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Monroe County crime lab errors examined in state report

  1. Terrapinzflyer
    Monroe County crime lab errors examined in state report

    A former lab technician at the Monroe County Public Safety Laboratory botched the testing of cocaine and then manipulated computer data to try to cover up the sloppy work, according to the Office of the State Inspector General.

    Prosecutors and lab officials took steps earlier this year, when the issue first arose at the lab, to ensure that any impact on criminal cases was addressed, according to the report. The technician, Linda Teague, has retired.

    Between April and August 2008 Teague wrongly bypassed a step in cocaine testing that would show whether the drug analysis had been contaminated, according to the state report. She then took steps to make computer data demonstrate that she conducted the tests properly, the report states.

    Lab officials removed Teague from casework in August 2008 after discovering the questionable testing. The lab discovered 28 cases in the previous months in which she’d manipulated data, the report states.

    Ultimately, the lab re-examined Teague’s testing in 131 cases dating back to 2007. In no case was the substance tested wrongly identified as cocaine, but in “many of the cases” the weight of the substance in Teague’s report was heavier than was discovered in retesting.

    The weight discrepancy could be explained by drying of the substance, officials say. However, in three cases prosecutors altered the criminal charge because of the significant weight difference in the level of the retested cocaine.

    District Attorney Michael Green said prosecutors discussed criminal charges against Teague but determined not to pursue a case. He drew a distinction between a similar discovery of testing issues at the Erie County lab in which a chemist last week admitted to the crime of second-degree attempted tampering with public records.

    That Erie County technician falsely reported a substance had tested positive for cocaine when a retest showed no cocaine.

    In Teague’s instance, there is no proof that she knowingly included information in a lab or prosecutorial report that was false, Green said.

    Monroe County Public Defender Timothy Donaher told the Democrat and Chronicle in March that the testing issue had not significantly impacted criminal cases.

    Gary Craig – Staff writer
    Local News – December 28, 2009 - 12:14pm



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