FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP/CBSNewYork) – A report released by the state inspector general Thursday found that problems at the Nassau County crime lab went largely undetected, were ignored, or were not properly addressed.
Ellen Biben’s report cites failures at all levels of the lab’s management and oversight.
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Biben opened an investigation earlier this year. Officials closed the lab in February when problems with evidence were detected.
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In February, 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.
Evidence in hundreds of drug cases is currently being reviewed. At least one drunken driving conviction, that of Erin Marino, 30, a teacher from Hicksville, was vacated because of issues with lab evidence.
A national accrediting agency placed the lab on probation in late 2010 for failing to meet national standards.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice issued the following statement regarding the report:
“Last December, I first learned of serious problems at the Nassau County Police Department’s crime lab. In February, after a review of the circumstances, I requested the closure of the lab to ensure the integrity of evidence my office relies upon to prosecute accused defendants. I called for an independent investigation into the lab, and Governor Cuomo appointed New York State Inspector General Ellen Biben to lead that probe. Inspector General Biben’s independent, painstaking investigation was both comprehensive and appropriately swift. This report highlights the need for an independent civilian-run crime lab, state accreditation agency reform, and offers a welcome blueprint for returning the necessary credibility to our county’s testing of forensic evidence.”
“The Inspector General’s report today details troubling failures in the lab and with the regulatory system that allowed these problems to persist for years with no notice to my office or the public. In the wake of the lab’s closure, I requested extensive retesting to ensure the integrity of convictions which relied upon evidence tested in the lab, and that process remains ongoing.
“I thank the Inspector General for her comprehensive investigation and insightful recommendations. To ensure my office remains informed about the accreditation process, I have appointed my Chief Assistant District Attorney as liaison to the New York State Forensic Science Commission. I stand ready to work with County Executive Mangano and the Office of the Medical Examiner as we move forward toward a new, state of the art, independent, civilian-run crime lab.”
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