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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Entwistle lawyer questions DNA test reliability


Showing the widening fallout from the mishandling of DNA test results at the State Police lab, the lawyers in three high-profile murder cases challenged the reliability of such test results and suggested the problems could help their clients.

A lawyer for Neil Entwistle, whose DNA was allegedly found on the gun used to kill his wife and infant daughter in Hopkinton last year, said the suspension of Robert E. Pino, the civilian administrator of the DNA database at the State Police forensic laboratory, "calls into question the reliability, trustworthiness, and integrity" of the lab and should be investigated by an independent forensic scientist.

The FBI began auditing the laboratory last week because Pino allegedly reported four test results incorrectly and failed to report 11 matches in old unsolved rape cases until the statute of limitations had expired.

But Entwistle’s lawyer, Elliot M. Weinstein, said in an interview that the bureau has had its own deficiencies with DNA analysis in recent years and lacks credibility.

Weinstein, who unsuccessfully asked a judge last fall to toss out DNA evidence against Entwistle, declined to say whether he intends to submit a new motion on the basis of Pino’s suspension. But his comments indicate that defense lawyers will probably cite the lab’s problems as reasons that judges should block DNA results from being introduced as evidence, that juries should discount such evidence, or that convictions should be overturned.

-- Jonathan Saltzman

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