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W.Va. attorney wants to intervene in drug lab closure

September 20, 2000

W.Va. attorney wants to intervene in drug lab closure



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Martinsburg attorney Kevin Mills said Tuesday he will try to legally intervene in the investigation into possible irregularities at the state's drug testing lab.

He said he also plans to review all of his cases in which drug testing might have been an issue for his clients.

"We want to get inside the lab and review the factual basis for the problems that have come up," said Mills, who is the West Virginia state representative for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Mills, who said all of his caseload is criminal defense, said he will file papers in court to be allowed the right to investigate the lab independent of any other investigation.

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The FBI is investigating the lab because proper procedures may not have been followed in handling evidence. The lab has been closed pending results of the investigation, causing a major headache for law enforcement officials and prosecutors.

Mills said this is not the first time the crime lab has come under fire. He remembered an incident several years ago when a man with improper credentials was working for the state crime lab and then testified in criminal cases. Many of the cases had to be retried, including one in Jefferson County in which Mills took part.

Mills said he was unhappy that defense lawyers were excluded from any official notice of problems at the lab. They are the ones with clients who may have been negatively affected by bad drug lab results, he said.

"We have a right to see any exculpatory evidence" that may show the innocence of a client, he said. "Every criminal defense lawyer should have been notified."

He said "hundreds of cases, maybe thousands" might have to be re-tried.

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