Prosecutors are moving to dismiss at least 1,169 drug cases undermined by a New Jersey State Police lab scandal because the evidence was destroyed before it could be retested, reports NJ.com. The disclosure comes as a special judge appointed to deal with the legal fallout of accusations against a drug lab chemist ordered the Attorney General’s Office to finish retesting thousands of affected cases. Judge Edward Jerejian was appointed in 2016 to oversee the case, which began when a technician at a state Office of Forensic Sciences laboratory was accused of falsifying records in a single drug case. The technician, Kamalkant Shah, was allegedly caught in 2015 “dry-labbing” evidence in the marijuana case — essentially recording a positive identification without properly analyzing the sample. Shah was the subject of a criminal investigation but ultimately was not charged.
That left local, county and state authorities open to challenges to the convictions of any case Shah touched during his time at the lab. More than two years later, Jerejian laid out a three-step process for vetting the cases, which could total anywhere from 7,827 to 14,800. The Attorney General’s Office has already retested 1,326 samples from cases Shah handled, all of them “affirming the original positive test results” for drugs. Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said his office was “committed to ensuring that no conviction is upheld unless we are satisfied that any drug testing conducted was in fact reliable.”