According to a breaking story on WUSA 9 News Now, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) has turned over photos which appear to show evidence of many important cases being stored improperly. There are guns and other forensic evidence piled up in unsecured locations. It has also been reported that the trash can in which police discovered the body of 17 year old Ebony Franklyn had been used by MPD officers to throw away trash. Assistant Chief Pete Newsham admits that the trash can should have been placed in the blood room to preserve evidence for trial. He stated that it was eventually placed in the proper location and doubts that it was used as a trash can. As a Washington, DC criminal defense attorney who handles cases with forensic evidence, I want stress the importance of this discovery if it turns out to be true. The prosecutors and police have tremendous resources compared to the average defendant. They will routinely perform fingerprint tests, gunshot residue tests in gun cases, blood spatter analysis, chemical tests on narcotics, and many other scientific testing that you may be familiar with. The defendant may have an opportunity to hire their own experts to examine the evidence and present findings in court to challenge the government's experts, but this requires a lot of money. One way DC defense lawyers deal with this, is challenging the procedure by which the police tested and preserved the evidence. If the evidence is tampered with, or its status is unknown, it may be a violation of due process to admit the evidence against a defendant. Even if it is admitted, its credibility would be severely undermined. If the police are not safeguarding evidence, they have no way of knowing if the evidence was tampered with. There is no way to accurately record a chain of custody when you don't even know where the evidence has been stored. If you can't say for certain if the trash can that was supposed to be in a vault, was being used by officers as a normal trash can, this is a major problem. For now, the case was turned over to internal affairs. It will
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