Harold Levy; Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog;
"Reformers have for years recommended that all forensic labs be independent from law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies' and this is a key reform promoted by The Justice Project (2008). But fixing these problems is only half the answer' because half of the wrongful convictions attributed to misleading forensic evidence involved deliberate forensic fraud' evidence tampering' and/or perjury.
From "The Elephant in the Crime Lab," by co-authored by Sheila Berry and Larry Ytuarte; Forensic Examiner; Spring, 2009;
STORY: "Lab director's criminal record uncovered; what does it mean?" by reporters
"Could cold-blooded killers go free?"
GIST: "The former lab director and chief toxicologist for the Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner, Norman Wade, has been harboring a secret for nearly two decades. That secret might have prevented him from getting the job in Maricopa County in 1999. Over the course of his career with Maricopa County, he’s offered expert testimony on a number of cases. That testimony is often critical because forensic toxicologists pinpoint toxic substances that may have contributed to a person’s death. Wade as chief toxicologist has great latitude in interpreting the forensic toxicology findings to juries. Wade's expert testimony and work has helped put away countless criminals, but all along he was keeping a secret. That secret is one prosecutors and defense attorneys in those cases should have known, and could put those cases and verdicts in jeopardy. That secret: Wade himself was a felon. “I'm, I'm ashamed I really am and I, I just I can't believe this is happening,” said Wade during an interview with DPS. He was able to keep this secret for years. He submitted the required application and fingerprints to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, but at the time those involved in his hiring said criminal background checks were not required. There are conflicting reports of what medical examiner officials involved in his hiring knew about Wade’s history. Eventually, he became the subject of a DPS criminal investigation, but still remained in his position after the Attorney General declined prosecution. It wasn’t until 12 News started asking questions and requested an interview with County Manager Joy Rich that Wade retired from his position in Maricopa County. He remained on the county’s payroll until November 1, 2016.........A checkered past: Wade’s secret began 439 miles away from Phoenix in the seaside California county of Ventura. On June 3, 1990, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office hired Wade as Crime Lab manager, a position that gave him access to property, petty cash and evidence there. That’s where his crimes began. On May 15, 1991, Wade checked out a handgun from the VCSO property and evidence section, then pawned it, nine days later at Get Mor Loan in Oxnard for $125, according to records. On August 12th, he bought the handgun back from the pawn shop for $150. He did the same with a camera, lens and other property as well, pawning the items at the same pawn shop for $100. According to the investigative report, he was also suspected of stealing a license plate registration sticker from the evidence section for his personal vehicle. Wade pled "no contest" in court to the theft and was placed on probation for two years and ordered to pay a $300 fine. On June 30, 1992, internal sheriff’s office records show, Wade resigned from the sheriff’s office in lieu of termination for stealing the license plate registration sticker. After he left, an internal affairs investigation at the sheriff’s office began after it was discovered $14,600 had been stolen from evidence envelopes in the property room safes. At that time, even though Wade no longer worked there, he was listed as a suspect..........About two weeks later, on April 11, 1994, Wade was hired by the Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner as a forensic toxicologist after he failed the polygraph. Ventura County Sheriff's Office investigates Wade: In Ventura, investigators began to build a case against him, including aspects of his personal life that revealed more issues. His estranged wife, Dale Puryear Wade, painted him as philandering spouse, saying he had several extramarital affairs and even took one mistress to Europe, according to the investigative documents from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. His wife told VCSO investigators that Wade lied, drained their children's college funds, drank heavily and was addicted to a prescription drugs. During the DPS investigation, Wade admitted to drinking, but told a detective that he never took pills. He said he was going through a divorce, was financially strapped and his soon to be ex-wife was demanding money. He told investigators, “I needed money so I pawned my own things. I pawned the gun for I don’t remember how much.” Wade told investigators his estranged wife attempted to extort him, saying she called and said, “I will tell them about the gun you pawned if you don’t give me $500 a month continuously.” To which he countered, “And I knew she was the only one I ever told about the gun.” Wade stated to DPS criminal investigators, “I don’t take threats too easy and I’m not going to take