The sad story of 62-year-old former SFPD lab technician Deborah Madden, who resigned in 2009 while under investigation for evidence tampering, is about to come to an end. Madden is pleading guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor cocaine possession after two juries failed to reach a unanimous verdict on the charge of stealing evidence by fraud or subterfuge. She could get up to a year in prison, but not the four she was in danger of.
The story broke three years ago, in 2010, after it was discovered that Madden was in treatment for drugs, and after the city was forced to shut down the city's crime lab entirely. Federal prosecutors failed twice to get a conviction, and it seems the defense did a good job of proving that Madden only took home "trace" cocaine that was left on surfaces after measurements of evidence were taken, and she was only doing what a number of employees allegedly did she had said earlier that SFPD officers regularly "laughed" at small discrepancies in the weight of drug evidence. The scandal led to the dismissal of hundreds of drug cases on the books in the department.
Madden has maintained that her cocaine habit was a recent thing in her 29-year tenure in the drug lab, and that a friend had told her it could help control her drinking. Also, she admitted to stealing drug vials from the lab and using them to mix paint for plastic models she built in her spare time.
She had previously offered to plead guilty to drug possession in San Mateo County court, but the U.S. Attorney's office pursued the more serious charge of evidence theft by fraud.