DNA evidence errors raise more questions in N.Y. rape cases

Story highlights

  • More than 50 DNA samples were never uploaded to the state database
  • The revelation has raised questions about the extent of the problem with evidence
  • Last month, 26 incidents were uncovered in which critical evidence went undetected
  • A medical examiner lab deputy director have been fired and the director suspended
In an ongoing review of botched forensic evidence in New York City rape cases, authorities this week determined that more than 50 DNA samples were never uploaded to the state database, which prevented them from being compared for possible matches.
The revelation has raised more questions about the extent of the DNA evidence problem and how, for more than a decade, it may have affected hundreds of rape cases in the city.
"While 55 represents a minuscule percentage of the overall total of 25,000 profiles entered since 2000 ... the failure is not acceptable for a world-class DNA lab that prides itself on accuracy and attention to detail," city medical examiner spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said Thursday.
After the samples were reprocessed, one was linked to a 2006 burglary, authorities said.
Last month, investigators uncovered 26 incidents in which critical evidence went undetected, prompting the city's medical examiner's office to look into more than 800 rape cases over 10 years, "reviewing and retesting everything," Borakove said.
A medical examiner lab deputy director has since been fired and the director suspended.
"The mishandling of rape cases is making double victims of women who have already suffered an indescribably horrific event," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said. "We cannot allow these women to wonder if their attacker remains free or to go one more day without knowing justice was served in their case."
The review, which began in July of 2011, focuses on the work of one technician and includes all cases the technician processed over a 10-year period.
The process has indicated only false negative matches, not false positives, according to Borakove.
"We know that nobody has been wrongfully convicted, and nobody is serving time for something they shouldn't be serving time for," she said.
The technician in question was in charge of processing rape kits alongside some 40 other staff members at the office.
Around the end of 2008-2009, after she enrolled in a training program to become a DNA analyst, the supervisors realized "there was a problem" and took her off casework, Borakove said.
Her mistakes prompted supervisors to look at her earlier work, she said, and they discovered the false results.