Thousands of criminal convictions in New Jersey, including Essex County, could be thrown out after a lab tech who worked with the NJ State Police reportedly admitted that he faked evidence in a drug case.
Kamalkant Shah was employed as a lab technician for the NJ State Police North Regional Lab Drug Unit in Little Falls, New Jersey. Officials have accused him of “dry labbing” a substance that was suspected to be marijuana.
Authorities initially learned about the deception on December 10, 2015, prompting them to open an investigation into Shah. At that time, Shah was taken off lab work with the police. Approximately one month later, on January 12, 2016, Shah was suspended without pay.
Another month later, on February 22, Ellie Honig, director of the NJ Division of Criminal Justice, sent a letter to various county prosecutors’ offices throughout New Jersey and let prosecutors know that Shah had “failed to appropriately conduct laboratory analyses in a drug case.” Honig specifically said that Shah was caught “recording an anticipated result without properly conducting the analysis.”
Honig also asked local prosecutors to disclose this important information to criminal defense lawyers in current drug offense cases.
Additionally, the allegations against Shah were set forth in a memo sent by NJ Deputy Public Defender Judy Fallon to New Jersey Public Defender Joseph Krakora on February 29. The memo states that authorities have accused Shah of entirely fabricating important data in the marijuana possession case. The New Jersey deputy public defender said that Shah “was observed writing ‘test results’ for suspected marijuana that was never tested.”
On March 2, the memo was posted on the New Jersey Municipal Court Law Update Service’s official website.
Shah’s deception could have serious consequences. For example, the criminal convictions in all of the cases he worked on during his tenure with the NJ State Police could potentially be tossed out. Since the beginning of his time with the police in 2005, Shaw worked on 7,827 criminal cases. Investigators uncovered just one instance of misconduct by Shah, but it is still very possible that the evidence in all of the criminal cases could be considered tainted. The cases were spread across New Jersey, including Essex County, Bergen County, Morris County, and Passaic County. In Passaic County, the number of potentially contaminated cases might exceed 2,100.
NJ prosecutors said that Shah, who recently retired, has not yet been charged with any crimes.
The NJ State Police is actively working with Essex County prosecutors to figure out the next step in any pending drug cases, as well as drug cases that have already been adjudicated.
For further information about this developing case, see the NJ.com article, “Lab Tech Allegedly Faked Result in Drug Case; 7,827 Criminal Cases Now in Question.”