Local defense attorneys are reacting to an internal Desert Hot Springs Police memo that admits evidence was improperly handled.
The chain of custody when it comes to police evidence is something vitally important to keep from being tainted.
But when this memo details major problems with the Desert Hot Springs evidence room, there are new concerns that people were convicted for crimes who could actually be innocent.
An internal police memo shows that a locker inspection found un-booked evidence which jeopardized several drug cases according to Lieutenant Dave Henderson.
It comes from our investigation of former Officer Matt Denney.
An internal affairs investigation looked into allegations he was stealing methamphetamine from the police evidence room.
Mark Sullivan, one of the valley’s most accomplished defense attorneys, says a lot of mistakes have happened from the department’s end.
“What surprises me is that the police departments get caught at it or that there’s some honest cop some place that sees a wrong and tries to right it.”
Sullivan says the internal memo should not have been kept secret by Desert Hot Springs Police.
“It should have been provided to every defense attorney in every case,” Sullivan says. “I think it should be presented at the arraignment stage with every new police report.”
FBI agents have already met with new police Chief Patrick Williams, who has been answering for events that mostly happened during the tenure of former Chief Roy Hill.
“Is it any wonder if transgressions occurred, that they weren’t seen, they were in a sense under the radar.
“Unfortunately, these things are surfacing now. But you can see during my administration the corruption that I had mentioned has stopped.
“What we need to do now is take it to the next level and ensure it won’t happen again.”
The memo wouldn’t mean an automatic overturning of a drug case.
However, it could become a powerful tool for defense attorneys to argue that their client’s case was tainted by police.