January 11, 2013 / 8:25 PM / 7 years ago

Hundreds of New York rape cases under review, evidence errors feared

NEW YORK (Reuters) - More than 800 New York City rape cases that occurred between 2001 and 2011 are under special review after the city’s office of medical examiner discovered that a technician made repeated errors while handling DNA evidence, a spokeswoman said on Friday.

The re-examination has found 26 sexual assault cases where the technician, who has not been identified publicly, incorrectly determined there were no traces of biological material on evidence, said Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the chief medical examiner’s office.

Retesting the evidence the technician mishandled has so far resulted in seven new full DNA profiles of suspects and one new criminal indictment in Brooklyn.

None of the 843 cases on which the technician worked in that time resulted in a wrongful conviction, and there has been no indication that her errors were deliberate, Borakove said.

Officials first became aware of the technician’s oversights and launched the review in July 2011. The technician had been taken off of case work in 2009 due to other deficiencies and ultimately resigned from the medical examiner’s office in November 2011. The office’s review should conclude in the next few months, Borakove said.

News of the medical examiner’s review errors comes a month after a former chemist at Massachusetts’s state crime lab was indicted on charges of tampering with evidence and obstruction of justice.

Prosecutors said she falsified evidence while handling drug samples tied to more than 34,000 cases, and state officials released 236 people from prison pending new trials as a result of their investigation into the matter.

The office of New York City’s chief medical examiner employs 48 technicians to handle the preliminary evidence on the 1,500 sexual assault cases in which it is involved each year. As a result of the review’s findings, the office has changed and updated its supervision and training procedures to ensure similar incidents do not occur in the future, Borakove said.

The New York Times first reported news of the medical examiner’s investigation.

Additional reporting by Daniel Lovering; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Steve Orlofsky

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