Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Follow-up: No convictions overturned or challenged after Wilmington crime lab incident

A chemist for the Wilmington Police Department has been fired leaving the question as to what will happen to the cases he worked on (Port City Daily/File)
After a chemist for the Wilmington Police Department was fired leaving, the public was left with questions as to what will happen to the cases he worked on (Port City Daily/File)

WILMINGTON — After a chemist working at the Wilmington Police Department’s crime lab was fired last year for ‘untruthfulness,’ the District Attorney’s office announced it would review any relevant cases for possible dismissal, relief, or other measures. According to the District Attorney’s office, no cases were overturned — or even contested — as a result.

Related: Years of Wilmington drug cases facing review, potential dismissal after police fire ‘untruthful’ drug lab employee

The District Attorney’s office had to sort through all cases involving analysis work by Wiliam Peltzer, who joined the WPD in August of 2015. Peltzer was fired in late January of 2019 after an audit led to an Internal Affairs investigation. While no criminal behavior was identified, Peltzer was found to have routinely violated lab protocol.

The District Attorney’s office found these cases fell into two categories: more serious cases where the accuracy of the instrumentation could have been questionable and less serious (but still potentially problematic) cases where there was a failure to follow protocol but the actual instruments themselves remained accurate.

“The Wilmington Police Department presented a series of cases that were analyzed by William Peltzer between 2016 and 2018. The District Attorney’s office has completed its review of these cases. There were nine cases where the instrument was not calibrated, calibration was not checked, or the functionality of the instrument was not checked. With another group of cases, the quality control check did not meet lab specifications but the instruments were confirmed to be calibrated and/or functioning properly,” according to Samantha Dooies, assistant to District Attorney Ben David.

According to Dooies, these cases were then shared with the legal counsel, but there were no formal challenges to any of the cases.

“Any case that was identified by WPD as falling into these two categories was brought to the attention of the defendant’s attorney, who was given the opportunity to contest the findings and none did. In summary, no convictions have been overturned,” according to Dooies.

Related: Funding, staffing issues prompt turnover of Wilmington police crime lab to county

While Peltzer’s termination didn’t ultimately impact any of the drug cases he worked on, it did play a prominent role in prompting WPD to hand over the operation of the crime lab to the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office in April of 2019. At the time, then Chief Ralph Evangelous noted that Peltzer’s firing put a spotlight on long-running shortfalls in both manpower and funding.

Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at ben@localvoicemedia.com, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001

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