Fire evidence in temporary location during renovation - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Fire evidence in temporary location during renovation

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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - The Action News 5 Investigators were given an exclusive look Thursday inside the evidence room at the Memphis Fire Department.

Wednesday, Action News 5 showed pictures of what appeared to be a large mess inside the evidence room. The pictures were part of an October 2008 report that depicted an overcrowded and substandard evidence room, provided by a whistleblower inside the department.

"If they see those pictures, they'll realize there's no credibility associated with that particular department," the whistleblower said.

Fire Department Director Alvin Benson said the problem was identified long ago, and is being addressed.

"It's going to be new and improved per the report I actually commissioned myself," Benson said.

Thursday, the process of gutting and cleaning the permanent evidence room continued.  The renovation includes the installation of new heating and cooling unit for climate-control.  Fire Department officials say the room will be in use again by January. 

Until then, all evidence is being kept in temporary storage containers, climate-controlled by rooftop, mushroom-shaped ventilators.

We took the October 2008 report to defense attorneys Leslie Ballin and Steve Farese, who said any lawyer defending a client in a fire-related case will take issue with the evidence.

"Evidence that will be subject to scientific testing needs to be kept in a condition that scientific tests can be run properly to get a valid result," Ballin said.

"It's just as important as having a credible witness, because a piece of evidence is in fact an unspoken witness," Farese added.

"Witnesses" waiting for a day in court, but currently sitting inside storage units.

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