LANSING, Mich. — A central Michigan prosecutor has asked state police to conduct an independent audit of a sheriff’s office evidence room after it was disclosed a sewage leak and poor record keeping resulted in potentially hundreds of pieces of evidence being compromised.
Ingham County Prosecuting Attorney Gretchen Whitmer said the sheriff’s office has not been forthcoming with information about the problem. She said she only recently became aware of the major sewage leak in 2012.
“I don’t have confidence that I have a real sense of the problem,” she told the Lansing State Journal (http://on.lsj.com/2cLhSJz ).
State police are reviewing the request for an audit.
As recently as last month a high-ranking sheriff’s office official misled prosecutors about the evidence issue, the State Journal reported.
The newspaper obtained documents and emails that it said show there was a divide within the department, with some pushing for prosecutors to be notified and others advocating to keep the issue quiet. Estimates of how many pieces of evidence are missing, damaged beyond use, unable to be connected to a case or lacking proper chain-of-custody reports range from dozens to hundreds, the newspaper reported. The items include guns, money and smaller items such as receipts or driver’s licenses.
Ingham County Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth said he’s not concerned about an independent audit.
“It is what it is. There’s evidence missing, and we know there’s evidence missing. And that’s what it’s going to find,” he said.
Wriggelsworth defended his department’s decision not to notify prosecutors or county commissioners about the problem. He said he didn’t think his office needed to disclose the issue because it wasn’t clear how many pieces of evidence had been affected or how many cases are involved.
At least one case has been dismissed, a 6-year-old drug case in which charges hadn’t yet been filed. The newspaper reported that the sheriff’s office initially cited it had to dismiss the case because of the department’s ongoing upgrade to a new evidence-tracking system.
Information from: Lansing State Journal, http://www.lansingstatejournal.com