Thousands of criminal convictions throughout New Jersey, including Morris County, could be in jeopardy after a lab tech who worked for the NJ State Police admitted to authorities that he faked evidence in a drug case.
Kamalkant Shah was employed as a lab technician for the New Jersey State Police North Regional Lab Drug Unit in Little Falls, New Jersey. In his capacity as a lab tech, Shah allegedly “dry labbed” a substance that was thought to be marijuana.
Law enforcement first learned about the deception on December 10, 2015, prompting them to start an investigation into Shah. While the investigation was being conducted, NJ authorities removed Shah from lab work with the police. Approximately one month later, on January 12, 2016, Shah was suspended without pay.
On February 22, Ellie Honig, who serves as director of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, sent a letter to various NJ county prosecutors’ offices and let local prosecutors know that Shah had “failed to appropriately conduct laboratory analyses in a drug case.” Honig said that Shah was caught “recording an anticipated result without properly conducting the analysis.”
Additionally, Honig suggested that NJ prosecutors disclose this information to criminal defense lawyers in any open drug crime cases.
The serious allegations against Shah were also set forth in another memo, which was sent by NJ Deputy Public Defender Judy Fallon to NJ Public Defender Joseph Krakora on February 29. The memo said that law enforcement accused Shah of completely fabricating important data in the marijuana possession case. The New Jersey deputy public defender further said that Shah had been “observed writing ‘test results’ for suspected marijuana that was never tested.”
On March 2, the NJ Municipal Court Law Update Service posted a copy of the memo on its official website.
Shah’s deception will probably have significant consequences that could shake the NJ criminal justice system for a long time. For example, the criminal convictions in every case that Shah was a part of while he worked with the New Jersey State Police could now be at risk. Since the beginning of his employment with the police in 2005, Shaw served as a lab technician on 7,827 criminal cases. Investigators have found only one instance of misconduct by Shah, but it is still very possible that the evidence in all of the criminal cases could be deemed “contaminated.” The cases were heard in courtrooms across New Jersey, including Morris County, Bergen County, Passaic County, and Essex County. In Passaic County alone, there are now more than 2,100 potentially tainted cases that Shah worked on.
NJ prosecutors have already said that Shah, who recently retired, might not face any criminal charges in connection with his deception.
The NJ State Police is currently in communication with Morris County prosecutors as NJ officials try to determine how to best handle pending drug crime cases, as well as drug cases that have already been adjudicated.
For more information about this developing case, view the NJ.com article, “Lab Tech Allegedly Faked Result in Drug Case; 7,827 Criminal Cases Now in Question.”