Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom announced that Richard Ellis Hill, Jr., age 43 of Minneapolis, has been found guilty by Judge Jerome Abrams of Controlled Substance Crime in the First Degree (sale of a mixture of ten grams or more) and Controlled Substance Crime in the Second Degree (sale of a mixture of three grams or more) in connection with substances that were initially tested by the St. Paul Police Department Crime Lab. The defendant waived his right to a jury trial and the Court determined this verdict. The charge of Controlled Substance Crime in the Fifth Degree (possession) was dismissed.
This is the first case involving whether or not the retesting of remaining controlled substances previously processed by the St. Paul Police Department Crime Lab would be admissible in a subsequent trial. In his order, Judge Abrams specifically rejected defense counsel’s claims that the substances had been contaminated while they were in the possession of the St. Paul Police Department Crime Lab. According to Judge Abrams, the evidence presented by the defense merely demonstrated that contamination was nothing more than a “remote or unlikely possibility”. The subsequent tests by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension were admitted and the defendant has been found guilty.
In July of 2012, the Dakota, Ramsey and Washington County Attorney Offices indicated that they would no longer rely on chemical analysis performed by the St. Paul Police Department Crime Lab. This decision was based upon information provided during the course of legal proceedings on various test cases involving testing that had been performed by the Crime Lab. With the support of the County Attorney Offices, remaining substances not submitted to final testing by the Crime Lab were forwarded to the BCA for final analysis.
Backstrom commented: “We are pleased at the verdict in this case. I am committed to continuing to work with my colleagues in Ramsey and Washington Counties to address remaining issues associated with the problems involving the St. Paul Police Department Crime Lab to insure that affected cases are resolved in the interests of justice.”
The judge ordered a pre-sentence investigation and set sentencing for May 30, 2013 at 9:00 a.m. in Hastings. The defendant is being held without bail.