A New Jersey Crime Lab technician was suspended with pay, after he was found writing down results of suspected marijuana, before the tests were even completed, throwing 7,827 criminal cases into doubt, damaging confidence in the workings of that state’s criminal justice system.
Criminal charges have yet to be filed against Kamalkant Shah, but falsifying even a single test would be grounds for indictment.
The New Jersey Attorney General Office, led by attorney John Jay Hoffman, issued a memorandum to all county prosecutors in order for them to review their cases, which could be affected by falsified test results, which can be seen below.
County prosecutors were instructed to provide information to defense counsel for cases in which Shah testified or provided test results from the crime lab, run by the New Jersey state police.
Passaic County deputy public defender Judy Fallon, issued a memo in her northern Jersey county saying that, “Mr. Shah was employed with the lab from 2005 to 2015,” and that 2,100 “results” were called into question in her county alone, as you can see in full below.
Kamalkant Shah was a “forensic scientist” responsible for testing to determine if the items were drugs and possibly testify in various cases, in his role as a drug tester.
His professional profile on LinkedIn described his duties and experience in “forensic sciences”:
I worked as a Forensic Scientist for 27 years. My experience include: performing Scientific analysis of physical evidence along with presenting analytical results. I utilized and mastered many different techniques in analyzing substances. I have primarily worked with controlled substances, prescription medicines, as well as body fluid from horses. Also in my work experience, I have had the opportunity to bring evidence during trials. I have also provided expert testimonies of analysis results in court trials as well as pre-trial conferences.
Shah was found to be taking inordinate amount of time testing a substance to determine if it was marijuana, then prematurely completing test results prior to the completion of analysis of the substance, which is called “dry labbing” in legal jargon.
The incident in question happened on December 10th of last year, resulting in Shah’s immediate removal from the lab.
Shah was suspended without pay on January 12, 2016, but county prosecutors weren’t notified until until over a month later.
It is unknown why the Attorney General’s Office waited more than two months before notifying prosecutors of the, because he delay between possibly allowing in suspects in drug cases to go trial on falsified test results.
Crime lab analysts are supposed to be neutral parties interested only in getting the science right. But the system is often structured in a way that makes them part of the prosecution’s “team.”
In 2005, Shah, who was collecting a salary of $101,039, began working at the North Regional Lab Drug Unit in Little Falls.
The impact of the scandal at the Little Falls drug lab on both open and closed cases is still not fully understood.
It also calls into question the integrity of the entire lab and testing process for all “forensic scientists” in New Jersey, since according to Shah’s Facebook profile, he’s been a state police employee for all of those decades.
Perhaps, now that New Jersey’s Governor has ended his campaign for higher office, he will use his oft humble-bragged skills as a lawyer to seek justice for thousands of constituents, potentially including many innocent men rotting in jail for drug crimes they did not commit.