For the second time since the Nassau Police Crime Laboratory was closed in February over concerns about inaccurate testing, a judge has thrown out a drunken driving verdict, saying lab tests used to convict the defendant were unreliable.
Nassau District Court Judge Sharon Gianelli said in a written decision that if problems at the crime lab had been known in September 2010, when Jaclyn Conneely, of Broad Channel, Queens, went to trial on misdemeanor drunken driving charges, it is likely that the verdict would have been different.
"Given the fact that the newly discovered evidence relates to systematic Lab errors over a period of many years which have resulted in the indefinite closure of the Lab, and which calls into question the integrity of the testing results that have emanated from the Lab . . . the court finds that the newly discovered evidence is of such character as to create a probability that, had such evidence been received at trial, the verdict would have been more favorable to the defendant," Gianelli wrote in the July decision.
Rice spokesman John Byrne noted that Conneely's blood-alcohol reading was .13 percent, over the legal limit of .08 percent. He noted that Conneely took a breath test as well as a blood test after she was stopped in Hempstead. The lab processed the blood test.
"The evidence is reliable, and we are appealing Judge Gianelli's decision," Byrne said.
Conneely's lawyer, Timothy Aldridge, of Levittown, did not return calls Friday. No new trial date has been set.
County officials shuttered the lab in February, two months after it was placed on probation by an accrediting agency because of concerns over the handling of evidence and other deficiencies. State Inspector General Ellen Biben is investigating the lab and is expected to release a report in the coming weeks.
This week, Rice announced that she will expand retesting of drug evidence handled by the lab to include misdemeanors as well as felonies, because a review of some cases raised new concerns that evidence may have been cross-contaminated, which happens when testing equipment is not properly cleaned of drug residue.
In March, Nassau County Judge George Peck ordered a new trial for Erin Marino, who was found guilty of driving drunk in June 2009 when she slammed into the rear of a minivan, injuring three people. Prosecutors are appealing Peck's decision.
Marino's lawyer, Brian Griffin, of Garden City, said Gianelli's decision is just one more indication that the lab evidence is unreliable.
"Justice requires accurate and reliable scientific results. It has become overwhelmingly clear that the Nassau County crime lab produced neither," he said.