A file photo of Erin Marino, 30, outside a Mineola...

A file photo of Erin Marino, 30, outside a Mineola courtroom. (Feb. 17, 2011) Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

In each of these cases, prosecutors say there's nothing to suggest that police lab errors affected the integrity of the case evidence in question.


Last August, Marino, 30, of Hicksville, was convicted of drunken driving and aggravated vehicular assault for slamming into a minivan and causing injuries to three people. In December, 11 days after the Nassau police crime lab was placed on probation, she became the first defendant to request that her conviction be overturned because of the lab's problems.

Marino's attorney, Brian Griffin, said in court papers that the conviction should be thrown out because a report on the police lab's work found the machine used to test the level of alcohol in her blood had not been maintained properly. The minivan's driver was seriously hurt in the crash, prosecutors said. On March 7, Nassau Judge George Peck ordered a new trial for Marino.

Prosecutors have promised to appeal.


Farr, 34, of Garden City, convicted of striking and killing two brothers on Hempstead Turnpike while he was driving drunk, says in a motion the blood evidence against him is not reliable.

"We believe in the justice system, but we also believe James deserves a fair trial," said Farr's mother, Debbie Vannoy, of West Virginia. "With all the new information that's come up, we think the jury needs to know about it."

At trial, a jury acquitted Farr of second-degree manslaughter -- the most serious charge he faced -- but convicted the ex-Marine of criminally negligent homicide.

Now Attorney Gregory Grizopoulos has asked County Judge David Sullivan to set aside the verdict on the grounds that Farr's blood test, which showed that he had a blood-alcohol content of .18 percent,more than two times the legal limit four hours after the crash, is not reliable.

Jurors did not know about the lab problems because Farr's trial ended in November, before the accreditation group's report. In his motion, Grizopoulos said there's reason to believe that if a jury had known about the problems at the lab, they would have rendered a verdict more favorable to Farr.

Prosecutors have said, while an instrument used in testing blood alcohol had not been calibrated since 2007 as required, it was found to be working properly when it was calibrated after the lab problems were discovered last December. Therefore, they said, that failure did not affect test results.

Grizopoulos conceded at trial that Farr was drunk, though he did not concede that the blood test results were accurate.

Brothers Thomas and Joseph Occiogrosso, of Riverhead and East Meadow, respectively, died after Farr plowed his sport utility vehicle into them on the turnpike in East Meadow on Aug. 23, 2008. He is free on $175,000 bond pending sentencing.


In a hand-printed legal motion, Joseph Wilson, 46, of West Hempstead, says he should be released from the Bare Hill Correctional Facility in upstate Malone.

Wilson pleaded guilty to selling crack cocaine in Hempstead in 2007 and agreed to enter a drug treatment program. But after failing to show up several times and testing positive for cocaine, he was sentenced to up to 4 years in prison in 2010.

In his motion, Wilson, who is representing himself, cited recent statements by District Attorney Kathleen Rice about the lab. "From Kathleen Rice's statement it is clear that at least one part of the lab had evidence that was compromised; and that part is the part that handled drug samples," Wilson stated.

Joel Rudin, a Manhattan attorney known for wrongful-conviction work, said the odds are against inmates like Wilson, who represent themselves.

"Except maybe in death penalty cases, at least 95 percent of criminal defendants do not have access to legal assistance" after they go to prison, Rudin said.


A lawyer for Germaine McCants, 27, a prisoner at the upstate Franklin Correctional Facility, wants a judge to set aside his 2007 felony conviction for cocaine possession because of revelations about sloppy procedures at the lab.

Attorney Virginia Conroy of Rockville Centre said that before McCants went on trial, the district attorney should have revealed reports and letters criticizing the lab in 2005 and placing it on probation in 2006.

However, Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice has said she was unaware the lab was on probation in 2006.

Conroy has filed a motion asking Acting Supreme Court Justice Joseph Calabrese to vacate McCants' conviction. On June 22, 2007, McCants began serving a sentence of up to 12 years in prison.

"All of the charges Mr. McCants was convicted of required proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the substances subject to the charges had a chemical identity of cocaine," Conroy said in her motion. Conroy declined to comment on the case.


Richard Thrasher, 29, of Valley Stream, was admitted into a drug diversion program after pleading guilty to felony cocaine possession in January 2010. But he was arrested again during the year on a drug charge in Maryland. That case is still pending, according to court records.

Now Thrasher is challenging his original Nassau County guilty plea, saying the tests done to determine whether he possessed cocaine, and how much, are not reliable in light of the mismanagement that has since been discovered at the Nassau lab.

If the charge is either thrown out or reduced to a misdemeanor, it would drop the amount of time he faces behind bars on the Nassau charge from a maximum of 2 years down to less than a year.

Thrasher's lawyer, Mahmoud Rabah, of Forest Hills, said the weight of the drugs was essential in Thrasher's case. Even a small discrepancy on the weight of the drugs would mean the difference between felony and misdemeanor charges against Thrasher.

"When the D.A. said the lab tested the substance, it was cocaine, and it was this weight, we are expected to believe that," Rabah said. "We relied upon that representation. Then the lab story blew up."

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