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Town of Braintree Conducting Audit of Evidence Held by Police Department

questions-1308019According to an article in The Patriot Ledger, questions have arisen about the Braintree Police Department’s oversight of evidence held in their custody. While town officials have been relatively quiet about what is happening, the article states that the town has hired an outside investigator to conduct an audit of all evidence held by the police department. Braintree’s mayor, Joseph Sullivan, issued a short statement earlier this week in response to an inquiry from The Patriot Ledger, saying that “[t]he evidence review is active and ongoing.” The mayor further stated that upon the completion of the review, “all findings will be communicated to the Norfolk County [D]istrict [A]ttorney’s office and at the appropriate time released to the public.” The mayor made no indication as to what triggered the audit and his statement said that he would have no additional comments. Braintree’s chief of police likewise declined to provide any information, stating that he was “not in a position to elaborate.”

The article further states that the Norfolk County District Attorney is aware of the review. The DA made his own statement saying that he has “been made aware of the ongoing internal investigation at the Braintree Police Department” and that, “[a]t this time, [the DA’s] office is not involved in the internal investigation. Although the mayor, the police, and the DA’s office appear to be in the know, other town officials do not appear to be as well informed. The Patriot Ledger reached out to the town council president shortly after the mayor issued his statement and he said that he was unaware of the audit and the mayor’s statement was “the first [he’s] heard of it.” The town council president added that the council will likely have “to wait until the investigation is completed” before taking any action.

Whether evidence is properly handled may make or break a case. Chain of custody is one extremely important piece of the this – chain of custody procedures create a documented record of where seized evidence came from, who seized it, and who has handled it since that point so that the evidence can be reliably connected back to the defendant. Without some mechanism to demonstrate that a piece of evidence was seized from a particular person or location, the prosecution will have the extremely difficult if not impossible job of trying to connect such evidence with the defendant and/or crime scene in any given case. In addition to chain of custody issues, any sort of evidence tampering may have a similarly destructive impact on the Commonwealth’s case. For example, Sonja Farak, a chemist working in one of the state’s drug testing labs was found to be siphoning off drugs for her own personal use. As a result of her misconduct, numerous cases were dismissed.

If you or a loved one is charged with a drug case or other criminal matter in which evidence was collected, it is imperative that you have an experienced attorney who is able to explore and exploit any and all issues related to the handling (or mishandling) of the evidence in the case. Attorney Daniel Cappetta is seasoned, thorough, and skilled at exposing weaknesses in the Commonwealth’s allegations – whether those weaknesses are related to the mismanagement of evidence, or some other issue. Call him for a free consultation today.