Portland residents may expect all police officers to be responsible and adept at enforcing the law. However, this is never a given anywhere in the United States, as evidenced by one wrongful death case being tried in San Diego.

The wrongful death action was filed by the wife of a San Diego Police Department criminalist who committed suicide while being investigated for the murder of a 14-year-old girl in 1984. Though decades had passed since the case was first investigated by the police department, an additional DNA test conducted in 2012 pointed to the criminalist as a suspect. A witness testifying at the wrongful death trial said the evidence could have been cross-contaminated even though a detective had previously concluded that cross-contamination was not a possibility. That detective was also faulted for not documenting his meetings with DNA crime lab workers, whose statements were referenced in the detective’s affidavit that he submitted to obtain a search warrant.

Additionally, the detective investigating the criminalist admitted to seizing 14 boxes worth of personal items from the criminalist’s home that had nothing to do with the items listed in his search warrant. The decedent’s wife claims that her husband was distraught after the police refused to return the improperly seized items. She says this led to his suicide in 2014.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for officers to either exceed the scope of search warrants or conduct illegal searches without having any warrant at all. Someone accused of a crime may not even realize that an officer did something wrong during an investigation until they consult with a criminal defense attorney. That’s why it’s so important to reach out to an attorney immediately after an arrest.