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Thousands in Jail on Phony Drug Charges

Posted on Sunday, 29th May 2011 @ 03:18 PM by Text Size A | A | A

New York Police Are Trying to Sweep a
Drug Tester’s Dark History of Falsifying Results Under the Rug

By Anthony Papa

 

Mariem Megalla is a
24-year veteran forensic technician with the New York Police Department.
She was suspended from her job last year when she was caught falsifying
drug test results at the NYPD’s crime lab in Jamaica, Queens. Because
of this, thousands of court cases were thrown into question, prompting
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly to call a meeting with representatives
of the five district attorneys at the office of NYC’s special narcotics
prosecutor Bridget Brennan.

 

 

 

Given the length of her tenure
at the NYPD, it was reported that potentially hundreds, if not
thousands, of cases would have to be reviewed. In one example, Megalla
was accused of labeling a crack pipe positive for cocaine when it
actually tested negative because she didn’t want to walk to another
building to fill out the required paperwork. Megalla’s slacking on the
job led to a probe by the both the NYPD and the Queens District
Attorney’s Office.

 

 

 

One year later, a lot of
questions remain unanswered about this case. It’s not even clear whether
Mariem Megalla is back on the job or not. I contacted the NYPD’s Public
Affairs Office and was told to email my questions to them. No response.
I contacted the Queens District Attorney’s office and spoke to Helen
Peterson who declined to talk about their investigation of the case. I
then talked to several reporters who had covered the story and most
everyone seemed like they were in the dark about current news of it.
Although one reporter told me that he thought Megalla is back on duty
full-time.

 

 

 

The public has a right to know
the outcome of this investigation. There’s a possibility that thousands
of people’s lives were adversely affected by Megalla’s actions, and the
absence of any real information after an entire year is suspicious, at
best. Especially when you consider the very different outcome of a
similar case in nearbyNassau:

 

 

 

Recently, it was pointed out
that 3,000 convictions were in question due to possible tainted evidence
in theNassauCountycrime lab. After a flurry of press coverage, District
Attorney Kathleen Rice responded to the discovery in the same way the
NYPD did in the Magella case – by making a public announcement of a
meeting with top-level officials to deal with the issue. But that’s
where the similarity stops. In theNassauCountycrime lab case, Governor
Andrew Cuomo quickly intervened and appointed State Inspector General
Ellen Biben to lead an investigation, which led to the labs demise. In
turn, Rice was compelled to send letters to hundreds of potential
defendants which eventually led to many filing motions to overturn their
convictions.

 

 

 

But in the Megalla case it
seems to be totally the opposite. Recently, I was contacted by Diana
Collins, whose son is in NY state prison serving an 8-year sentence for
possession of less than 1 gram of crack. D’ Juan Collins was sentenced
in 2008 and has been fighting his conviction ever since. He claims to be
wrongfully convicted, and has been denied exculpatory evidence by the
NYPD that would show Megalla’s mishandling of the drugs used to convict
him. But far worse for him than his sentence is the fact that he is now
in jeopardy of losing parental rights to his 4-year old son Isaiah, who
is currently in foster care. My question is how many D’ Juan Collins’s
have been denied evidence that could be used to challenge their
convictions?

 

 

 

The NYPD needs to alert the
public to the outcome of the Mariem Megalla case and assure that justice
has been served.

 

 

 


Anthony Papa, author of 15 To Life:
How I Painted My Way To Freedom
, is a communications specialist for
the Drug Policy Alliance.

© 2011 Independent Media Institute

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