The NYC medical examiner’s office, responsible for processing DNA crime scene evidence, is reviewing the evidence from more than 800 rape cases after it was discovered a technician may have mishandled samples. According to the NY Times, that technician no longer works for the lab, but her impact is having far-reaching effects.
So far, 26 cases have been identified where the technician failed to detect biological evidence (like saliva, blood, or semen) where the evidence actually existed.
The evidence is all tied to sexual assault cases. The technician in question had two very specific job duties: first to cut off the tips of cotton swabs that were used to retrieve biological evidence from rape victims’ bodies and place those in test tubes. She was also tasked with looking over clothing from the victim, identifying stains and collecting evidence there. It was in this second step of her duties that she seemed to fall short.
“Sometimes she overlooked stains, the review found. At other times, she identified stains, but then botched the chemical test used to detect semen and reported finding nothing.”
The investigation into this technician’s work has been going on for some time—more than two years to be exact. Supervisors reviewing her work would get to what they thought was the end of her work, only to find the problems went further.
Fortunately, officials say the work only involved false negatives, not false positives. In other words, no one was wrongfully convicted on the basis of her mistakes.
The problems were discovered when the unidentified technician wanted to become a DNA analyst and enrolled in the more difficult training. It was there that supervisors saw her deficient practices and moved to look at her work of the past.
In addition to failing to identify evidence when it was present, the technician commingled evidence from 19 different rape investigations, putting the evidence from one case, for example, in the other case’s envelope.
For their part, the medical examiner’s office says they are leaving no stone unturned in the investigation.
‘We have an enormous public trust to produce accurate results, and we have accordingly dedicated ourselves to do the most comprehensive review of her cases,” said a lawyer for the office, Mimi Mairs.
When you are accused of a crime, you expect the evidence in your case will be handled with the utmost integrity. Your future, quite literally, depends on it. Whether you are accused of a sexual assault or a drug distribution offense, how the evidence is handled or mishandled can have a significant effect on the outcome of your case.
If you’re charged with a crime in New York, call us today to discuss your case.