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Closing Arguments Heard in Nassau Crime Lab DWI Case
An overturned conviction could open a floodgate of problems for Nassau DA
By GREG CERGOL
Updated 7:06 PM EST, Fri, Mar 4, 2011 | Print
Closing arguments were heard Friday in a case that could open a floodgate of problems for Nassau county prosecutors.
Erin Marino is asking for her 2010 DWI conviction to be thrown out.
The Hicksville woman’s motion, according to her lawyer, is based on the discovery of errors at the Nassau police crime lab.
“She was wrongly convicted,” said Marino’s lawyer Brian Griffin. “One needs to question very hard any evidence that came out of that lab.”
Nassau’s DA and county executive ordered the crime lab closed last month, citing errors with drug testing. But now, it appears, the errors extend to other areas.
Mistakes have been found in at least nine DWI cases, according to William Kephart, the president of the Nassau County Criminal Courts Bar Association.
In one case, Kephart said, one person with no alcohol in her blood was charged with DWI.
“Anything that went through that crime lab should not be brought into a court of law,” said Kephart. “You can’t have compromised justice in a county and this is compromised justice.”
Nassau’s district attorney’s office refused comment on the new developments.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has appointed NY’s inspector general to review the crime lab’s operation. Right now, it’s unclear how far back the problems extend.
“If the DA is working so hard to put together cases, why didn’t they know about this?” asked former prosecutor Fred Kline.
Kline is now part of a Nassau Bar Association Task Force overseeing the crime lab probe. The crime lab problems began with county budget cuts, Kline charged.
“Follow the money,” he added. “Staff was cut and equipment wasn’t updated.”
Innocent people may have been convicted because of crime lab errors, Kline said, and defense lawyers are sure to challenge those convictions.
Erin Marino’s case could open the door to many more such challenges. A decision is expected Monday.