Criminal Justice

Crime-lab supervisor charged in evidence-tampering case that could affect entire state

A supervisor of analysts at a Florida state crime lab in Pensacola has been charged with evidence-tampering, accused of substituting over-the-counter pills for prescription medicine that was to be used as evidence in criminal cases in at least two counties.

Joseph Graves, 32, faces charges of grand theft, trafficking in illegal drugs and tampering with or fabricating evidence, according to CNN and the Orlando Sentinel. A review of 2,600 cases in 35 counties on which he worked since 2006 is ongoing, although it could be difficult to determine whether a problem occurred in older, completed cases in which the evidence has been destroyed.

Graves was suspended without pay on Friday from his $59,000-a-year job as a chemist for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and resigned on Monday. He was arrested Tuesday and released on $290,000 bail the same day in the Escambia County case.

A criminal investigation against him was launched by the FDLE last week after the Escambia County sheriff’s department discovered prescription drugs were missing from its evidence room and determined that Graves had worked on all the cases at issue.

Graves could not be reached for comment and his lawyer declined to comment, the Associated Press reports.

If convicted of drug trafficking, he would face a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison, reports the Pensacola News Journal.

Related coverage:

ABA Journal: “Crime labs under the microscope after a string of shoddy, suspect and fraudulent results” “In wake of crime lab scandal, ACLU asks top state court for dismissal of 40,000 cases”

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