BY BUDDY NEVINS
Apparently Quincy, ME doesn’t live in Broward County.
I don’t think fictional medical examiner R. Quincy (actor Jack Klugman) would have made the mistake on his famed TV show that now threatens as many as 3,600 criminal cases in Broward.
The Medical Examiners Office told State Attorney Mike Satz this week that the methods used to test drugs in its laboratories were not scientifically validated.
That could jeopardize a lot of cases if they hinge on those toxicology reports.
How many cases?
“We don’t know yet,” Satz said. “I don’t know how significant this is yet.”
Satz was given a list of defendants that could have been affected by the faulty tests. Some of the tests involved people awaiting trial.
“We’re going to check each case and see what significance the test had,” Satz said. “We don’t want to go to trial with a tainted test.”
When learning of the problem late Tuesday, Satz immediately contacted Howard Finkelstein and the head of the Broward Defense Bar Association. His prosecutors will be contacting each defense attorney who has a client with a potentially bad test.
There will probably not be a flood of accused drunk drivers let out. It doesn’t involve alcohol testing.
But it involves tests for drugs, so anyone arrested recently for driving while intoxicated on drugs could have their fluid tests thrown out.
“We will test them again” if possible from fluids that are in storage, Satz said.
Dr. Craig Mallak, the ME, did not tell Satz who was involved in the mistake or how far back the invalid tests were being conducted.
Satz, who is less than two weeks away from an election, said he had no idea yet how long it will take to sort out the problem caused by the ME’s office.
Ron Ishoy, Satz’s spokesman, explained the problem will have to dealt with “on a case-by-case basis….This is a problem for the entire criminal justice system. Everyone is always concerned when someone raises a question about the method to test evidence. Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys want a decision based on any questionable evidence.”
Here is the letter explaining the problem (click to enlarge):