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Letters to The Editor: April 14, 2011

‘Nassau Police Lab Disaster’

In November 2010, a reputable accrediting agency found that the Nassau Police Lab had, for some years, improperly conducted drug and alcohol testing. The results of those tests potentially impacting on more than 7,000 defendants, were brought into serious question. Commendably the Governor appointed the Inspector General as a Special Prosecutor to review the procedures at the Lab.

In March, five months after the announcement of the report criticizing the Lab and after the Lab lost its accreditation and had to be shut down, the District Attorney has sent a letter to 300 defendants advising them of the problem. She was obligated to do that and more five months ago. The Supreme Court of the United States decided long ago that prosecutors have a burden to exercise due diligence in locating exculpatory evidence (in this case faulty lab tests) and promptly disclosing it to defendants and their counsel. Rice failed in her legal obligations to properly supervise the lab; in relying upon erroneous lab results obtained from it and in failing to promptly disclose these problems to defendants and their lawyers. She should resign due to gross incompetence and for engaging in a cover-up of this wrongdoing.

These are very serious issues resulting in wrongful convictions and jail sentences, which now will cost the taxpayers millions of dollars to remedy. The Lab has to be fixed and new testing conducted if that can even occur at this late stage given the improper testing; problematical preservation of evidence; chain of custody issues; loss of samples and contamination of evidence. Bail applications will have to be made; cases restored to the calendar; pleas, convictions and sentences vacated with some cases being barred from re-prosecution by the double jeopardy clause; lawyers have to be assigned or returned to undertake these issues and the County will have to defend against innumerable wrongful conviction civil cases and claims alleging violations of civil rights as well as police and prosecutorial misconduct.

In a County that is already on life support financially, this problem will have a devastating short and long-term effect on taxpayers. Criminal Justice is not a place for amateurs and Rice should resign. She has already damaged too many lives for which her public relations machine is not the answer.