The top prosecutor in Orange County, California, has withdrawn charges in 67 criminal cases after he found sheriff’s deputies had mishandled evidence.
District Attorney Todd Spitzer and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department reviewed more than 22,000 cases handled by his predecessor, Anthony Rackauckas, which led to convictions.
Spitzer says the review uncovered internal audits admitting that deputies routinely booked evidence late or not at all. Many of the cases involved methamphetamine or firearms.
Spitzer, who defeated Rackauckas in 2018, says the errors violated a key element of due process over collection and preservation of evidence.
The district attorney has notified thousands of defense attorneys over their findings. His office also ordered that DNA samples for the affected defendants were removed from the county database.
Reasons for post-conviction relief
Mishandled evidence is one of many grounds that those found guilty of crimes can seek post-conviction relief. Others include:
- Illegal or unethical conduct by prosecutors
- New or existing evidence that wasn’t allowed at trial
- Ineffective defense counsel
- Witnesses change their testimony
- Being deprived of Constitutional rights during a trial and appeal
Even if you have already filed an appeal and were denied, you are not out of options. Working with an experienced post-conviction attorney can identify if errors or misconduct likely led to your conviction. In many cases, taking this step can lead to a new trial or being released from prison.