In 2008 the Detroit crime lab located in Brush Park was ordered to be closed due to “sloppy investigations.” But apparently the sloppiness didn’t end when the unit stopped handling investigations. The Detroit Free Press found last week that the lab, housed in a former elementary school, still contained criminal evidence and files.
Televisions, cameras, microscopes, files, old blood samples, and even live ammunition littered the abandoned building. And perhaps the worst part—the building had been open, with a fence down and windows busted open, for at least a week.
The Free Press alerted the police department which launched an immediate investigation into what happened. Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. said “I will make sure that this never happens again,” after being told of the situation at the old lab.
When the lab was originally closed in 2008, existing evidence was to go to the State Police which was taking over for the lab. Obviously, not all the evidence made it. Investigation records, sealed evidence, and even bullet proof vests were left behind. Abandoned buildings in Detroit are not unusual, but abandoned buildings with this sort of stockpile are extremely rare.
A photographer who travels the city shooting photos of abandoned buildings walked right through the front door last week of the old crime lab and was shocked at what he saw. “My concern is that a scrapper or homeless person can go in and stock up on ammunition and a bullet proof vest.”
But the dangerousness of the wrong people getting a hold of potentially dangerous items is only part of the concern. The evidence left behind could be part of ongoing cases and appeals. The preservation of evidence in a criminal case is crucial. One threat to the integrity of evidence could mean the difference between a conviction and dropped charges.
As a matter of fact, many cases are filtered out of the courts because of problems with evidence collection and handling. The presence of case files, blood samples, and ballistic testing materials from weapons cases in the abandoned lab could potentially have a significant impact on the cases they were related to.
The Wayne County Prosecutor’s office is already reviewing 557 crime lab cases, brought to their attention by a number of people in the legal community. It seems they may have more to look at after this latest discovery.
If you are facing criminal charges, the evidence in your case is sometimes all the prosecution has. If the physical evidence was seized unlawfully, it could be “thrown out” of court. Understanding the rules of evidence and your rights is the job of your defense lawyer. Contact our attorneys today if you’re in need of counsel and we can provide a free initial consultation.