OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A group of Oklahoma defense lawyers went to court Monday to force Police Chief M.T. Berry to turn over documents about the investigation of an Oklahoma City police chemist accused of performing shoddy work.
The Oklahoma Criminal Defense Lawyers Association filed a lawsuit that accuses Berry of refusing to turn over about 70 documents that were part of a report critical of the police department's serology lab and its former supervisor, Joyce Gilchrist.
Berry maintains that the documents are evidence in ongoing internal and criminal investigations, the suit says. But the Oklahoma Open Records Act permits them to be made public if the benefit of disclosing them ``outweighs interest in keeping them secret,'' the lawsuit states.
Berry said he had not seen the lawsuit but believes it is appropriate for a judge to decide whether the documents should be made public.
The report by police Capt. Byron Boshell detailed ``absolutely horrid conditions'' within the police lab and documented instances where evidence was missing, lost or inadvertently destroyed or contaminated, said defense attorney Doug Parr, a member of the association's board of directors.
``It also contains a number of allegations with regard to the competence of Ms. Gilchrist,'' Parr said. ``The citizens of Oklahoma are entitled to know about this.''
Berry also has not produced a list of criminal cases in which Gilchrist performed forensic testing but has agreed to turn over records concerning equipment purchases for the department's DNA lab.
Parr said the city spent $625,000 in public safety sales tax revenue between 1993 and 2000 to establish a DNA lab that the association believes was never created.
``A substantial amount of that money was spent on equipment that was never used,'' Parr said. ``It appears to be gross mismanagement and potentially criminal misappropriation of public money.''
Berry denied that the department's DNA lab does not exist.
``We do have a DNA lab and is it processing case work as we speak,'' the police chief said.
Berry also said a number of changes have been made in the police department laboratory.
``There have been some improvements made in the procedures of the lab,'' Berry said. ``There have been no personnel changes that I'm aware of.''
Gilchrist, who is on paid leave, has denied allegations that she wrongly linked defendants to crime scenes through fiber and fluid evidence.
Last month, Jeffrey Todd Pierce was released from prison after serving 15 years of a 65-year term for rape. Pierce was freed after DNA tests showed he did not commit the crime.
An Oklahoma County jury found him guilty based on the victim's mistaken identification and Gilchrist's testimony.
Chemists with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation have reviewed the files of another 171 cases in which Gilchrist was involved and have recommended 25 for additional review.
In addition, the Attorney General's Office has reviewed nine of 12 pending death row cases in which Gilchrist was involved and has recommended three cases for retesting, the OSBI said.