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Nassau crime lab evidence retested; verdicts likely to stand, adviser says

A file photo of the Nassau County police

A file photo of the Nassau County police crime lab in Mineola. Credit: NCPD

Nassau County has completed retesting criminal evidence called into question by mistakes made at its shuttered police crime lab, and results suggest the outcomes of cases already decided will not be reversed, a county adviser said Wednesday.

"No one's going to get out of jail," said Michael Balboni, head of the lab advisory board.

The results still must be reviewed by county consultants.

Nassau has received bids to build a new crime lab -- which is now under the auspices of the medical examiner -- at the county's New Cassel public safety center. Bids were in the $25 million range, Balboni said. Currently, the new forensic lab is operating in the medical examiner's office.

The new lab has already taken on much of the work of the police lab and can now perform fingerprint and drug evidence testing after being accredited for those specialties last spring.

After evidence-testing mistakes caused the crime lab's 2011 shutdown, the state inspector general recommended better monitoring of lab work and stricter procedures to prevent future problems.

But a mistake last month prompted Maureen McCormick, chief of the vehicular crimes bureau in District Attorney Kathleen Rice's office, to send a letter to 31 attorneys about what "appears to be an isolated incident" in which a lab analyst switched two blood alcohol samples and reports.

McCormick wrote that she had requested retesting. This retesting is separate from that of evidence from the shuttered lab. An assistant district attorney discovered the mistake.

"We hold firmly that the integrity of lab results, which should be reliably error-free, is critical to making sure that our justice system is fair and effective," Rice spokesman Shams Tarek said.

Joseph Avella, the lab's chief toxicologist, said there has been a "review of all 2010 and 2013 blood alcohol cases and we found no discrepancies." Avella said the analyst who switched the samples has been removed from performing that type of testing.

"There should be some procedures and processes in place so that a lab doesn't produce incorrect results against the wrong person," said Garden City attorney Brian Griffin

The lab notified state officials about the blood alcohol sample mistake within 24 hours of detection and is expected to provide an update to the state forensic commission at an Oct. 16 meeting.

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