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DA Boudin Announces Public Posting of Prosecutions That May Have Been Impacted by Office of Chief Medical Examiner Analyst Misconduct

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Rachel Marshall / (415) 416-4468 / Rachel.Marshall@sfgov.org 

SAN FRANCISCO–Today, District Attorney Boudin announced that the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office’s website has posted a comprehensive list of prosecutions that may have been impacted by a recent Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) analyst misconduct.  On August 31, 2020, it was discovered that OCME Forensic Laboratory Analyst Justin Volk had been arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in Washington County, Utah.  Mr. Volk worked for the OCME and had been assigned to the forensic laboratory for almost thirteen years. During those years, Mr. Volk played a role in many cases prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office. The District Attorney’s Office has posted the list of prosecutions that may have been impacted by Mr. Volk to provide transparency and empower those whose cases may be affected to explore further.

“My office has acted with great urgency in responding to the allegations against Justin Volk, and we have prioritized working to review all convictions in cases in which he was involved,” said District Attorney Boudin.  “Ensuring the integrity of our convictions is of the utmost importance, and for that reason, we are publishing this information as part of our commitment to integrity and transparency in the criminal legal system.”

Mr. Volk is estimated to have played a role in the testing, collection, and preservation of evidence in more than 2,500 law enforcement investigations including: 500 death investigations, 1,200 sexual-assault investigations, and 800 DUI investigations. In each of those investigations, the role of a laboratory analyst minimally involves receiving, logging, accessioning, storing, disposing, screening, and preparing biological and toxicological specimens for forensic purposes.

As a result of the breadth of Mr. Volk’s involvement in prosecutions, the District Attorney’s Office sent a letter to Mayor London Breed and President of the Board of Supervisors Norman Yee on September 11, 2020 requesting additional resources in order to meet the Office’s Constitutional obligation to notify, identify, and investigate the impact of the potential mishandling and misappropriation of OCME property. As enumerated in that letter, the District Attorney’s Office is committed to individually reviewing every case that Mr. Volk was involved in to ensure that no conviction or punishment has been improperly tainted.

The District Attorney’s Office also explained in the letter that it expected a surge in appellate filings and requests for new trials that will have a significant workload impact on current resources. The projected costs associated with appropriately handling of these new matters were estimated at approximately $455,731. To date, no additional resources to meet this need have been made available to the District Attorney’s Office.

The District Attorney’s Office’s website links to a spreadsheet listing the resolved prosecutions in which Mr. Volk may have participated and that the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and OCME have identified to date.  That list will continue to be updated. In providing this list, the District Attorney’s Office does not assert that the information necessarily casts doubt upon the correctness of a conviction or that it entitles anyone convicted to any relief.  Rather, the information is provided to facilitate obtaining more details to determine whether any evidence supporting the conviction may have been tainted by Mr. Volk.

The District Attorney’s Office is encouraging anyone whose information is contained on the list or otherwise believes that Mr. Volk may have played a role in their case to contact their defense attorney to discuss whether a legal remedy may be available.

Mr. Volk remains under investigation by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.

The link to potentially impacted cases is available here:  https://sfdistrictattorney.org/resources/ocme-case-list/