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Forensic Lab Failures, Part 2: New York City

Posted by Kevin Trombold DUI Defense Attorney | Jun 03, 2014 | 0 Comments

Forensic Lab Failures
This is the latest in a series about failures in forensic medical examiner laboratories throughout the United States. Many people believe that these labs are always accurate and unbiased, but this belief is undermined by the number of scandals which have been reported at these facilities in recent years.

In January of last year, New York City's medical examiner's office announced that it was reviewing more than 800 rape cases between 2002 and 2011. The probe stems from the discovery that a lab technician who resigned in 2011 mishandled DNA evidence. This issue was first reported in the New York Times.

More than two dozen instances have already been unearthed where 55-year old Serrita Mitchell failed to detect DNA evidence that was present in these samples. In 19 other cases, the DNA evidence was comingled with similar evidence in other cases. In one case, the discovery of Mitchell's error led to an arrest in connection with a ten-year old rape file.

But the inappropriate behavior in the New York City lab wasn't limited to one lab tech. In April of that year, a high-ranking deputy in the same office resigned after it became known that she didn't follow departmental protocol in at least two instances. Dr. Theresa Caragine, who helped pioneer a controversial DNA testing method, reportedly had two staffers disagree with her test results; but instead of taking the case to the technical leader of the department, she simply overruled the staffers.

City officials insist that no innocent people have been convicted based on the wrongdoing discovered at the medical examiner's office. But given these revelations, it's difficult to place a great deal of faith in what their lab results may be in any future case.

About the Author

Kevin Trombold DUI Defense Attorney

Highly rated by former clients, who praise his warm, knowledgeable courtside manner and his fierce determination to reduce or eliminate charges. An accomplished speaker, author, and leader in DUI defense statewide Kevin is well respected by judges, prosecutors, and other attorneys across the State of Washington for his expertise, integrity, and knowledge in the complicated forensic science area of impaired driving allegations.


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