Cops Thought Sand From Her Stress Ball Was Cocaine. She Spent Nearly 6 Months in Jail

Stress balls are just one example of the innocuous things that put innocent people in prison due to poor police work or unreliable drug field testing.

U.S. Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit ruledTwo Atlanta officers were notified last week by Ju’zema goldring that they aren’t entitled to qualified immunity in a civil suit brought against them for malign prosecution. Goldring claims that the officers falsely charged her with jaywalking, cocaine trafficking and other charges based upon a field testing of powdery substance in a stress ball in her purse.

Goldring spent almost six months in Fulton County Jail because she couldn’t afford bail. TelledAccording to local media outlet NBC 46, she was often placed in solitary confinement. Furthermore, she was kept in prison for four months After A crime laboratory concluded that the powder in question was not cocaine but sand.

The 11th Circuit ruled that Atlanta officers Vladimir Henry were guilty. Juan Restrepo choked Goldring, October 10, 2015 for her alleged jaywalking. Goldring insists that she was not jaywalking. The officers brought Goldring with them to police station. They opened a stress ball she had in her bag and tested it for drugs using the Nark II field test.

As Reason reportedThese drug test kits were introduced earlier in the year by several companies. They are now used across all levels of government, including prisons and police departments. These kits detect illegal drug compounds using instant color reactions. However, the same compounds can also be found in many licit drugs. Although the test is simple, it’s still possible to make mistakes and misinterpret.

For example, in Georgia last year, a football player was taken into custody for bird poop. Positivitycocaine. In 2017, a Florida man was unfairly imprisoned after failing a field testing. His donut glaze was mistaken for meth.

In 2016, sheriff’s deputies in Monroe County, Georgia, ArrestAfter a thorough search of Dasha Fincher’s car, a baggie containing blue crystals was found. Fincher was arrested for trafficking in methamphetamines and possessing meth with the intent to distribute. A NARK II test of Fincher’s substance found a presumptive negative. Fincher spent three months in prison before a state crime lab confirmed that the substance was blue candy. 

follow-up investigationA Georgia news station discovered that NARK II produced 145 false negatives in Georgia in 2017.

In Massachusetts, over a dozen attorneys were employed last year They claimed they had been falsely chargedThe drug dealers sent the drugs to the incarcerated client, then placed them in isolation so that they could receive legal mail. Synthetic opioids can be smuggled to prison by sopping papers with the drug. Class-action Forensic investigationFollowing suit, the Massachusetts Department of Corrections challenged Nark II field test results to determine contraband and then punish inmates.

But, Goldring and Atlanta officers disagree with the findings of the field testing. Goldring states that Officer Henry “huffed & puffed” while he carried out multiple field testing on the powder. He found no color change in any of them. Henry claimed that he conducted two field tests, simultaneously breaking three of the glass ampules in the kit and shaking the powder. Henry claimed that both of the tests led to the liquid becoming a “bluish violet,” which Restrepo and Henry interpreted as an “faint positivity.”

According to the 11th Circuit, it is important that all three ampules in the Nark II kit must be broken consecutively and not simultaneously. The latter will not produce a “meaningful finding.” The opinion also states that a color change of “pink over” is a presumptive positive finding.

It was not surprising that the Goldring case results didn’t stand up to further testing. On November 17, 2015 the Georgia Bureau of Investigations determined that Goldring was not using cocaine powder. The state did not dismiss Goldring’s charges until March 21st 2016, after which she was incarcerated.

In affirming the lower court’s ruling, the 11th Circuit ruled that Henry and Restrepo were not entitled to qualified immunity in Goldring’s suit. This is because there was a real factual dispute about whether Goldring jaywalked and whether field tests had returned positive results.

However, the lawsuit, as many other court cases over these tests over the same subject, ignores the core issue which is that officers over-rely on these field tests and misinterpret these results to establish probable cause to arrest individuals and place them in jail for several months.