Aurora Police expand audit into evidence destruction to include 456 cases

AURORA, Colo. - Aurora Police have expanded their audit of evidence destruction to include 456 cases in Adams, Arapahoe, and Douglas counties. They're now examining every case in which actual or potential DNA evidence was destroyed since the enactment of a 2009 law restricting how and when that destruction should be done.

This audit includes the 48 cases in which Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates on Tuesday announced his department had 'mistakenly' destroyed actual or potential DNA evidence.

George Brauchler, District Attorney for the 18th Judicial District, said his office received a list of hundreds of additional cases to review from Aurora Police.

"We're really at the front-end of this, but as more information becomes available, I think it's appropriate that the public be made aware of it," Brauchler said. "I think what Aurora has done is to broaden their audit of this situation and to go beyond the 48 cases that we're confident had some sort of impact from this DNA destruction."

Brauchler said the cases in his district date as far back as 2002, but Aurora Police spokesman Frank Fania said the complete pool of cases date back as far as 1995.

The 18th Judicial District also released 68 pages of emails between their office and Aurora police discussing the destroyed evidence.

The emails show the two agencies were discussing the lost evidence as early as June 12. In the emails, Oates is coordinating with the District Attorney’s office to visit and inform a victim whose case was compromised by the destroyed evidence.

Oates said Tuesday that the victim was more understanding than he would have been in a similar situation.

"It was a difficult meeting," Oates described. "She was generous and gracious and understanding, a lot more understanding than I would have been."

The emails allude to attached spreadsheets that list the cases that may be compromised, but the DA’s office declined to release those attachments, saying it could be taken as a breach of ethics to comment on on-going cases.

Oates, in a phone conversation Thursday, said one list has individual evidence items and there were "hundreds and hundreds" that were destroyed. But many cases have multiple items. There is a list of "several hundred" cases that have to be reviewed, but it was unclear whether the evidence was improperly destroyed in those cases.

"Hopefully, it's not hundreds" of cases affected by this, Oates said. "We are doing the diagnostics on these cases right now."

The department wrote in a Thursday press release, "It is important to note that these cases almost certainly include a very large number in which one or more of these valid reasons resulted in the destruction of the evidence:

- No crime occurred

- No DNA or insufficient DNA was recovered

- The convicted defendant waived the requirement that the DNA evidence be preserved

- The case was closed because there was not sufficient evidence for a prosecution

- The case was closed because a prosecution was declined by the District Attorney

- The case was closed for other unusual circumstances, such as the death of the suspect/defendant

- The case was not covered by the 2009 statute or was otherwise properly destroyed pursuant to law"

A task force is being formed to investigate the extent of the damage and the errors.