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Crime Lab Problems May Impact L.I. Manslaughter Trial

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- On Long Island, the manslaughter case against a teenager accused of driving on drugs may be in jeopardy.

Police said Kayla Gerdes was high on drugs and speeding when she lost control of her van and struck and killed 69-year-old Dr. Rebecca Twine-Wright. The victim was out mowing her grass and gardening in front of her Hempstead home on April 20 when the van suddenly careened off the street and into her path.

WCBS 880's Sophia Hall speaks with the head of an anti-drunk driving organization 


Gerdes' blood was tested at the Nassau Police Crime Lab that was shut down following accusations of tainted evidence, questionable work practices, and 23 misconduct citations.

Her attorney, John Lewis, wants to suppress those test results and now will have a chance after Gerdes' hearing was postponed Tuesday for two weeks.

"The analysis of the alleged drugs and marijuana that were recovered from the van and Miss Gerdes, allegedly, were sent to the Nassau County crime lab. So I am going to be looking to suppress that evidence as a result of what's been brought to light in the laboratory," Lewis said.

But now that lab results are deemed "potentially tainted," as in mismatched and mislabeled, could charges against Gerdes and others be scaled back?

"If you have a break in the chain of custody the evidence is not going to be admissable and that's where the real problem lies," Lewis said.

Defense attorneys across Nassau are now predicting a wave of appeals that could choke the courts, as a result of Monday's conviction being tossed in the police crime lab controversy.

"There's got to be a way to effectively and economically evaluate all of this in a way that ensures peoples rights have been protected also," said Marc Gann of the Nassau County Bar Association.

The extent of the problem was under investigation by the inspector general.

On Monday, a judge, citing "testing misfeasance" and "potentially tainted evidence," set aside the drunken driving conviction of Erin Marino, who is accused of plowing into another vehicle while drunk with her blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit.

Marino will get a new trial.

The problems at the crime lab have anti-drunk driving organizations worried that drunk drivers will be set free on a technicality.

"When you lose someone to a drunk driver you lose a piece of yourself and it's like having your heart ripped out. And then to have to have it ripped out a second time because of a terrible mistake it is just unthinkable to me," Marge Lee, the head of an organization call "Dedicated," told WCBS 880's Sophia Hall.

Lee added that it would be a "tremendous injustice if people walk free because of a human error."

After her arrest, Gerdes went off on a dramatic rant to reporters profusely apologizing for striking the victim. A day later, police released a statement the suspect made while in custody claiming she didn't feel too horrible about the incident because "she was old."

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