ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department has sued St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s Office saying she has so many cases backed up that involve drugs as evidence, that it is no longer safe for crime lab workers to operate there.
Gardner’s office is refusing to sign destruction orders for evidence from 6,890 cases it may no longer need, which is causing the controlled substances to pile up at the St. Louis Crime Lab, according to the lawsuit.
“Some of the controlled substances currently in the vault easily grow mold and therefore pose a health risk to personnel in the city police laboratory division,” according to the lawsuit filed Oct. 5 by City Counselor Sheena Hamilton and Assistant City Counselor Ray Flojo.
The Mayor's Office declined to comment.
The Circuit Attorney's Office issued a statement that read:
"In a simple preliminary search, the CAO discovered a number of cases dependent on related evidence were considered open cases. In order for justice to be served, the CAO needs to ensure evidence necessary for cases that remain open or have a possibility of appeal is not destroyed."
The police department’s crime lab personnel has reviewed the cases in question with federal prosecutors, according to the suit.
“The Circuit Attorney’s Office has been afforded the same opportunity,” according to the suit. “Due to the volume of the controlled substances, the vault which stores the controlled substances is quickly filling to maximum capacity and the Laboratory Division needs to create space in order to accommodate new submissions of controlled substances.”
In response, Assistant Circuit Attorney Rob Huq asked the court for at least six months to review all of the cases.
“Petitioner incorrectly states in its petition that the CAO ‘has been afforded’ the opportunity to research the approximately 6,980 incident reports,” Huq wrote, incorrectly stating the number of pending cases. “On Oct. 24, the CAO was informed of petitioner’s intention to seek this forfeiture and disposal of controlled substances as described in the petition."
“As the prosecuting agent of the State of Missouri within the City of St. Louis, the CAO wishes to diligently cross-reference such reports against its own files to determine what evidence it agrees may be disposed and what evidence it still considers active and must therefore be kept.”
Huq wrote that his office cannot confirm the items are “no longer needed as evidence.”
“Considering the volume of incident reports that the CAO must cross-reference, the CAO has not had a meaningful opportunity to complete such task in such short amount of time,” he wrote.
The city counselor’s office has filed two proposed orders for the judge to consider.
One would order the Circuit Attorney’s Office to sign a destruction order so the evidence can be destroyed.
The other would require the St. Louis Sheriff’s Department and the Circuit Attorney’s Office to take custody of the evidence.
A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Monday before Judge Jason Sengheiser.