The head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement told legislators Wednesday that the arrest of a former crime-lab chemist will lead to new precautions in handling drug evidence.
FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey gave the Senate Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice an update on Joseph Graves -- the Pensacola crime-lab chemist – who’s accused of compromising hundreds of state drug cases.
Graves is free on $290,000 bond, with arraignment set for February 25th in Escambia County Circuit Court. More charges may still be pending.
The investigation was triggered by the discovery that the prescription drugs had gone missing from the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. Bailey told the panel that the Graves case is leading them down two separate paths.
“We have a criminal investigation going, and we are conducting a comprehensive review of every case that this chemist has touched since he’s been in our employ, as a chemist, as 2006,” said Bailey.
FDLE is also working on internal measures to avoid a repeat, such as conducting random audits of all agency chemists who process drugs. Another proposal is that each of the six FDLE lab directors – on a quarterly basis -- conduct random inspections of evidence containers in their vaults.
Bailey says agents are working with the 80 or so law enforcement agencies in 35 counties – including Escambia and Santa Rosa – to sift through the cases which may have been compromised.
Previous reports had placed the number of tainted cases at around 26 hundred. But Bailey says the only acceptable number of such cases – is zero.