Largely it has been women at the forefront of criminal lab scandals, there have been men but one wonders why in most criminal labs it seems to be the provenance of women and their fondness of junk science, duplicity and fraud when it comes to evidence tampering. Just a thought.
Ex-Official Says Medical Examiner Forced Her Out Over DNA Technique
A former official of the New York City medical examiner’s office sued the city on Thursday, claiming that she had been forced from her job, in part, for raising questions about the office’s use of a novel form of DNA testing whose reliability had come under question.
The lawsuit is likely to add to a growing debate over the medical examiner’s aggressive use of new techniques to analyze trace samples of DNA, a practice that other public crime laboratories have shied away from because of concerns over reliability. ** my note that this is similar to the debate in the infamous Making a Murderer case**
The former employee, Marina Stajic, 66, served for nearly three decades as director of the office’s Forensic Toxicology Laboratory, which conducts post-mortem examinations to determine the absence or presence of drugs, and what role they may have had in causing someone’s death.
But Dr. Stajic claimed in the lawsuit, which was filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, that she fell out of favor with her superiors because she had sought more transparency about the office’s research into the
The medical examiner’s office said on Thursday that it was “committed to fairness and providing the highest standards of service for the people of New York City.” It added that courts in all five boroughs had “recognized that our DNA techniques are reliable and generally accepted by the scientific community.”
The Law Department said “all the claims will be reviewed.”
The medical examiner’s office, which performs about 5,500 autopsies each year, has long been hailed for being at the forefront in forensic techniques, notably for its role in identifying human remains in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and for its efforts to go back and identify some of the anonymous dead in the city’s potter’s field.
The office has also developed novel techniques and procedures for analyzing trace quantities of DNA left on touched objects, such as a handgun passed among several people. While the office has said it can reliably discern DNA profiles from such samples, often referred to as low copy number DNA, other scientists have said they are doubtful that the results should ever be introduced in the courtroom.
Such critics say that while DNA profiles analyzed from a drop of blood or a semen stain are the gold standard of forensic evidence, the low copy number method involves too much subjectivity and even guessing, and could lead to wrongful convictions.
The city medical examiner’s office is the only public DNA laboratory in the country that uses the method in criminal cases, the lawsuit says.
The debate over the technique has played out in courtrooms in New York and also on a state forensic science commission, which regulates crime laboratories and has a broad mandate of quality control.
Dr. Stajic served as a member of the commission from 2004 until last December, the lawsuit says.
It was in her role on the commission in 2014, the lawsuit says, that she became one of only a few members who voted to require the medical examiner’s office to make public an internal study regarding the validity of the testing technique, a vote that did not pass.
Her position aligned her with the few criminal defense lawyers who were also on the commission, but it put her at odds with her bosses at the medical examiner’s office, the lawsuit says.
It says that Dr. Barbara Sampson, the chief medical examiner, was unhappy with her vote. In April 2015, the lawsuit says, Dr. Stajic was told that she would be dismissed unless she resigned. She submitted her retirement papers that month, the suit says.
Her lawyers, Kevin Mintzer and Daniel L. Alterman, said in a statement that their client “was forced out of her job because of principled positions she took” on the commission.
In a brief phone interview this week, Dr. Stajic said: “I think it’s a dangerous precedent when people are expressing their honest opinion and they are compelled to resign or retire because of that.”
The lawsuit also charges that age was a factor in the decision to dismiss her. In the lawsuit, Dr. Stajic accuses Dr. Sampson and her deputies of engaging “in a pattern of firing, demoting and forcing the resignation” of senior managers in their 50s and older.
Dr. Stajic, who has a Ph.D. in forensic toxicology, has long been prominent in her field, the lawsuit says. A past president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, it notes, she was also the author or co-author of more than 50 scientific articles.