INDIANAPOLIS - Metro police are dealing with yet another crisis in the handling of evidence after a quantity of narcotics in pending criminal trials has been inadvertently tossed out from the property room.
IMPD Chief Rick Hite told RTV6 an unknown amount of narcotics was accidentally disposed of during a conversion from the old processing system to a more modern and technologically advanced accounting system.
The department remains in recovery mode, trying to determine the quantity of narcotics and the number of cases threatened by the mishandling of cocaine evidence.
"This would be a serious problem if drug evidence has been destroyed or tossed out," said defense attorney Jack Crawford. "Every lawyer that represents a client charged with a drug offense is going to inquire whether the evidence against his client still exists."
Crawford said juries like to see narcotics evidence, and any defense attorney with a client facing drug charges can ask for their own analysis of the now-missing drugs.
Hite said the cases against accused drug offenders could be salvaged with logs of evidence, including photos and hand-written notes detailing the drugs.
The drug evidence was discarded in October, the same period of time when convicted Metro police officer David Bisard went on trial for drunk driving. Defense lawyers in that case were highly critical of the IMPD Property Room for mishandling Bisard's blood alcohol vials.
Hite said he and Public Safety Director Troy Riggs are working with the head of the Marion County Crime Lab and one of the city's efficiency experts to iron out the property room issues and get it back on track.
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry released a statement to RTV6 saying that his office is in the process of determining what impact, if any, the destruction of this evidence has on pending cases.
In at least one case, the missing drug evidence had no impact on prosecutors' ability to get a conviction.
"Our deputy prosecutors were still able to secure a jury conviction in a drug case last week, where evidence was unavailable because it had been destroyed. We are confident that Director Riggs and Chief Hite will address the issue," Curry said in a statement.
The IMPD property room is manned solely by civilian employees and contains millions of dollars' worth of firearms, narcotics and assorted other evidence.