Text of Nassau Criminal Courts Bar Association letter to DA Kathleen Rice
December 9, 2010
Nassau County District Attorney’s Office
262 Old Country Road
Mineola, New York 11501
DELIVERED BY HAND
District Attorney Rice,
I am writing to you on behalf of the Criminal Courts Bar Association of Nassau County regarding the recent developments pertaining to the Nassau County Police Crime Laboratory. We, like so many others, are deeply concerned with the recent audit by ASCLD which cited numerous serious problems with the police crime laboratory, and which ultimately resulted in the decision to have them placed on probation with a directive to immediately correct these deficiencies. We are also aware that a panel from the New York State Forensic Commission has voted to unanimously send a letter calling on your office, the Nassau County Police Department and Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano to take quick action and address “root causes” of the problems that exist.
We believe, that to fairly and objectively address these problems, an independent commission should be formed to oversee all collective measures to ensure they truly resolve the problems. This independent commission should investigate the depths of the specific problems that exist, the length of time that these issues have existed, and the impact that these issues may have had on any individual case here in Nassau County. We believe that the commission should be comprised of all three segments of the criminal justice system. It should include representatives from the District Attorney’s Office, the defense bar – both private and Legal Aid, and a retired member of the judiciary. Based upon the fact that outside agencies like ASCLD and the New York State Forensic Commission are already involved, we believe that the commission should be made up of members of the Nassau County legal community, since they are the ones who most directly deal with the cases and the individuals that may be affected. In addition, we welcome the inclusion and input of the County Executive’s office. By allowing individuals from all three segments of the criminal justice system to be involved, we can best ensure that fairness and justice are attained. The investigation into these problems should be completely transparent and thoroughin order to restore confidence in our criminal justice system for the citizens of Nassau County. The main goals of the commission are to ensure that there were no wrongful convictions as a result of these lapses, and to expediously remedy all problems to protect against future injustice.
Further, since the depth of the problems are unknown and as they remain un-remedied, we are demanding that you immediately cease and desist from using this laboratory for any prosecution that you will be handling until each and every issue has been resolved and the laboratory is removed from probationary status. To do otherwise would invite suspect convictions at best, and potentially wrongful convictions at worst. In the interim, we are insisting that your office utilize another laboratory, either from a neighboring county or of the State, to conduct all forensic testing of any kind. Being that your office is fully aware of the problems that exist, we believe that you would join us in this demand so that no case is prosecuted using evidence or test results that are questionable in any way and that the ends of justice are served.
We would like to sit down with members from your office, the Police Department and the County Executive’s office as soon as possible to discuss this more fully and to determine what is being done to rectify these problems. The entire legal community is entitled to answers going forward as to how to avoid such problems in the future and to ensure that justice for all still applies in Nassau County.
We thank you in advance for your time and consideration of our demands and requests and look forward to hearing from you very soon.
Very truly yours,
William J. Kephart, Esq.
Cc: County Executive Edward Mangano
One West Street
Mineola, New York 11501
DELIVERED BY HAND