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FBI Evidence-Handling Controls Considered Too Lax, Could Jeopardize Drug Cases

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

Serious questions have been raised about the FBI’s evidence-handling controls that could be used by defense attorneys to seek reversals on convictions, The Washington Times reports.

The problem: The FBI doesn’t have video cameras in some of its evidence rooms, including the Washington field office.

The issue was raised by 13 defense attorneys handling a drug conspiracy case.

The attorneys made the revelation in court filings involving Matthew Lowry, an FBI agent accused of stealing seized heroin.

“If there’s a problem in the FBI evidence room, and it’s just a room with shelves and anybody can walk in and out, that would have huge implications as far as the trustworthiness of evidence,” defense lawyer A. Eduardo Balarezo said in an interview.

According to Balarezo, Lowry checked out evidence without any stated purpose.

While cameras aren’t required for evidence room, they are the best way to protect the integrity of evidence, said Joe Latta, executive director for the International Association for Property and Evidence Inc.

“If you look at general law enforcement, I’d say more don’t have video surveillance than do,” Latta said. “Should they? Absolutely. But the evidence room is sometimes low on the food chain in the organization.”


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