Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice is seeking an independent special prosecutor to investigate possible wrongdoing at the now-closed police crime lab.
Rice said she will ask court approval to appoint Eric Dinallo to lead an investigation. Dinallo is the former state insurance superintendent who has worked as a Manhattan prosecutor and investigative bureau chief in the New York Attorney General’s Office.
“While I have total confidence in my office’s ability to conduct such investigations, I believe there could exist the appearance of partiality any time a DA’s office investigates a case that could have such a widespread effect on the justice system within which the office’s prosecutors plays such a vital role,” Rice said in a statement Monday.
The lab was closed last week after authorities said they’d learned that police supervisors may have been aware since September that errors were occurring with the analysis of drug evidence. The drug testing section of the lab was closed earlier this month.
“I don’t know where this is going to go,” Rice said in response to a reporter’s question if the probe could lead to Nassau County police officers being arrested.
The findings could lead to exoneration or a reduction in charges for some people convicted of drug offenses.
Shortly after the announcement, the Nassau County Bar Association announced it has formed a crime lab task force to offer recomendations on the future of the crime lab.
“We are genuinely concerned about the lack of credibility of test results from the crime lab and the effect upon past cases in Nassau County courts,” said Marc Gann, a Mineola-based criminal defense attorney who heads the association. “We want to use this opportunity to be a positive influence on the future of the lab.”
About 17 cases are currently being challenged so far, prosecutors said. Gann has said more challenges are likely once more information becomes available.
Dinallo has agreed to work pro bono but it is unclear if the team of attorneys he will rely on to conduct his investigation will do the same. Any experts used as a part of the probe will be at taxpayer expense, Rice said.
The lab was placed on probation by a national accrediting agency in December and a committee to correct issues was created shortly after.
With Associated Press