Suffolk Crime Lab credentials questioned in murder trial

Investigators comb a Central Islip house where three Investigators comb a Central Islip house where three bodies were found by crew responding to a fire. (Aug. 11, 2009) Photo Credit: James Carbone

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The defense attorney for one of the men on trial for three murders questioned the value of the Suffolk County Crime Lab's accreditation Friday.

During cross-examination by attorney Daniel Russo of Westhampton, forensic scientist Thomas Zaveski acknowledged that inspectors from the American Society of Criminal Laboratory Directors-Laboratory Accreditation Board only checked files selected by the crime lab itself.

"You pick the files?" Russo asked.

"I gather the files," Zaveski answered.

Although the inspectors check the lab's security and how evidence is handled within the lab, Zaveski said he had no knowledge of whether inspectors do that at a Suffolk police warehouse where the lab often stores its evidence.

Earlier this week, Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla introduced an evidence-tracking report to show how thoroughly evidence movement is documented within the lab.

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"That document will tell us nothing about the handling of evidence by Suffolk County police officers or detectives, right?" Russo asked Zaveski Friday.

"That is correct," the witness replied.

The same document indicated one piece of evidence entered by the lab the day before Zaveski said he retrieved it from the crime scene.

Friday was his sixth day on the witness stand at the trial of Hasan Vaughan and Thomas Singletary, both 36 and of Central Islip.

They are charged with first-degree murder and arson in the Aug. 11, 2009, deaths of Vaughan's girlfriend, Katrice Daniels, 31; her sister, Mykier Daniels, 28; and Mykier Daniels' friend, Louis Calixto Jr., 19. The victims were tortured, stabbed, shot and strangled before the Central Islip house was burned down.

Russo and Vaughan's attorney, William Keahon of Hauppauge, has tried to cast doubt on the independence of the crime lab from the police department and how carefully evidence is handled when it's out of the lab's hands.

Zaveski acknowledged that half of the bloodstain evidence from the crime scene was stored not in the lab's walk-in freezer for such evidence, but at the police property bureau warehouse in Yaphank.

Russo asked why the lab kept biological evidence in a freezer.

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"As a measure to keep them fresh," Zaveski said.

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