you up on it.” His now ex-wife told sheriff’s investigators even though they were married for over 20 years, she never knew him. We repeatedly tried to reach her seeking comment but were unsuccessful. The reports of inappropriate behavior weren’t limited to his personal life. Karen Nielsen, the property custodian for the VCSO, said Wade blew them away when he came in and said he wanted to borrow a gun to take to a party. She said Wade took a rifle. He also took a bike one day and only returned it after he was told to do so. Another colleague, Lisa Coughlin questioned his ethics in court. According to the VCSO investigation, Coughlin told investigators she feels Wade would "testify or steer towards what the district attorney wanted." She described him as a "yes man" and that she feels "he would say whatever the client was paying him to say," documents from VCSO showed..........Prior to his conviction, he was forced to resign in lieu of termination as lab manager at the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. At the time of his arrest for those charges on May 24, 1999, Wade was already working at the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office as a forensic toxicologist. He resigned from the position after his arrest, telling then Chief Medical Examiner Philip Keen that he had legal troubles involving him taking the gun from his employer in California. “We can’t have you here while there’s that cloud over you and we dismissed him,” Keen said he told Wade. But records show he resigned voluntarily. He returns to Arizona... But five years later – with this criminal history – he was hired back at the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office as lab director. The position gave him authority and meant he served as an expert witness for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office in a number of high profile cases. Investigative records and audio recordings show that the chief medical examiner knew about Wade’s legal troubles when he was rehired.........He started his role as lab director on July 26. Records clearly show the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office received the information about his arrest and conviction, but it’s unclear if anyone actually reviewed the documents. As an expert witness, credibility and honesty are critical when you’re under oath, but he was hired by Maricopa County even though he failed to disclose his felony conviction on his application. This probably would have kept him off the stand in the second degree murder trial of former Phoenix police officer Richard Chrisman. In that trial, Wade testified for the defense that the victim, Danny Rodriguez, had meth in his system, which could have led to his bizarre behavior. Chrisman was sentenced to seven years in prison. The Jodi Arias murder case made international headlines – a case about sex, lies and murder. The salacious details revealed in court about a scorned woman killing her boyfriend, Travis Alexander, by stabbing him 27 times riveted millions of people. Arias was convicted of murder – sentenced to life in prison. Wade was the man who signed off on the toxicology report on Arias' victim as the toxicology lab director and chief toxicologist for the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office. In the 2011 Jeffrey Martinson case, Martinson was convicted of first degree murder for his young son’s death. Wade testified about the prescription drugs found in the boy’s system. Wade signed off on the forensic toxicology analysis on Daniel Shaver, who was shot and killed by a Mesa police officer in January 2016 at a Valley motel. That officer, Philip (Mitch) Brailsford, is facing a second degree murder charge for Shaver’s death.........Possible implications of Wade’s secret..."Already, some are calling into question Wade’s testimony in Maricopa County cases. “I think it's a disadvantage, it's an unfairness an inherent unfairness that defense attorneys didn't know about this,” said Kindra Fleming of the Arizona Justice Project. Fleming is the AJP staff attorney. The AJP is part of the Innocence Project, which works “to help inmates overturn wrongful convictions.” She said Wade's felony conviction should have been disclosed to defense attorneys. “They've been denied this information,” said Fleming.
She said that with this information, Wade could have been impeached. “Especially in these significant cases where people are now spending their lives in prison or sitting on death row,” she said. The men and women doing their civic duty were also denied this information. “I think juries had the right to at least hear it to evaluate for themselves whether this goes to his credibility,” said Fleming. She also doesn’t think individuals like Wade working for county or state government, should be held to a different standard when it comes to issues that may poke holes in their credibility. Maricopa County knew about Wade’s history, but kept him on payroll, which allowed him to testify in numerous cases over 17 years......... Fleming believes Wade’s cases need to be reviewed. “I’m not saying re-review every case Wade testified in. I’m saying if it was pertinent testimony to a conviction, I think it should be called into question and looked at.”"
The entire story can be found at:
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/c