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Derek Clark

Other Nevada exonerations
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Shortly before 3 a.m. on August 15, 2010, security officials at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino summoned Las Vegas Metropolitan Police to investigate three men who were suspected of selling drugs outside the casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

By the time police arrived, security guards had handcuffed 18-year-old Derek Clark. The two other men fled. Police confiscated two small plastic bags of white powder. When a field test was positive for cocaine, Clark was arrested, although he protested that the powder was crushed aspirin.

Clark was charged with possession of cocaine. On February 15, 2012, Clark pled no contest to a charge of misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to 30 hours of community service.

In October 2016, ProPublica, an independent nonprofit investigative news organization, published an article titled, “Unreliable and Unchallenged.” The article detailed how in 2014 the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department had documented how field tests had produced false positive test results. At times, the results were wrong and at other times, officers misinterpreted negative results as positive findings.

However, the department continued to use the unreliable form of testing, the report said.

Following the publication of the article, the newly formed Conviction Integrity Unit at the Clark County District Attorney’s Office began reviewing cases cited in the 2014 report as having erroneous field test findings based on subsequent laboratory tests that were negative for the presence of controlled substances.

A total of five cases, including Clark’s case, were identified in which the defendants had pled guilty to the charges and subsequent laboratory tests were negative for the presence of any controlled substance.

On March 6, 2017, the prosecution filed a motion to vacate Clark’s conviction and then dismissed the case. The other four cases also were vacated and dismissed.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 6/30/2020
Last Updated: 6/30/2020
State:Nevada
County:Clark
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2010
Convicted:2012
Exonerated:2017
Sentence:Community service
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:18
Contributing Factors:False or Misleading Forensic Evidence
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No