid-1990s, specifically in 1994 and 1995, the Orange-Osceola Medical Examiner’s Office lost bullets, blood, hair and other evidence in murder cases without informing police, prosecutors, public defenders, or defense attorneys. Chief Public Defender Bob Wesley noted that at least 26 cases from 1994 and 1995 may be involved after he reviewed the 66-page report that was written in 1995 but that didn’t surface until this September.
Among the findings of an in-house report were missing evidence lists and logs; bags and boxes of evidence in hundreds of cases that had been cut open or had their seals broken; bones, teeth and skulls without identification of any kind; and missing money and drugs, along, with missing bullets and tissue scrapings from under murder victim’s fingernails.
“From a forensic standpoint, I was shocked,” said Orange County sheriff’s Sgt. Robert Corriveau, who was lent to the Medical Examiner’s Office in 1995 to supervise an inventory after it was found the evidence stored there was in total disarray. He described what he found as a legal nightmare. Many evidence bags were ripped open or unsealed, there was no way to know how many cases had been cross- contaminated.
A further revelation that recently came to light is that Dr. Shashi Gore, who has run the Medical Examiner’s Office since 1996, lacks board certification as a forensic pathologist. Worse, none of the other doctors there are board-certified forensic pathologists.
Orange County officials who had knowledge of the massive problem 7 years ago but who kept quiet about it, and prosecutors who claim they only recently learned about it, are now claiming it’s really no big deal. Others are saying different.
Carol Gross, office manager for the Medical Examiner’s Office in 1995, said, “This put our credibility at high risk.”
Joe DuRocher, Orange-Osceota chief public defender in 1995, said, “There is no question in my mind something as significant as this investigation should have been revealed to the public defender’s office.”
More than just murder cases may be impacted by this now-revealed fiasco. Insurance cases may also be affected. However, Orange County officials have stated they do not intend to review the 1994 and 1995 cases further without specific request from attorneys or law enforcement.
The following statement has been made by the Ninth judicial Circuit Public
[Sources: Orlando Sentinel, 9/30, 10/2, 10/5, 10/6, 10/11/02;
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