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Police chemist altered evidence, officials say

NEW YORK -- Disgraced Oklahoma City police chemist Joyce Gilchrist doctored trial evidence and may have destroyed hair samples that could have exonerated a man now on death row, according to a confidential police memo.

The memo said Gilchrist not only altered her own case notes, but ''there is compelling circumstantial evidence" that she ''either intentionally lost or destroyed" crime scene hairs used to convict Curtis Edward McCarty of murder so the evidence could not be retested.

The Oklahoma City Police Department memo, written by then-Deputy Chief Bill Citty to then-Chief M. T. Berry, is dated Sept. 21, 2001, and details 14 days of deliberations and testimony heard by a department review board.

The board, consisting of two police chemists and three high-ranking officials, recommended Gilchrist be fired. Four days later, she was.

Citty and Berry declined to comment on the board's findings. Gilchrist, who has sued various city officials for wrongful termination, has long said she is innocent and declines interviews. Her attorney did not return calls seeking comment.

Her dismissal followed disclosures that she helped send at least two innocent men to prison during her 21-year tenure as a forensic chemist and prosecution witness in hundreds of cases. Those men were released after DNA testing proved they were not guilty.

Two secret criminal investigations -- one by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, the other by the FBI -- have produced no charges against her. Officials from both agencies refused to comment, saying the probes are confidential.

The police memorandum details alleged wrongdoing by Gilchrist in 11 cases from the 1980s. The most significant misconduct alleged was in the McCarty case, and those findings are the crux of the latest appeal of his conviction in the 1982 murder of a young woman, sources familiar with the case said on the condition of anonymity.

Attorneys on both sides are prohibited from discussing the details of that appeal because a federal appellate court, at the request of Oklahoma City officials, has taken the unusual step of sealing the case. The city cited the confidentiality of personnel records in its request.

The state, which separately reviewed hundreds of cases based on Gilchrist's testimony, has recommended 196 be re-examined. Details of that recommendation are also confidential; the recommendation is now with state Attorney General Drew Edmondson.

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