SFPD drug lab scandal triggers claim 

A prisoner at San Quentin has filed a claim against San Francisco and the Police Department for emotional distress and wrongful conviction after he pleaded guilty to a case involving embattled drug lab employee Deborah Madden.

The claim appears to be the first filed against The City in the wake of the drug lab closure March 9. Madden, a 29-year civilian employee who tested drug evidence at the lab, is accused of taking cocaine and pain medication for herself from drug evidence.

Marlon Jamal Bishop, 32, sent a handwritten claim that was received by the City Attorney’s Office on Monday. In it, he asks for unlimited damages because “evidence was purposefully withheld that affected the outcome of claimant’s case,” according to the filing.

Bishop was arrested May 25, 2009, on suspicion of possession of crack cocaine with intent to sell. In January, Bishop made a plea deal with a Superior Court judge that resulted in a three-year sentence.

But in October, Bishop’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Kleigh Hathaway, asked the court for information about Madden and the drug lab, questioning its credibility, according to the claim. Since there was no information about the alleged skimming or Madden’s previously undisclosed criminal past, the judge ruled that credibility of the lab was sufficient.

Bishop may have a tough time using that information to get out of prison. In a 2002 case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Angela Ruiz, saying defendants who plead guilty cannot appeal their cases because information potentially damaging to witnesses was undisclosed. 

The Public Defender’s Office has not filed papers to overturn Bishop’s case, according to spokeswoman.

But a civil case against The City could be a different story. Matt Dorsey, spokesman for the City Attorney’s Office, said he could not comment on the specifics of the claim. He said it appears to be the first claim filed in the wake of the drug lab scandal.

“As with all claims, we will consult with our client departments and make a determination about the claim’s merit and The City’s liability, if any,” Dorsey said. “We expect to respond within 45 days.”


Scandal unfolds

Nov. 19: D.A.’s Office expresses concern about evidence technician Deborah Madden tested

Dec. 8: Madden takes leave of absence

March 9: Drug testing halts at crime lab after Madden is suspected of skimming from samples

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Brent Begin

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