Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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Damage From Sandy To NYPD Warehouses Has Lawyers Concerned

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TWC News: Damage From Sandy To NYPD Warehouses Has Lawyers Concerned
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The effects of Hurricane Sandy are being felt in courtrooms across the city, as facilities where police store evidence in criminal cases were damaged during the storm. Now, some of that evidence is needed for trial. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.

The damage to the New York City Police Department's evidence warehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn is evident.

The flood waters from Hurricane Sandy hit that warehouse and another in Greenpoint hard, damaging or destroying a lot of what was stored at the sites.

District attorneys' offices and defense lawyers are concerned about crucial evidence, like weapons and drugs, not being available for trial.

"The police department has said that six cases are affected, but the Legal Aid Society handles, in any given year, 213,000 cases in all five boroughs," said Steven Banks of the Legal Aid Society. "So these six cases are clearly the tip of the iceberg."

The Legal Aid Society said it has handled one case so far where a jury convicted a client of robbery and assault, even though jurors never had a chance to see some of the physical evidence.

"It was evidence involving a jacket and boots," Banks said. "We think that the evidence should have been produced, and the government should not have been permitted to provide simply a report. And we're appealing that ruling."

In a statement, the Brooklyn DA's office said, "We will continue to notify defense attorneys as soon as we learn that vouchered evidence has been stored in one of the two damaged facilities."

NY1 has learned that a rape case in Manhattan and an attempted murder trial in the Bronx could be impacted by unavailable evidence stored at the warehouses.

Trying to place sandbags at the gates and doors was no protection against all of the water that came crashing into this NYPD facility.

"Obviously, the events of the hurricane and the immediate aftermath have been challenging for all government agencies and for all New Yorkers," Banks said. "But at this point, it's incumbent upon the government to make a full accounting of which cases are affected by the loss of evidence."

The Legal Aid Society said it is worried people could be wrongfully convicted because of missing evidence. The NYPD said it is meeting with prosecutors about the issue.

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