FORT LAUDERDALE- Thousands of toxicology test results on body fluids dating back ten years could be limbo, according to an Oct. 23 letter from the Broward Medical Examiner’s Office.
“On August 24, 2012, after learning that the methods used to test bodily fluids for drugs being processed by our toxicology laboratory had not previously been validated, I made the decision to shut down the lab and have samples sent to an external, accredited laboratory,” wrote Broward Medical Examiner Dr. Craig Mallak, in a letter sent to Broward State Attorney Michael Satz.
“I directed to staff to begin gathering data on the number of live persons’ samples that tested positive for drugs in the last ten (10) years; that data set was provided to you in hard copy during our meeting today and comprises approximately 3600 individual cases,” Mallak said.
The letter does not detail exactly what the issues of concern are, but Mallak goes on to point out that there is no definitive evidence that any of the results are inaccurate, but that he “felt a moral and ethical obligation” to provide the information to prosecutors.
Satz then sent a letter to Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein informing him of the issue, where he said the state attorney's office is pursuing an “inquiry into the matter.”
Finkelstein said he was not surprised, but that he did not know how many cases the revelation could end up impacting.
“At this time, we just don’t know,” he said. “We have begun gathering information, but fear this could end up affecting DUI and other cases, and its possible people may have gone to jail who were innocent while the guilty walked free. It’s just too early to tell.”
The Broward County’s Office of Medical Examiner and Trauma Services has been in turmoil. Gov. Rick Scott did not reappoint Dr. Joshua Perper as head of the agency in 2011 and he resigned in October of that same year. A consultant’s audit in March 2012 discovered organizational problems, and was critical of the agency’s lack of accreditation from the National Association of Medical Examiners and other issues.
Mallak, 51, was appointed medical examiner this past June. Prior to his being hired here he was on active duty as the medical examiner at Dover Air Force base in Delaware.