23 March 2006

Evidence Missing in 100 Cases

Sometime in late January or early February the police chief in Hopewell, Virginia suspended a number of his officers by letter without telling anyone why. He brought in the State police to patrol his streets and rumors began that something was wrong in the evidence room. One case is dropped because of lost evidence and the Chief absolutely refuses to talk with anyone about what is happening. In mid February the City council calls in the city manager and question him for two hours - apparently getting no answers.

A lack of action by the City Council prompted an attorney representing one of the officers to send a letter to the local prosecutor and ask him to convene a grand jury to investigate the matter. After seven weeks, a defense attorney filed a motion to compel the chief to testify about chain of custody. Despite being served the subpoena in late February the Chief waited until the day before the hearing to file a motion to quash and even the prosecutor "only received the motion to quash Wednesday morning by mail, despite the fact that Wilmot had filed the motion in the Circuit Court Clerk's Office by hand Tuesday morning." The judge admonished all parties to talk to each other and rescheduled the hearing for yesterday.

In yesterday's hearing the Chief still didn't testify but he answered written questions from the prosecutor's office:
1) "Evidence including drugs and about $10,000 in cash are missing in roughly 100 criminal cases"

2) There is "missing evidence in drug cases dating to 1997. Money is missing from cases that date to 1989"

3) However, "[p]roblems with the evidence room are not related to the two-month-old investigation being conducted by the Virginia State Police and the FBI into personnel matters at the police department."
Wow, the missing drugs and money weren't even important enough to make it onto the Chief's radar. It makes you wonder what the heck is going on in Hopewell.

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