Some NJ officials are concerned that thousands of criminal convictions in Essex County and elsewhere in New Jersey could be overturned after a lab technician with the NJ State Police faked evidence in a drug case.
Kamalkant Shah was employed by the NJ State Police as a lab tech. Shah specifically worked with the North Regional Lab Drug Unit in Little Falls, NJ. In his capacity as a lab technician, Shah allegedly “dry labbed,” or faked data, on a substance suspected of being marijuana.
New Jersey authorities first became aware of the deception on December 10, 2015, prompting them to open an official investigation into Shah. While law enforcement investigated and gathered evidence, Shah was removed from laboratory work with the NJ police. Roughly one month later, on January 12, 2016, NJ officials formally suspended Shah without pay.
On February 22, Ellie Honig, who serves as director of the NJ Division of Criminal Justice, sent a letter to a number of New Jersey county prosecutors’ offices and said to local prosecutors that Shah had “failed to appropriately conduct laboratory analyses in a drug case.” Honig highlighted evidence showing that Shah had been caught “recording an anticipated result without properly conducting the analysis.”
Honig also asked NJ prosecutors to disclose this information to criminal defense attorneys in pending drug crime cases.
Another memo was sent on February 29 from New Jersey Deputy Public Defender Judy Fallon to NJ Public Defender Joseph Krakora. The memo provided details about the allegations against Shah. The memo also stated that Shah had been accused of fabricating important data in the marijuana possession case. The New Jersey deputy public defender went even further and said that Shah had been “observed writing ‘test results’ for suspected marijuana that was never tested.”
On March 2, 2016, the memo was posted on the NJ Municipal Court Law Update Service’s website.
The fallout from the allegations against Shah could be significant. For example, the criminal convictions in every case that Shah worked on as a lab technician for the NJ State Police could potentially be overturned. Since starting his employment with the police in 2005, Shaw worked as a lab technician on 7,827 criminal cases. Although investigators found only one instance of misconduct by Shah, it could still contaminate all of the criminal cases he was a part of. These cases were heard in courts throughout New Jersey, including Essex County, Bergen County, Morris County, and Passaic County. More than 2,100 cases in Passaic County could be affected by the allegations against Shah.
At this time, it does not appear that NJ prosecutors will be bringing criminal charges against Shah, who recently retired from the state police.
Right now, the NJ State Police is working with Essex County NJ prosecutors and trying to figure out the best way to deal with any pending drug crime cases in Essex County.
To learn more about this developing case, access the NJ.com article, “Lab Tech Allegedly Faked Result in Drug Case; 7,827 Criminal Cases Now in Question.”