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Long IslandNassau

2008 letter: Nassau lab needs fixes

An undated file photo from the forensic evidence

An undated file photo from the forensic evidence lab at Police Department headquarters in Mineola. Photo Credit: NCPD

A 2008 letter released Wednesday by a Nassau County judge said county officials had to "promptly" address violations at the Nassau Police Crime lab more than two years before those officials say they were notified of the problems.

The unsigned two-page letter was written by the then-head of the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, Denise O'Donnell. It referred to a 2007 report by a national crime lab accrediting agency that found the Nassau lab, which has since been closed, did not comply with standards in eight "essential" areas. It urged "regular management review" to ensure future compliance.

"The Division of Criminal Justice Services remains concerned about the historically high number of noncompliance items cited by ASCLD/LAB on the report and over the past four years. I would like to meet with you and other Nassau County officials to discuss the issues at the lab," the letter says.

The letter was addressed to then County Executive Thomas Suozzi, and copied to Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice and then-Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey. Suozzi said he doesn't recall receiving the letter. Rice and Mulvey both say they never got it and learned of problems at the lab for the first time in December 2010, when the lab was put on probation a second time.

Rice points to a note on the second page of one copy produced by the Division of Criminal Justice Services that says "Not sent, 10/28/08, filed."

A Rice spokesman said, "Overwhelming evidence shows that this letter was never sent or received by the DA's office."

But Garden City lawyer Brian Griffin, who asked the judge to release the letter in the case against his client, Erin Marino, said he still believes Rice and Mulvey received the letter.

"It's not surprising that this copy was not signed, as it was computer-generated," Griffin said. "The signed copies would be in the possession of the recipients." Marino's drunken driving conviction was the first to be overturned based on "potentially tainted evidence" at the lab.

In March, Nassau County Court Judge George Peck, who presided over that case, ordered a new trial, saying the lab's historic problems were newly discovered evidence.

Besides Rice and Mulvey, crime lab director Det. Lt. James Granelle is copied on the letter. Granelle has testified he knew of the 2008 problems at the lab and alerted supervisors.

Meanwhile, acting State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Calabrese released a decision finding lab problems are not a reason to grant a man serving a 12-year prison sentence a new trial. The decision said a critical report by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors isn't "newly discovered evidence" against Germaine McCants.

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