The state’s Inspector General’s Office issued a scathing report today about the troubled Monroe County crime lab, saying its investigation found “improper and irresponsible practices by management” and led to key evidence in criminal cases, including a rape, to be destroyed.
“Forensic laboratories serve a critical function in the criminal justice system. The integrity of our forensic laboratories is essential, and the public deserves full confidence in their results,” said Acting Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott in a statement. “Individuals charged with supervising our labs must be held to the highest standards, which include sound oversight, management and policies.”
Monroe County’s Public Safety Laboratory in 2011 returned DNA evidence to local police agencies in 270 cases, wrongly determining that the statute of limitations had expired, a state watchdog agency has determined.
Lab director Janet Anderson-Seaquist, now on paid suspension, ordered the return of the evidence to help ease the move into the county’s new high-tech crime laboratory on Broad Street, according to the state Office of the Inspector General.
In fact, the county District Attorney’s Office decided in September that “the statute of limitations had not expired in 41 of the cases, and that prosecution remained viable,” states the report, released Tuesday.
In citing “significant failures” by the crime lab, the Inspector General’s Office focused on two allegations examined by its investigators: the return of the DNA evidence; and a lapse by a forensics biologist who wrongly reported that evidence from a sex offense was negative for sperm cells.
In both cases the Inspector General’s Office challenges the leadership of Anderson-Seaquist, claiming that she misled investigating officials about the extent of a remediation plan for the biologist and that she did not seek legal advice before deciding to return the genetic evidence.