Reporting Sophia Hall
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice and County Executive Edward Mangano announced Friday that the entire Nassau County crime lab has been shut down during an investigation into a series of errors.
Rice dropped the bombshell on Friday, reports CBS 2′s Jennifer McLogan.
“Upon my request, the county executive has ordered the immediate closure of the remaining sections of the crime lab,” Rice said.
The total shuttering of the lab came just after its former director testified that his supervisors knew months — if not years — ago about inaccuracies with the lab’s testing of drugs and apparently failed to act.
“I think it’s too early to use words such as a cover-up,” Rice said.
“You have to investigate who knew, when they knew, whether testing continued,” Mangano added.
They said police officials apparently knew examiners were producing inaccurate measurements in drug cases before December, when a national accreditation agency placed the lab on probation for a second time, citing shoddy work and cutting corners. Violations in the testing of drugs Ketamine and ecstasy may have meant some defendants faced stiffer charges than they should have.
“You look at the faces of the county executive and district attorney and that tells you it’s a complete and total nightmare for them,” said Marc Gann, president of the Nassau County Bar Association.
The lab’s lapses are calling into question evidence used to prosecute defendants in past and current criminal cases. At least 16 motions have been filed seeking to dismiss or overturn convictions.
- The first of as many as 9,000 potential defendants is seeking to have her guilty verdict overturned because of problems with the lab.
Erin Marino, 30, a teacher from Hicksville, is the first defendant demanding a guilty verdict be set aside — due to violations uncovered within the lab.
She was convicted 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.
Taxpayers also wonder if jail doors will be thrown open.
“Get the right people who are covering this up in jail, and the people who are in jail for no reason, out,” said Sal Alvarado of Mineola.
“Let’s get to the root of what these problems were and what can be done to correct them,” added Pat Novak of Garden City.
Rice said drug testing was compromised, but that there was no evidence of wrongdoing in blood, fingerprints and ballistics.
Until confidence and credibility are restored the crime lab testing will be outsourced. The county said it plans to build a new, state-of-the-art crime lab facility in New Cassel at Nassau’s Public Safety Center — and hire experts from the private sector to help run it.
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.
Should those convicted following tests done at the lab have their convictions overturned? Comment Below