Mass. Crime Lab Administrator Suspended

The Associated Press
Saturday, January 13, 2007; 1:13 PM

BOSTON -- A Massachusetts State Police crime lab administrator has been suspended for failing to turn over DNA matches to a number of unsolved cases until after the statute of limitations had expired, the department said.

In other cases, state police said, the employee informed investigators of DNA matches that turned out to be inaccurate.

State Police Lt. William Powers said the discrepancies had not led to any tainted convictions, but they impeded the work of investigators. The most serious problems involved the expired statutes of limitations, he said.

Powers declined on Friday to name the crime lab employee, who was suspended with pay Thursday, or say if it is a man or woman.

The administrator's job was to enter test data on DNA obtained from incarcerated Massachusetts convicts into a national database to see if it matched DNA evidence from unsolved cases elsewhere in the country.

"In many of the cases, a suspect was identified prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations, but neither the police investigators nor the District Attorney's Office of jurisdiction were notified in a timely manner," the state police said in a statement issued Friday.

The problem came to light when an investigator received notification of a DNA match and noticed that the information had been available weeks earlier, Powers said.

Powers said the preliminary investigation found discrepancies in "about 10 to 14 cases at this point." He said he did not know the locations or nature of the cases.

Five sexual assault cases in the Middlesex district attorney's jurisdiction were involved, said Corey Welford, a spokesman for District Attorney Gerard Leone. The office is reviewing those cases to see if they could still be prosecuted, Leone said in a statement.

Powers said the FBI was asked to examine the state's Combined DNA Indexing System, known as "CODIS," to see if additional breaches occurred.

Massachusetts is among a growing number of states that require inmates to submit a DNA sample upon their entry into prison. The scientific data is converted to digital computer data which can be run against similar data from unsolved cases.

Powers said he was uncertain whether any charges would be filed. He said the suspended administrator had worked at the State Police crime lab "for some time," but he could not be specific.

The head of the state police, Col. Mark Delaney, presided over a revamping of the crime lab in recent years after prosecutors complained about delays in processing DNA evidence.

An impetus for the changes was the stabbing death of Cape Cod writer Christa Worthington in her Truro cottage in January 2002. Christopher McCowen, who was convicted in the case last fall, wasn't charged for more than a year after investigators obtained his DNA sample.

© 2007 The Associated Press