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Special Prosecutor Sought To Probe L.I. Crime Lab

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Nassau County Crime Lab (credit: File Photo)

Nassau County Crime Lab (credit: File Photo)

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MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A New York district attorney was seeking a special prosecutor to investigate possible wrongdoing at a now-closed crime lab.

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said she will ask court approval to appoint Eric Dinallo to lead an investigation. Dinallo is the former state insurance superintendent.

“Mr. Dinallo has been a leading investigative attorney and regulator at the center of some of New York’s most innovative and important legal cases, and throughout his career he’s been renowned for his legal acumen and his uncompromising integrity,” said Rice. “He’s the ideal special prosecutor and I am supremely confident that he will get to the bottom of what happened at the crime lab so our county’s legal system can ensure the fairness and integrity I believe is required of it.”

Rice said her office could launch the probe, but it should conducted by someone strictly impartial.

“We’re talking about an entire lab and its supervisory structure — all the way up the command chain that may be implicated in whatever is found by the special prosecutor,” Rice told reporters including CBS 2’s John Slattery.

The lab was closed last week. Authorities said they’d learned that police supervisors may have been aware since September that errors were occurring with the analysis of drug evidence.

The findings could lead to exoneration or a reduction in charges for some people convicted of drug offenses.

“The breadth of this could be huge,” Marc Gann of the County Bar Association said.

Gann said at first it was thought just to involve ecstasy and ketamine drug cases — not anymore.

“It could involve cocaine, heroin. It could involve blood work or blood-alcohol content, which would involve all the DWI cases,” he said.

“Since my office was made aware of the problems at the crime lab, we have been aggressive in our pursuit of the truth and it is out of a continuation of that fairness that I have decided to place future decision-making on this case in the hands of someone completely uninvolved with our local criminal justice system,” Rice said.

The lab was placed on probation by a national accrediting agency in December. While the full scope is unclear, defense lawyers said hundreds of arrests and criminal convictions could be challenged.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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