FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Something’s Rotten in the Crime Lab

by ANTHONY PAPA

On February 18, 2011 the Nassau County Crime lab was closed down because of grave concerns about the integrity of testing evidence.  A multitude of errors were found to be committed that jeopardized thousands of cases. It was estimated that 3,000 drug convictions might have to be reviewed.   This followed the labs probation initiated by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) on December 10, 2010 when an inspection report was issued condemning its practices.  It was the second time in 4 years that the lab was put on probation.

The closing of the lab brought shock waves to the office of District Attorney Kathleen Rice, who focused on damage control. She had claimed she even did not know of that the Nassau County Crime Lab was under suspension. But soon after, the truth, severity and magnitude of the problem was revealed. Thus Governor Andrew Cuomo was forced to step in to protect the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system ,he appointed Inspector General Ellen Biben to lead an investigation.

Just last week  Inspector General Biben issued a scathing 170 page report criticizing officials — including the police department — and blaming District Attorney Kathleen Rice for not knowing about the problems earlier.  In the report I.G. Biben scolds Nassau County officials, arguing that the lab suffered from “weak leadership, a dysfunctional quality management system, analysts with inconsistent training and qualifications, and outdated and incomplete testing procedures.”

 

“The chronic failures of the Nassau County crime lab deprived Nassau County, the criminal justice system and the public of their right to have complete and unfettered confidence in forensic testing,” I.G. Biben told the Associated Press. But the inspector general’s most scathing criticism was for the police department itself. The report said problems were “exacerbated” because top police officials were not “appropriately attentive” to the Forensics Evidence Bureau, even though there were many warning signs of failures.

 

Biben’s report is important, but the fact remains that the report raises more questions that require urgent attention. First, no one has been held accountable for the labs demise and the report states that despite the lab’s problems, no one had committed any criminal wrongdoing. Second – and most importantly — the report states along with its a press release that as a result of the errors, as many as 10 percent of all criminal drug tests performed at the lab were problematic.  In reality what this means is that potentially several hundred cases have been tainted by the testing procedures used by the lab. What is going to happen to the individuals who are currently serving prison sentences based on problematic evidence?  Will justice be served and their cases be re-evaluated? Or will their cases be swept under the rug and be forgotten through the rhetoric of crime and politics?

 

No one should be rotting away in prison sentenced from a crime based on tainted evidence. Governor Cuomo who has supported Rockefeller drug law reform in the past, should take the next step to ensure that justice is realized not just in the crime labs of Nassau County, but in the prisons where Nassau County residents may now be incarcerated as a result of this growing scandal.

Anthony Papa is the author of 15 to Life and the Manager of Media Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance.

Anthony Papa is the Manager of Media and Artist Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance and the author of This Side of Freedom: Life After Lockdown.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
Farhang Jahanpour
America’s Woes, Europe’s Responsibilities
Joseph Natoli
March Madness Outside the Basketball Court
Bill Willers
Volunteerism; Charisma; the Ivy League Stranglehold: a Very Brief Trilogy
Bruce Mastron
Slaughtered Arabs Don’t Count
Pauline Murphy
Unburied Truth: Exposing the Church’s Iron Chains on Ireland
Ayesha Khan
The Headscarf is Not an Islamic Compulsion
Ron Jacobs
Music is Love, Music is Politics
Christopher Brauchli
Prisoners as Captive Customers
Robert Koehler
The Mosque That Disappeared
Franklin Lamb
Update from Madaya
Dan Bacher
Federal Scientists Find Delta Tunnels Plan Will Devastate Salmon
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Gig Economy: Which Side Are You On?
Louis Proyect
What Caused the Holodomor?
Max Mastellone
Seeking Left Unity Through a Definition of Progressivism
Charles R. Larson
Review: David Bellos’s “Novel of the Century: the Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables”
David Yearsley
Ear of Darkness: the Soundtracks of Steve Bannon’s Films
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail