- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) - Delaware’s public defenders are still pushing to reopen hundreds of drug cases, arguing that the state should not be allowed to say that one drug felon can withdraw his guilty plea while hundreds of others cannot.

The Office of the Public Defender filed a motion Friday asking Superior Court Judge William Carpenter to bar prosecutors from arguing that the guilty pleas cannot be vacated just because the defendants admitted guilt, The News Journal of Wilmington reports (http://delonline.us/1OdoEF9).

The motion is the defenders’ latest filing since evidence thefts were discovered in Delaware’s drug lab last year. The office has argued that the judge should reopen about 230 cases in which New Castle County defendants pleaded guilty before the drug lab scandal was discovered. Investigators have said that at least 55 pieces of drug evidence were stolen or tampered with at the former Controlled Substances Laboratory of the state Medical Examiner’s Office between 2010 and 2014

Assistant Public Defender Nicole M. Walker argued in Friday’s motion that the prosecution is handling these cases inconsistently. She pointed to Eric Young, a 33-year-old who had pleaded guilty to a drug charge and was serving a seven-year sentence.

Young was allowed to withdraw his plea in May after Young’s co-defendant convinced a judge to retest the white substance that resembled cocaine. The powder was found to not be cocaine, and Young pleaded guilty instead to conspiracy. He paid a $100 fine.

“In the end, it appears that the real distinction between Young and the (other defendants) is that Young was ‘lucky enough’ to have a co-defendant obtain retesting in contravention to the Superior Court’s own decisions and the state’s own position,” the Public Defender’s Office wrote in the motion.

The state’s response has not been filed yet, but a spokesman for the Department of Justice has said that the relief provided to Young does not affect guilty pleas in other cases.

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Information from: The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., http://www.delawareonline.com

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