New Jersey officials are worried that thousands of criminal convictions in Passaic County and elsewhere in NJ could be thrown out after a lab technician with the NJ State Police faked evidence in a drug case.
Kamalkant Shah worked as a lab technician for the New Jersey State Police as a lab tech. While evaluating evidence at the North Regional Lab Drug Unit in Little Falls NJ, Shah allegedly “dry labbed,” or faked crucial data, on a substance believed to be marijuana.
New Jersey law enforcement initially learned about the deception on December 10, 2015 and immediately opened an investigation into Shah. While officials conducted the investigation and gathered evidence in the case, Shah was taken off laboratory work with the New Jersey police. Around one month later, on January 12, 2016, Shah was formally suspended without pay.
On February 22, Ellie Honig, the director of the NJ Division of Criminal Justice, sent a letter to several NJ county prosecutors’ offices and highlighted evidence indicating that Shah had been caught “recording an anticipated result without properly conducting the analysis” in a drug case.
Additionally, Honig asked New Jersey prosecutors to disclose this potentially damaging information to criminal defense lawyers in open drug offense cases.
On February 29, NJ Deputy Public Defender Judy Fallon sent another memo to New Jersey Public Defender Joseph Krakora. The memo offered specific details about the allegations against Shah and directly stated that Shah is accused of faking important data in the marijuana possession case. The NJ deputy public defender also said that Shah was “observed writing ‘test results’ for suspected marijuana that was never tested.”
On March 2, 2016, officials with the NJ Municipal Court Law Update Service posted the memo on the agency’s website.
The impact of this latest news about the allegations against Shah could be significant. For example, the criminal convictions in all of the cases that Shah worked on as a laboratory technician could end up being overturned. Since he began his employment with the police in 2005, Shaw served as a lab tech on 7,827 criminal cases. Although investigators discovered just one instance of misconduct by Shah, all of the criminal cases he worked on could be in jeopardy. The drug cases were heard in courtrooms all over New Jersey, including Passaic County, Bergen County, Morris County, and Essex County. More than 2,100 of these cases come from Passaic County, NJ.
Despite the seriousness of the allegations, it does not appear that prosecutors will be filing criminal charges against Shah.
The New Jersey State Police is currently working with Passaic County prosecutors and attempting to determine how to best deal with any open drug crime cases in Passaic County.
For more 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.”