On May 5th, our court of appeals ruled in McMillan v. State, A14A0124, that even though the CUSTODIAN OF THE EVIDENCE admitted to tampering with the evidence, the conviction for cocaine trafficking would stand.
The court held that although evidence custodian (Dee Norris) admitted to stealing confiscated money from the evidence room, her other involvement in the the case (including keeping track of drugs) was good enough for government work. She was actually on the State's witness list and testified in court.
The court held that she denied tampering with drug evidence and the State could still prove chain of custody even though their custodian was in affect a FELON!
The Georgia Court of Appeals (yes the court of appeals) held that:
To show a chain of custody adequate to preserve the identity of fungible evidence, the State must prove with reasonable certainty that the evidence is the same as that seized and that there has been no tampering or substitution. The State is not required to foreclose every possibility of tampering; it need only show reasonable assurance of the identity of the evidence. We review the trial court's decision on the adequacy of the chain-of-custody evidence under an abuse-of-discretion standard.
So, to sum it up, the State can tamper with evidence and have a felon as the evidence custodian and it's all hunky dory, free of all concern whatsoever. Wow. I truly wonder if defense counsel decided to put up similar evidence, how quickly the trial judge would rule it inadmissible. Defense counsel would probably be sanctioned as well.
Dee Norris, a thief, signed for the drugs, initialed the bags as part of the chain of custody, and delivered the drugs to the crime lab. How in the Hell could the State establish chain of custody when the person bringing the drugs to the crime lab cannot be trusted AT ALL? THE DRUGS WERE IN HER CUSTODY FOR MORE THAN TWO WEEKS!!!
Okay, I will calm down. Georgia Courts never cease to amaze me on what legal justifications they can make up out of thin air to assure convictions in criminal cases. If having the evidence custodian be an actual criminal is not enough to throw out a case, then what is enough?