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Nassau Crime Lab Problems May Lead To 9,000 Vacated Convictions

DA Rice Furious, Calls For Police Lab's Immediate Closure
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Erin Marino Mugshot (Credit: Nassau PD)

Erin Marino Mugshot (Credit: Nassau PD)

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MINEOLA (CBSNewYork) — The floodgates may be opening in Nassau County courts.

The first of as many as 9,000 potential defendants is seeking to have her guilty verdict overturned.

As CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reports it is all because of internal testing problems within the Nassau County Police crime lab.

A school teacher from Hicksville wants her conviction thrown out. Erin Marino, 30, is the first defendant demanding a guilty verdict be set aside — due to violations uncovered within the lab.

According to a release from Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice’s office, on June 25, 2009, Marino was driving on Glen Cove Road, failed to stop at a red light and crashed into the rear right side of a Dodge Caravan carrying a couple and their two young children. Marino had a blood-alcohol content of .19 percent at the time of the crash, more than twice the legal limit, Rice said.

She was covicted in August 2010 of aggravated vehicular assault.

“They’ve admitted that they’ve messed up the way they took the test and the law is clear when you don’t calibrate. When you don’t maintain, the evidence doesn’t come in,” defense attorney Brian Griffin said.

Nassau’s crime lab was placed on probation in December by a national accreditation agency amid allegations of shoddy work.

RELATED: DA: Errors At Nassau County Crime Lab ‘Deeply Disturbing’ | N.Y. Crime Lab On Probation After Review | Chief Of Troubled Long Island Crime Lab Reassigned

On Thursday it was revealed calibrating machines to test blood-alcohol levels hadn’t been checked in three years. The former head of the lab was subpoenaed, along with the current lab director and its forensic scientist.

Rice has demanded samples in new cases be sent to private out-of-state labs.

“Ensure that taxpayers of Nassau get what they deserve, which is a state-of-the-art lab. I call for the closure of the drug testing lab,” Rice said.

Taxpayers said they are caught in the middle, paying for new hearings. But are the defendants innocent? Prosecutors said Marino was speeding and tailgating in Glen Cove back in June of 2009 and was more than three times the legal limit when she crashed into a mother leaving her seriously injured.

“I don’t want somebody going to prison for something they didn’t do because some lab technician made a mistake,” Mineola resident Shakur Davis said.

“It is offensive to the conscience to realize that what we have been taking for granted rock-solid scientific certainty [when] urns out to be less than that,” added Alan Katz of Garden City.

Tarnished by a questionable crime, residents here acknowledge it will be tough to restore shattered public confidence.

In addition, lab officials revealed that incorrect testing of the drugs ketamine and ecstasy in nine cases may have meant some defendants faced stiffer charges than they should have.

How could this happen? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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