Friday, March 23, 2012

Anatomy of a crime (lab)

A source who shall remain nameless provided me with some very interesting reading material after reading my post about the accreditation of crime labs. It would appear that the Nassau County Crime Lab is the model agency for how not to run a crime lab according to both ASCLD/LAB and the New York State Inspector General.

You see, the Nassau County Crime Lab managed to find itself on probation from ASCLD/LAB on not one, but two, occasions. They earned their spot in crime lab time out thanks to incompetence, lack of communication and non-existent leadership.

It is hard to comprehend the magnitude of the problems out on Long Island. And apparently no one at the crime lab thought to let the Nassau County DA's Office know about their transgressions (if the DA is to be believed). It goes without saying that defense attorneys handling cases were kept in the dark as well.

In large measure, the problems are rooted in the way crime labs operate. Far from being an independent testing body, crime labs are under the control of law enforcement agencies. Crime labs were set up so that the police could test evidence to assist in making their cases. There is no objectivity in a crime lab. The mission is to produce admissible evidence in order to obtain convictions.

The courts allow these purveyors of pseudo-science to peddle their wares to juries as if they are independent, objective analysts. Should the defense wish to provide a counter-point to the state's dog-and-pony show someone is going to have to foot the bill. Then the testimony is characterized as being bought and paid for by the defendant. The implicit assumption is that the evidence presented by the crime lab analyst is presumed reliable unless proven otherwise.

This report should open the public's eyes about that very dangerous presumption.

Investigation Into the Nassau County Police Department Forensic Evidence Bureau

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