|Integrity, Fidelity & Faulty Evidence|
The St. Petersburg Police Department has cut a deal to pay the far better trained and equiped Pinellas County Sheriff's Department (PCSO) for help in collecting, storing and analyzing evidence gathered at crime scenes. Even when evidence was properly collected the police department no longer had room to properly store the evidence possibly tainting the forensic laboratory work. Oddly the cash agreement only involves "significant criminal cases" such as sexual battery, aggravated battery, burglary, firearm cases, murder, DUI manslaughter and child pornography.
The problem with this reasoning by the St. Petersburg Police Department (SPPD) is that every allegation of criminal misconduct is very significant to the person whose life, property and reputation are at risk. That allegation of grand theft or even petty theft case can still ruin someone's life. As a fundamental right of justice every defendant within Pinellas County should always have access to only the very best possible collection, storage and analysis of all the evidence in his or her case. Yet the reliability of Tampa Bay expert forensic testimony even in fingerprint cases has been in doubt for years.
In a deep moral sense the plea for help to PCSO is a commendable admission of failure that attempts to remedy past incompetence. The new Chief of Police is cleaning up the problems he inherited; problems he clearly did not cause. The police department should be lauded not attacked for it's new found honesty as to it's current inabilities.
Yet one wonders how many times SPPD officers have taken the stand and testified under oath about evidence that was improperly seized, collected or tested. The act of asking for help from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Department begs the question of when exactly that help was needed. When did the SPPD find that the threshold of honest evidence was not met? Shouldn't a grand jury be convened to find out?
No wonder so many defendants refuse jury trials because they believe that the criminal justice is rigged to find them guilty. But what about those defendants already arrested or convicted by false or faulty forensics? Shouldn't doubtful cases dependent upon the St. Petersburg Police Department's admitted forensic failures be reopened? Shouldn't collected evidence be reexamined and reanalyzed by the more competent PCSO?
Prosecutors and the SPPD have a moral responsibility to dig deep, reviewing every trial, checking each conviction and rewinding any forced changes of plea to bring the facts to judges so that false charges are dismissed and those awaiting justice in prison are finally freed.