Broward County Medical Examiner Office’s chief toxicologist is under criminal investigation by the Broward Sheriff’s Office. This investigation could be potentially disastrous for hundreds of criminal cases wherein the toxicologist served as an expert witness. The chief toxicologist, Gary Kunsman, has been at the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office almost a decade and is suspected of evidence tampering and theft of a controlled substance. Both of these offenses are considered “crimes of dishonesty” that can be used against him if he tries to testify against criminal defendants.
Kunsman has not been charged yet with any specific crime, but prosecutors are still obligated by law to disclose the investigation to any attorneys representing criminal defendants where Kunsman could be called as an expert witness. Broward State Attorney’s Office spokeswoman, Paula McMahon, stated the following about the investigation: “Our office is reviewing every case and will follow up appropriately … [w]e are sending out what we call Brady notices in every case where he is listed as a witness.” The State Attorney’s Office could not confirm the number of cases affected by this investigation, but the Broward Public Defender’s Office stated that it is currently defending ninety-four cases in which Kunsman is an expert witness, a number that does not include cases wherein the defendant is represented by private criminal defense counsel. Broward County Public Defender, Gordon Weeks, stated the following on the matter: “We’re going to have to sift through and determine what were the allegations [against Kunsman] and what was his role in those cases of our clients … [i]f the crime he committed is theft, that’s a crime of dishonesty, and that calls his integrity and credibility into question as a witness.” Defense attorney Bill Gelin stated that “[w]e need to know immediately the full extent of this investigation … [t]ampering has serious implications for the accused in all cases, especially in the most serious crimes. If we don’t know what this is about, egregious miscarriages of justice can occur.”
Kunsman’s toxicology testimony usually plays a pivotal role in criminal cases since attorneys generally use toxicology reports from the Medical Examiner’s office to assess whether the defendant or the alleged victims were using or impaired by alcohol or controlled substances during the commission of crimes or when victims die under unusual circumstances. The Medical Examiner’s office helps with investigations involving sexual battery, poisoning, chemicals, DUIs, and more.
Regarding Kunsman’s background, he also served as a toxicologist in Oakland County, Michigan. Additionally, he told the Daily Tribune in 2012 that three to five percent of the cases in Oakland County involved heroin where the deaths happened so fast that the victims still had the syringe in their arm. Kunsman also claims to have earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Virginia Tech and then earned a doctorate degree from Louisiana State University. After, he was a fellow on the American Board of Forensic Toxicology.
The outcome of Kunsman’s investigation could change the outcome of many criminal cases. Weeks stated that “[t]here are individuals that are under the pressure of a charge from the state for significant punishment, for significant years in prison or facing them … and this individual, their testimony will be critical in order for the state to prove that.”
Attorney Don Pumphrey, Jr. is a former prosecutor, former law enforcement officer, and a successful and experienced criminal defense attorney. Don has achieved over 100 not guilty verdicts at trial and over 2,000 dismissals.