Report reveals a history of negligence and fraud in New York City crime lab


New York City crime lab technicians were engaging in incompetent and fraudulent testing as recently as 2002, according to a report released yesterday by the state inspector general. The report reveals that sloppy drug testing by criminalists in the lab could have contributed to wrongful convictions or unnecessarily high sentences for defendants in hundreds of drug cases. The testing problems could have included “dry labbing,” – or reporting test results when a sample was never tested at all.

Since the lab took five years to initiate a review of the problems in 2002, evidence from hundreds of questionable cases has been destroyed, officials said.

“The integrity of evidence is a cornerstone of law enforcement,” (New York Inspector General Kristine) Hamann said yesterday. “These lapses were a threat not only to the prosecution of drug crimes, but to the public’s trust in our criminal justice system.”…

Peter Neufeld, a lawyer and co-founder of the Innocence Project, a legal group based in New York that uses DNA evidence to represent people it thinks have been wrongly convicted, said the inspector general’s findings “undermine God knows how many convictions” in drug cases. He said he expected many motions to dismiss or to amend the severity of sentences that are based on the amount or weight of the illegal substance tied to a defendant.

Read the full story here

. (New York Times, 12/04/07)

Forensic science misconduct has contributed to dozens of the 209 wrongful convictions overturned by DNA testing to date, and the Innocence Project has called for better crime lab oversight nationwide, ensuring that standards of testing, accreditation and training are followed. Read more about crime lab oversight reforms here.

More background on yesterday’s report:

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