Drug Prosecutions in Lewisville in Texas in Jeopardy
Posted on: December 21, 2012
Drug and other prosecutions arising in Lewisville, Texas in jeopardy due to improper handling/tampering of evidence involving drugs and biological evidence
LEWISVILLE, TEXAS- As required by the Rules of Professional Responsibility, the Denton County Criminal District Attorney’s Office has notified attorneys with pending criminal cases involving the Lewisville Police Department of major problems concerning their property and evidence section. Lewisville Police Department Property and Evidence Technicians Bill Hines and Nick Rose have resigned their positions and are now the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation. These problems have huge ramifications for pending criminal prosecutions involving the admissibility of physical evidence; and could theoretically be used as the basis to attack prior convictions. Persons with pending criminal charges of this nature from Lewisville should immediately alert their attorneys.
The law requires the prosecution to establish “Chain of Custody” for any evidence to be used at trial. Simply put, this requires the state to establish every individual that has handled the evidence and that it has been securely stored not in any way been tampered with by anyone. On November 21, 2012 Lt. Dan Rochelle of the Lewisville Police Department testified in a pretrial hearing as to some of the results and findings of their investigation:
1. Currency is missing: The ensuing criminal investigation has revealed the above-named technicians have taken cash from the property room for personal use. He identified “four criminal cases with money missing from the property and evidence room.” None of these cases have criminal prosecutions pending which indicates the currency stolen was seized as part of drug asset forfeitures which does not require actual prosecutions for the conduct alleged for the money to be seized. Texas asset forfeiture statutes require currency seized that is not actual evidence, such a marked bills used in an undercover investigation, to be promptly deposited in a bank account established for that purpose.
2. Property is Missing: Item(s) listed as “Found or Abandoned” are missing. A laptop computer was given as a specific example wherein the computer is missing, the records reflect the computer was “destroyed.” Yet the proper procedure to dispose of unclaimed property in police property rooms requires such items to be sold at public auction.
3. Controlled Substances: This investigation has identified at least 176 drug cases where the evidence was stored in a police parking garage. This evidence was exposed to the elements and some of the items were found “in an open condition or improperly sealed.” Perhaps there are some stoned little mice running around Lewisville?
4. Biological Evidence: Biological samples were found to be stored unrefrigerated in a hallway. Some were leaking (blood vials over 10 years old) risking cross-contamination of evidence in other cases. Just imagine the nightmare for someone arrested for DWI to have their blood drip or seep onto the panties removed from a child in some unsolved rape or murder investigation. Or worse yet, someone that actually did something like this walking free because the blood of another man was found on the clothing. There is no indication this has occurred but huge concerns should exist that it could have.
5. Documentation: “Property sheets” establishing Chain of Custody in some criminal cases “were not properly maintained” and in some cases were not maintained at all.
The Denton County District Attorney’s office has stated they will not sponsor either of these former technicians as a witness in any case. They have been deemed “not credible” by the Lewisville Police Department. Therefore, any evidence they maintained in any investigation should likewise be deemed “not credible.” I would suggest the accountability should not end with these two wayward evidence technicians. Given the inadequate procedures and facilities these problems appear much more systemic an obvious within the leadership of Lewisville Police Department and/or perhaps the even the City leadership if the Police sought adequate funding and did not receive it. Were it up to me, more heads would roll!
David Sloane – Attorney
Public Information Officer