Kyan Cardwell, who was serving a six-year prison term for methamphetamine manufacturing, is the first person to have a drug conviction overturned as a result of flawed forensic analysis by former Washington State Patrol crime lab chemist Arnold Melnikoff, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Her release in June came three months after a Post-Intelligencer investigation found that an internal crime lab audit had found flaws in 30 out of 100 felony drug cases handled by Melnikoff.
Lab officials concluded that Melnikoff’s drug-analysis work was “sloppy” and “built around speed and shortcuts.” Evidence in 14 cases, including that of Cardwell, needed to be retested. Officials had failed to notify prosecutors or any of the 22 defendants convicted in those cases — five of whom were still in prison. In the Cardwell case, a key piece of evidence, a scrap of filter paper that Melnikoff said contained meth residue, could not be retested.