- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) - Delaware prosecutors are asking state courts to suspend all pending drug trials for 60 days.

The Department of Justice sent a letter to all Delaware courts requesting the stay Monday. The request was prompted by an investigation into discrepancies with drug evidence sent to the state medical examiner's office’s controlled substances laboratory.

In letters to the chief judges of Superior Court, Court of Common Pleas and Family Court, State Prosecutor Kathleen Jennings wrote that the full scope of the problems at the lab “has yet to be established and the review must, necessarily, be treated as an active criminal investigation.”

“This time will allow for both the state and the defense to develop a better understanding of the issues involved and, at the same time, prevent the return of verdicts based on incomplete information,” Jennings wrote. The delay will also allow for review and retesting in some cases, she said.

Delaware Public Defender Brendan O’Neill said he opposes the “one size fits all” shutdown of all drug trials and favors evaluating each case individually.

Investigators said last week that they were looking at whether evidence had been tampered with, substituted or went missing in at least 15 cases where drugs were sent to the lab. Problems with the lab began to come to light last month during a drug trial in Kent County. The Attorney General's office said Monday that additional cases have been found, but the exact number was not revealed.

Testing at the lab, which handles about 6,000 drug evidence cases a year, has been discontinued and arrangements are being made for outside labs to conduct testing, state police Sgt. Paul Shavack said.