Worries about the report's impact are best understood in the context of events at the crime lab in the spring of 2010. Having survived a bout of negative publicity brought on by Madden, the lab employee caught stealing drug evidence, Gascón, at the time SFPD chief, announced the closure of the lab's hopelessly tainted narcotics-testing unit. At a May 2010 press conference on the shuttering of the drug lab, Gascón emphasized that police would now be able to concentrate on DNA testing, which he described as "frankly of greater importance to our crime-fighting efforts."

The public release of a memo impugning the DNA lab, or the lab's failure to pass outside audits based on such a memo, would have been a major blow to the police department's already staggering forensics operation. Nevertheless, in an e-mail sent to top police officials, the day before state DOJ auditors arrived, Giuntini urged that the memo be provided to inspectors. The recipients of his e-mail were Godown and Lazar, who at the time were overseeing efforts to get the crime lab back on track.

"I know that DOJ is starting the DNA audit soon," Giuntini wrote on April 12, 2010. "May I suggest you show them Rock's memo and I am happy to make both Rock and Braden available to the auditors since they are the users of that service and understand the technology as experts in the field."

“The full story — the full, true story — is still not out there,” veteran prosecutor Rockne Harmon says.
AFP/Getty Images
“The full story — the full, true story — is still not out there,” veteran prosecutor Rockne Harmon says.
According to a whistleblower, former SFPD Interim Chief Jeff Godown did not share an internal report critical of the crime lab with DOJ auditors.
© Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle/Corbis
According to a whistleblower, former SFPD Interim Chief Jeff Godown did not share an internal report critical of the crime lab with DOJ auditors.

Giuntini, who retired last summer, declined to comment for this story. His e-mail was dictated over the phone to SF Weekly by Harmon, who has a copy. Harmon says he will release the e-mail only to lawyers or investigators who seek it through appropriate legal channels, so he can be sure that he does not violate the past terms of his employment at the DA's office. Harmon says he and Giuntini also discussed his memo and its relevance for the audit in a face-to-face meeting with Godown at the police department before inspectors arrived.

The e-mail is a vital part of the paper trail surrounding Harmon's memo, indicating as it does that the top staff attorney of the DA's office was aware of the report, believed it important enough to be shared with inspectors from the state DOJ, and communicated those concerns to at least two members of the SFPD brass. Without Harmon's intervention, however, it would never have come to light. In response to public records requests, both the DA's office and SFPD denied the existence of any correspondence from Giuntini to Godown or Lazar during March or April 2010.

Godown and Lazar declined to be interviewed through SFPD spokesman Esparza, who said simply, "We're not going to be able to facilitate that request, and that's all there is to it."

Reporters don't have the legal authority to make public officials speak against their will. Defense lawyers do. Charged with the responsibility of ensuring due process for their clients, they can subpoena witnesses and documents that could undermine the prosecution's case. And San Francisco attorneys have begun to take an interest in what Harmon has to say.


Last week, officials in the Public Defender's office said they plan to subpoena Harmon and the documents he possesses in an ongoing homicide case. The specific case hinges in part on DNA evidence analyzed by Boland. However, Adachi says his office plans to use information provided by Harmon in other cases, arguing that any DNA evidence, even that tested by other analysts, could be impeached based on the contents of Harmon's full memo.

"This evidence has obvious relevance to any criminal case involving Cherisse Boland," Adachi says. "It also would be relevant to any case involving DNA evidence. It goes to the practice and protocol of testing DNA evidence in that lab."

In June, David Wise, a private defense attorney, sought to obtain documentation produced by Harmon in pretrial hearings in a rape case. Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo ruled that it wasn't relevant so early in the court proceedings because Boland had not worked on the case, but Wise says he will seek to subpoena Harmon and obtain his full memo at his client's trial.

A more wide-ranging question concerns the consequences of the repeated failures by the SFPD and DA's office to disclose Harmon's criticisms to outside inspection agencies. Harmon, in particular, has questions about whether the DNA lab can still lay claim to its accreditation if facts emerge indicating that law-enforcement officials deliberately concealed damaging information from auditors.

"If there is withholding of negative information from inspectors — and that's a big if — that would seem to undermine the integrity of the whole investigative process," Harmon says.

Ralph Keaton, executive director of ASCLD/LAB, says that Harmon's memo was not shared with inspectors from his organization. "To my knowledge, the answer is no," Keaton says. He adds that he cannot determine whether that omission would compromise the San Francisco crime lab's accreditation until he knows what is in the report.

Shum Preston, spokesman for the California DOJ, says that state auditors were not given Harmon's memo. He also says he does not know whether the withholding of the report would invalidate the lab's success in the audit, and declined to make the auditors who visited the lab available for comment.

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11 comments
Alferdonito4
Alferdonito4

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Barbra Barr

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Ramona Fuller

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Emma Pope
Emma Pope

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Emma Pope
Emma Pope

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JanetteT
JanetteT

Not a surprise when SF city workers are involved: overpaid, lazy, and incompetent.There are about 27,000 SF city workers for 800,000 population. 40 years ago population was same and SF had 5,000 city workers. Morons hiring morons. In this dept. the employees just can't hide their incompetence.

Bev
Bev

Brilliant, article!!!! This is one of the best pieces of reporting I've seen in years, and it's a shock the major media outlets don't pick up on this. It's a great example of continued failures within the various departments of San Francisco. Often, these breakdowns occur because none other than our ongoing politicians who move from dept to dept or Board to dept. There are skeletons in everyone dept's closet. Being in the courts, and knowing all the players in this, I commend Mr. Harmon for standing up and calling it what it is: deception, unethical, you name it. In the article Mr. Harmon loudly proclaims, in case no one caught it, he'll turn over everything if Subpoenaed. Jeff Adachi, are you hearing his underlying "hint hint?" Unfortunately, this cannot be investigated by the Atty General's Office as Kamela is Attorney General; and I continue to hear she is non-responsive to Law Enforcement conference invites around the state regarding vital practices and policies. Expected, consider the track record here in SF. If I was the accrediting board from back east, I'd move to have this investigated by the FBI. There are some I suspect are going to have sleepless nights as this is just the tip of the ice berg.

Scientific Fire
Scientific Fire

The "accrediting board back east" could care less. They are part of the problem.

Clyde
Clyde

no surprise one more reason not to vote for Gascon as DA

SkV
SkV

Actually, this was under Kamela's watch.

Cheryl Meril
Cheryl Meril

It's a corrupt legal system, what do you expect? They're nothing more than a business enterprise out to protect their own interests.

 
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