Rochester, N.Y. - Questions over botched testing at the Monroe
County Crime Lab are now front and center in a 32-year-old murder case. Nat Lee Jones, a Rochester
man already serving a 50-year prison sentence for rape, is challenging the DNA evidence after a technician was cited for technical errors.
“She was making mistakes,” says Andre Vitale, attorney for Jones.
That technician was never named and has been re-trained. A Monroe county judge wants to know if she was involved in the testing of the 1980 murder case.
Mary Hull, 74, was strangled in her home on Laura Street by someone who broke in through a window. “This is a crime that occurred in 1980, it was a crime that had no witnesses,” says Assistant District Attorney Timothy Prosperi.
What police do have is scientific testing that wasn’t possible three decades ago. It allegedly confirms the Northeast Rapist, already in prison, and the suspected killer of Mary Hull, are the same person.
Now those DNA tests are being called into question because of a letter Monroe County sent to the state’s Office of Forensic Services. It confirms a technician at the crime lab botched testing in five cases.
“The name has not been disclosed so I can’t tell whether that person worked on this case,” says defense attorney Vitale.
Prosecutors counter the questionable DNA testing was done in 2011 - three years after samples involving Jones were completed. Yet Vitale says it shows flaws in the lab that go straight to the heart of the credibility of all of its technicians.
If true, it could potentially impact many other cases.
“The District Attorney holds out DNA as being the gold standard, as completely infallible,” says Vitale. “Even if that person did not work on this case it’s still relevant because it undermines the entire certification of the lab.”
When asked about that, prosecutor Prosperi said “I have no comment.” He indicated he would comply with the judge’s request to find the identity of the technician involved.
The technician remains on the job and has been re-trained. The errors were caught in the review process and did not affect cases according to the letter sent to the state. Twenty additional cases from the same technician were re-analyzed.