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State crime lab analyst cut corners for years

Prosecutors across New York had to review closed criminal cases because a now-dead forensic scientist routinely failed to perform mandatory tests and then fraudulently wrote up results, state officials said in a report released yesterday. Garry Veeder's misconduct went undetected for years because of "shoddy" supervision at the state police's Forensic Investigation Center, New York Inspector General Joseph Fisch said. 

 

Veeder committed suicide in May 2008 during the inquiry. State police said 44 district attorneys reviewed all 322 criminal cases that included findings by Veeder.  Prosecutors found no wrongful convictions, but defendants whose cases were handled by Veeder could file appeals.

State police are hiring an outside expert to conduct a full audit of the crime lab's quality assurance processes, but Harry Corbitt, superintendent of state police, said, "We are satisfied that there were no wrongful convictions, nor any miscarriages of justice."  "The violations reflect an alarming departure from the high standards we expect from every employee of the state Police Crime Laboratory System," Corbitt said in a letter responding to the report.

Kate Gurnett, a spokeswoman for Fisch, said there were two cases on Long Island, one each in Nassau and Suffolk counties, where "problems were found in evidence processed by Veeder." Neither case was overturned, however, she said. Gurnett said no problems were found in evidence processed by Veeder for use in New York City cases.

Fisch's office used outside forensic scientists to review Veeder's 322 cases. Veeder worked in the Trace Evidence Section, which deals with fibers, impression evidence such as footprints and tire tracks, and volatile chemical evidence from arson scenes.

When Veeder's errors were discovered, he told state police supervisors that his misconduct was due to poor training and supervision. Officials dismissed those claims, but the report issued Tuesday indicates the problems extended to other people at the lab

 

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