Hundreds of Cases Impacted By Drug Analyst's Resignation

By McCarton Ackerman 08/29/14

Nearly 200 drug cases could be affected after Brenda Frazier was found to not be following proper protocol.

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The police department in Columbia, S.C. is receiving plenty of press after their only drug analyst resigned when it was revealed that she wasn’t following proper protocol.

Nearly 200 criminal drug cases in which her tests were crucial evidence could be affected. A department review revealed last week that Brenda Frazier hadn’t been following standardized procedures to make sure her testing results were accurate or to even determine what kind of drugs were being tested. She had done testing for 746 cases since 2011 and testified in court numerous times.

Defense lawyers in the city applauded the police department for owning up to the error, but said it could have major ramifications for their court system in the coming months. “This is serious – her job is important. Her drug tests can put people away for five, 10, 15 years,” said Columbia defense lawyer Jack Swerling. “The fact that she was involved in upwards of 1,000 cases is very significant, particularly for people who may have been convicted on the basis of faulty drug analyses. This is going to open up the door for people to challenge all her old cases, too."

Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said it was still unclear how many wrongful convictions came from Frazier not following proper protocol or if anyone was sent to prison because of her. He confirmed that neighboring labs stopped working with her last February because she was unwilling to follow accepted methodologies.

“Some time after that, I made the decision that at this time these deficiencies were insurmountable, and we need to shut down all operations and revisit what the future of our lab would be,” he said.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.