20-Year Cocaine Conviction Overturned When Retested Evidence Turns Out to Be Sugar
Exactly why Jermaine Dollard, a man with a long criminal rap sheet, was driving around with two tightly wrapped, shoebox-size bricks of sugar hidden in a secret compartment in his car isn’t precisely clear. Luckily for Dollard, though, it doesn’t have to be. Strangely packaging your sugar and stashing it isn’t illegal, and after nearly three years in prison, he was released earlier this month after officials retested the evidence from his case and determined that those bricks were nothing but baking ingredients.
The overturning of Dollard’s 20-year prison sentence is the first of what may turn out to be many cases that need to be re-evaluated in Delaware after the state’s Controlled Substances Laboratory in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner was rocked by a major scandal. According to Delaware Online, investigators found tampering with more than 50 pieces of drug evidence between 2010 and 2014, leading the state legislature to shut down the OCME entirely and arrest some of its former employees.
Equally as troubling is that, in Dollard’s case, it’s unclear whether the bricks were never actually tested or whether someone stole the evidence and replaced it. Dollard’s lawyer, Alexander Funk, had his opinion. “What is the more likely scenario—that someone was able to remove two cocaine bricks, unpack it somewhere else, take the cocaine out and repack it with baking sugar, replace the bricks with no one noticing?” Funk was quoted as saying. “Or is it more likely that they never tested the two bricks in the first place and issued a fake report?”
Um, if there’s any real lesson here, isn’t it that we shouldn’t make assumptions? Because if you want to get into the whole “what is the more likely scenario” discussion, let’s go back to talking about why a man is driving around with hidden, tightly wrapped bricks of sugar. I’m guessing it has nothing to do with making cookies for the church bake sale. But that’s why, you know, we have a system to try to figure these things out—even though it sometimes is far more flawed than we’d like it to be.
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