NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – It’s a forensic nightmare. The New York City Medical Examiner’s Office is reviewing more than 800 rape cases in which critical tests of DNA evidence may have been botched.
City officials are raising a scary question: are there rapists on the loose in New York City?
Council Speaker Christine Quinn then on Friday asked the question on many people’s minds.
“Are there potential perpetrators out there on the street, people who have raped and sexually assaulted New Yorkers who weren’t prosecuted?” Quinn told reporters, including CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.
That question came after the startling disclosure that the ME’s office is reviewing hundreds of rape cases in which one lab technician over seven years mishandled DNA evidence or overlooked results. Rape kits were contaminated.
“Eight-hundred-plus cases of DNA around rape and sexual assault. How does that happen? That isn’t one human error; that isn’t one foggy day. That’s a pattern,” Quinn said. “It’s the kind of thing you see in bad movies and you think when you see those TV shows and movies thank God it doesn’t happen, but it happened.”
During the initial investigation of 116 cases, supervisors found:
* 26 cases in which the technician failed to detect DNA evidence that was actually present
* One of those cases matched a convicted offender, who was indicted 10 years after the alleged attack
* Two other cases led to people already under suspicion
“Mishandling of rape and sexual assault evidence is a re-victimization of rape victims. It’s like raping people twice,” Quinn said.
Attorney Barry Sheck is a member of the New York Forensic Science Commission, which polices DNA testing practices in the state. He said there has to be a root cause analysis done to see exactly how the test were botched for such a long time, asking questions like:
“How could this have happened? Is it a supervisory problem? Is this a more general thing or just one individual that is competent? But obviously, if it’s somebody missing these stains and engaging in conduct not adequate for so long there’s gonna be a supervisory problem,” Sheck said.
The City Council is so concerned it has scheduled an emergency oversight hearing for Jan. 22.
District attorneys in all five boroughs have been notified of the problem.
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