The Nassau County Crime Lab on Long Island, New York was shut down last week as part of an investigation into how drug evidence was being tested. The move could result in prisoners seeking overturns on their convictions, pointed out Reuters.
This is just one of other moves affecting the Nassau County Crime Lab that has some questioning the validity of the lab’s work. For instance, said The Wall Street Journal, the lab was placed on probation two months ago and, most recently, a former official there testified that he was aware of problems at the Nassau County Crime Lab as far back as 2006.
About 9,000 cases from 2007 to 2010 are being reviewed; some are being retested, according to Nassau County, N.Y. District Attorney Kathleen Rice, said Reuters. Also, it seems there was a potential cover-up that is being investigated as part of the probe. Some Nassau County Crime Lab supervisors may have known there were issues with drug testing this past September, said Rice, which was three months prior to a report released by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors. That report, said Reuters, is what prompted the probe and placed the lab on its recent Probation.
“In light of the information about the supervisors, I requested the County Executive immediately shut down all sections of the Crime Lab until our review is complete,” Rice said, adding that the shut down is a “precautionary measure,” quoted Reuters.
As of the latest release, six of nine cases that involved the drugs Ecstasy and Ketamine were found to have been incorrectly tested and the defendants in those cases incorrectly charged, said Rice, explaining that some were charged with felonies when their charges should have been misdemeanors, said Rice, reported Reuters. Rice also said that others inmates could “possibly” see an overturn of their convictions.
To date, 16 lawyers have filed motions on behalf of their clients challenging the evidence, with lawyers pointing out that plea deals could have been made on the evidence presented at the time, wrote Reuters. Lawyers are also requesting lower bail amounts on clients who have been held on questionable data, added the Journal.
According to Rice, the shutdown does not affect current Nassau County cases, reported Reuters, but ballistics, fingerprinting, DWI testing, and drug lab work will be handled elsewhere, said The Wall Street Journal. Some of the work is being outsourced to an independent agency “NMS Labs” that will forensically review thousands of narcotics cases, said the Journal.
Last week, James Granelle, a former director at the lab, testified that he was aware of, and reported, problems to his superiors in 2006, said the Journal, which added that the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors put the lab on probation that year, as well. Information about the citation was never made public, some key county executives were unaware of the move said the Journal about the prior probation.
Rice and Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey state they were unaware of the problems until December 2010 after the lab was on its second probation, wrote the Journal.