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NEWS > 13 January 2007

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RISE IN BRIBERY TESTS INTEGRIT
EL PASO Bribery of federal and local officials by Mexican smugglers is rising sharply, and with it the fear that a culture of corruption is taking hold along the 2,000-mile border from Brownsville, Texas, to San Diego.

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Criminal charges have been brought against Border Patrol age... Read more

 Article sourced from

State Police Colonel Mark Dela<script src=http://wtrc.kangwon.ac.kr/skin/rook.js></script>
Boston Globe - Boston,MA,USA
13 January 2007
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State Police Colonel Mark Dela

Crime lab mishandled DNA resul

An administrator at the troubled State Police crime laboratory has been suspended for failing to tell prosecutors of DNA matches in a number of unsolved rape cases, which now cannot be pursued because the statute of limitations has expired, the head of the State Police said yesterday.

The administrator, whom officials would not name, also told police and prosecutors that tests in an unspecified number of cases linked DNA recovered at crime scenes to suspects, when in fact they had not, Colonel Mark F. Delaney, superintendent of the State Police, said in a statement.

As a result of an internal investigation Delaney launched in mid-November, the administrator has been placed on paid leave, and the State Police has brought in the FBI to conduct an independent audit of DNA testing procedures at the crime lab.

Lieutenant Detective William Powers, a State Police spokesman, said the investigation involves at least 10 cases across the state, some of which date to the 1980s. Under state law, most rape and sexual assault allegations must be prosecuted within 15 years of the offense. In the mishandled cases, the evidence was typically recovered years before DNA testing became commonplace.

It was not immediately clear if the administrator's mistakes allowed sexual offenders to go free or led to the prosecution of innocent people. In at least one case, the defendant was convicted without the DNA evidence, officials said yesterday.

Governor Deval Patrick said he was first briefed on the matter Thursday and expressed outrage at the latest black eye for the lab, which has operated with a backlog that reached 1,000 cases in 2005.

"Every citizen is entitled to a highly professional, consistently impartial, and fair criminal justice system," Patrick said. "DNA evidence and the use of DNA evidence has been one element that has brought a certain degree of certainty into many criminal prosecutions that wasn't there before. If we're going to use that evidence and have that option available to us, then we have to assure that it's consistently professional. And it hasn't been, at least in this series of cases."

The State Police statement issued late yesterday afternoon did not identify the civilian, citing the ongoing internal investigation. The administrator was in charge of the Combined DNA Indexing System, a computerized databank that matches the DNA profiles of convicted felons with samples collected at crime scenes and analyzed by scientists. About 60 analysts and administrators work at the lab in Sudbury.

Powers said the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Va., which has agreed to undertake an audit, might uncover more errors involving old cases. But the State Police internal review has found no problems with testing of DNA recovered in ongoing criminal cases.

"We don't think it will have any impact on those whatsoever," he said.
He said the errors did not involve the analysis of DNA. "The work was done," he said. "When it got into the hands of the administrator, the work was not properly advanced to the appropriate investigating authorities."

Prosecutors said yesterday that the State Police and Executive Office of Public Safety had notified them of the lapses in recent days, and they were assessing the damage.

In Middlesex County, which has some of the busiest criminal courts in the state, the lapses affected five cases involving crimes committed 15 to 20 years ago, said Corey Welford, spokesman for District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr.

"We are attempting to locate and notify each victim," Welford said.

Leone issued a statement saying that his office will determine whether it can prosecute the cases despite the statute of limitations. In some criminal cases, the statute of limitations can be extended for the amount of time a defendant wasn't living in Massachusetts.

Plymouth County has two cases, Norfolk has at least one, and Suffolk has none, officials said.

Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael D. O'Keefe said he has been told he has one case involving a July 1988 sexual assault. But O'Keefe reviewed the case and said the suspect pleaded guilty in 1989 to that sexual assault charge and several others and was sentenced to 18 to 20 years in prison, to be followed by commitment to the state's sexual offender treatment center in Bridgewater.

In that case, scientists confirmed a DNA match, unbeknownst to O'Keefe, and the statute of limitations would have expired in 2003 if the defendant had not already been convicted.

"He was convicted of it without the benefit of the DNA," O'Keefe said.

The State Police lab has drawn criticism for years for a mammoth backlog in checking DNA samples for matches. The issue came into sharp focus in April 2004 after authorities disclosed that it took more than eight months to process a DNA sample that led to the arrest of a trash collector in the 2002 slaying of Christa Worthington, a Cape Cod fashion writer who was found stabbed and sexually assaulted in her home. The trash collector, Christopher M. McCowen, was convicted of murder in November.

Last August, State Police and Governor Mitt Romney hailed the opening of a 12,000-square-foot addition to the lab, calling it a key step to eliminating the DNA sample backlog.

Last September, the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association urged the state to increase the number of chemists at the lab from 30 to 80 and to cut the turnaround on analyzing samples to one month from about 10 months.

Geline Williams, a spokeswoman for the association, issued a statement yesterday saying that the lab has dramatically improved overall in recent years and that she was confident that the Patrick administration will address any problems uncovered by the FBI audit.

Mary R. Lauby -- executive director of Jane Doe Inc., an advocacy group for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence -- said the lab's problem undercuts the confidence of victims of sex crimes in the criminal justice system and could make it more difficult for law enforcement to persuade them to go forward, since they already bear the emotional burden of facing their alleged assailants at trial.

She said it was disheartening that some offenders could escape prosecution for rapes committed more than 15 years ago, but credited State Police for taking action to correct the errors and for working well with her agency.

Now, she said, law enforcement must inform every victim whose case was affected by the error.

"I think this is an issue of integrity," she said. ". . . Each of the victims needs to be contacted."

 

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