Delaware may be the second smallest state in the US, but it's had some big problems with its drug testing lab. A scandal in 2014 revealed that employees at the state's Controlled Substances Lab were stealing drug evidence. The lab was shut down after it was found to be riddled with "systemic failures" including mismanagement, nonexistent security, and bumbling incompetence.
The fallout from that scandal continues as this week Jermaine Dollard, a man convicted in 2012 of supplying cocaine to a Kent County distribution ring, is free and suing the state along with several of its current and former employees. The reason for his lawsuit is that the evidence in his case—alleged to be two kilograms of cocaine—was recently retested (or tested for the first time, as no one is sure it was ever really tested before) and found to be powdered sugar.
So far, Dollard is the only person to have a conviction reversed thanks to the drug lab scandal. But now others are sure to follow suit; defense attorneys throughout the state have filed hundreds of motions asking for drug offenders' charges to be dropped.
Dollard was convicted as part of a crackdown on a drug ring involving 13 other co-defendants. He had a long rap sheet and was originally connected to the drug ring based on wiretap evidence that he was selling cocaine to low-level dealers. In June of 2012, police stopped his Honda Accord, searched the vehicle, and found a "secret compartment" with two tightly-wrapped bricks of white powder.
As required, the bricks were sent to the Controlled Substances Laboratory of Delaware's Chief Medical Examiner. The lab's test results supposedly found the bricks to be two kilograms (4.4 pounds) of cocaine, valued at around $88,000. Dollard was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
When the drug lab scandal broke, Dollard's attorney, had a bright idea. Why not get the alleged cocaine in his case to be retested? So he did. And guess what? Sugar can't keep you in jail, so Dollard was set free. Now Dollard is suing the state for putting him through the misery of two years of imprisonment—all for a couple of pounds of sugar.
Dollard's lawsuit claims that employees of the state of Delaware may have planted, manipulated, or stolen the evidence in his case, resulting in his original conviction. Or, they might not have even tested the evidence in the first place. Dollard's complaint says, "As a result of some or all of these actions, Mr. Dollard was wrongfully convicted of crimes for which he was sentenced and served nearly two years of incarceration."
No one can explain why Dollard was carrying two wrapped bricks of powdered sugar in a secret compartment in his car—but they don't have to. Transporting sugar is legal in Delaware. At this point, no one can prove that Dollard transported cocaine because the evidence in the lab that is linked to his case won't get anyone high.
But it will make quite a nice cake.