The Rhode Island attorney general has voiced frustration over the delayed disclosure of a mistake at the state drug lab by the R.I. Department of Health. The lab technician had reported trace amounts of cocaine in a sample during a routine quality assurance test in November, which was found to be due to cross-contamination. Although the Health Department immediately launched an internal review, the attorney general, Peter Neronha, was only notified last week. The review revealed that evidence in 52 cocaine-related felony cases would need to be re-examined, with another 263 misdemeanor cocaine possession cases to be reviewed. Neronha’s office is working with 18 police departments and notifying defense attorneys involved in these cases. The Health Department removed the lab technician from reviewing cocaine-related cases until they are retrained on the equipment. Although Neronha has confidence in the Health Department and their forensic work, he is aware that defense attorneys may dispute evidence and seek dropped charges.

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