AP NEWS

Attorneys expect more Santa Fe police evidence problems

January 13, 2020 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A scathing report that found dozens of issues with the Santa Fe Police Department’s handling and storage of evidence is just the beginning, attorneys say.

An audit from a public safety consultant release Friday found that evidence for a sexual assault from 2015, “could not be located after a prolonged search,” the Santa Fe New Mexican reports.

The audit also found that 40 percent of inventory for misdemeanor cases should be disposed because it was held past the statute of limitations.

Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur said the report shows that police and prosecution practices have to be challenged around the state.

“This review was only done because of questions raised by a public defender,” Baur said in an email. “If that doesn’t happen, innocent people will continue to be falsely charged and convicted, and people who should be held accountable may not be.

Issues with the evidence room came to light after the department discovered it lost evidence in the 2017 murder case of Selena Valencia. Her boyfriend, Christopher Garcia, was accused of fatally stabbing her.

In June 2019, the police department sent a letter to the District Attorney’s Office, saying it had lost 11 pieces of evidence, including fingernail clippings and traces of hair found on Valencia.