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Bad Evidence: Prosecutor Drops St. Paul Crime Lab Case

Last week, Ramsey County prosecutors dropped fifth-degree controlled substance charges against a St. Paul woman after a secondary test of the evidence came back negative. The woman had originally been charged with possession of methamphetamine following an arrest in April of last year.

At the time of her arrest, police claim the woman was holding a pipe and a bag containing what the officers thought was methamphetamine. The police report stated that the woman admitted to smoking meth just prior to the arrival of the police.

The substance that was seized was originally sent to the troubled St. Paul Crime Lab, where it tested positive for methamphetamine. After news of contaminated samples and inadequate training at the St. Paul Crime Lab were revealed this summer, prosecutors from Ramsey, Dakota and Washington counties decided to send all of the samples from open cases that were tied to the St. Paul lab to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

The woman's case was the only case of the 97 cases that were retested to come back with different test results. The prosecutors from the three counties wrote a letter to St. Paul Police Chief John Smith, explaining their reasoning for dismissing the charges, "While we recognize that there may be scientific or other reasons that can explain how these conflicting results either occurred or are reconcilable, we unfortunately have no information other than the conflicting test results themselves."

No decisions have been made in the Dakota County case that originally exposed the St. Paul Crime Lab's sloppy work.

Source:, "St. Paul crime lab findings wrong; drug case dropped," Emily Gurnon, 8 October 2012

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