Management for the Monroe County, New York Public Safety Laboratory destroyed key criminal evidence in cases that led the the destruction of evidence in hundreds of cases, according to an investigation by Acting State Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott.
The investigation found that Janet Anderson-Seaquist, the Laboratory Administrator, and a top member of her staff unilaterally decided that 270 cases pending evidence review could not be tested as the statute of limitations had passed. The evidence was then returned to referring law enforcement agencies. Upon hearing the determination, evidence was destroyed by many police departments, assuming that there was no further need for it.
Unfortunately, neither Anderson-Seaquist nor the other individual involved in the determination are attorneys are were not qualified to make this decision. Their reckless decision making has now negatively impacted at least 41 cases whose statute of limitations had not yet expired. A press release of the State Inspector General’s findings states that, unfortunately, in those cases
“the Lab’s failure to test evidence may result in the inability to arrest and convict violent criminals thereby potentially allowing the offenders to engage in additional criminal conduct.”
Further testing of some of the evidence that had not been destroyed linked a rape and three burglaries to offenders already in DNA database. But due to the lab’s negligence, the truth may never be discovered in at least 41 cases, meaning that wrongfully accused people will remain in jail and the true perpetrators will remain free of charges for their actual crimes.
In addition to the incredibly poor decision making that led to critical evidence being destroyed, a troubling pattern of carelessness at the Monroe County Lab has emerged. In one instance, the New York State Commission of Forensic Science questioned the work of one analyst in evidence collected in sex crime cases. Anderson-Seaquist told the Commission that the work had been rechecked by the lab when in fact, that was not the case.
For some reason, in holding a role critical to the justice system, Anderson-Seaquist saw it fit to lie.
The State Inspector General’s report put forth recommendations to begin to correct the problems of the Monroe County Lab, including a recommendation for
“changes to existing Laboratory policies to prohibit personnel from issuing reports from including legal opinions.”
While important, the department’s recommendations cannot correct the irreparable and inexcusable damage done with evidence destroyed in 41 cases, which will forever impact the lives of hundreds of people.