Legal Aid Society


LAS Sheds Light on Contaminated DNA at City Medical Examiner

LAS discovered, through Freedom of Information Law requests, that the Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) has reported several instances of serious lab errors, but still under-reports lab mistakes.  These errors led to at least two wrongful arrests and at least one wrongful entry of DNA profile into the OCME’s local DNA index.  Disturbingly, many of these errors were not caught by the laboratory itself, but by defense attorneys, reports The Appeal.

Errors at the OCME are of particular concern because, as LAS also discovered in FOIL, the OCME has added approximately 700 new profiles to its unregulated DNA index since August of last year.

The disclosure of these errors, and the increase in profiles in the DNA index, comes right before a scheduled City Council oversight hearing into DNA collection and storage, which will focus on issues of transparency and accountability at the laboratory.

“Errors like these, and the lab’s inability to detect them, should concern the public. More and more often, criminal cases rise and fall on DNA evidence. If the lab is making mistakes like these, who is to say that they couldn’t wrongly point the finger at one of these individuals, leading to a potential wrongful prosecution,” said Terri Rosenblatt, Supervising Attorney of the DNA Unit at The Legal Aid Society.