This is the case of State of Alabama v. Karen Stafford from Jefferson County, Alabama. Karen Stafford was indicted for the charge of 1st degree assault. The state alleged that Stafford while driving northbound in the southbound Lane struck an individual's vehicle causing him severe physical injury. Stafford's blood sample was drawn pursuant to a search warrant by Homewood Police Department.
Testing of the sample by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences determined by blood alcohol content level of .15 about twice the legal limit. Stafford was arrested in June, 2017. In April, 2018, Stafford filed a motion to preserve evidence collected and to suppress the blood sample.
In October 2019, the prosecutor stated that he had discovered that the blood sample kit sent to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences was destroyed after the two year holding period, but photographs of the kit and the case file were available. Stafford move to either exclude any evidence regarding the blood tests or to dismiss the Indictment. After hearing the trial court dismissed the Indictment against Stafford.
The state appealed the dismissal of the Indictment and the appellate court reversed. The appellate court used the three prong test of Gurley vs. State of Alabama, which required it to review a claim of loss or destruction of evidence by weighing the culpability of the state for the loss of the evidence, the materiality of the lost evidence, and the prejudice to the accused. As to the culpability of the state the court found that the record did not show any evidence of bad faith by the state.
Rather, the state appeared to have been negligent in not preserving their requested blood sample. The court likewise did not find the Alabama Department of Forensic Science blood sample to be material to Stafford's defense. The blood sample was not exculpatory. The court added that the photographs produced to Stafford showing the expiration date of the kit were material and that Stafford could use those to challenge the integrity of the test results at trial.
As to prejudice, the court found that the blood sample itself was no longer available apply. Applying the three part balancing test articulated in Gurley The Alabama Department of Forensic Science blood sample was simply not critical to Stafford's defense at trial. The trial court erred in dismissing the Indictment the court and held that the trial court erred in imposing the extreme sanction of dismissing the Indictment as a discovery section.
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