The Appellate Term, Second Department, has reinstated a woman’s drunken-driving conviction after the lower court ordered a retrial in light of deficiencies at the now-shuttered Nassau County police department crime laboratory. The panel on Dec. 24 reversed Nassau County District Court Judge Sharon Gianeli in the case of Jaclyn Conneely based on the “newly-discovered evidence” of faulty practices at the lab.
“In light of the People’s trial proof of defendant’s intoxication, principally the breathalyzer test results, defendant failed to establish that, had the information been available at the trial, the result would probably have been different,” the appellate panel wrote in People v. Conneely, 2011-2361 N CR.
The ruling reinstates Conneely’s convictions for driving while intoxicated per se and failing to maintain a lane following a bench trial. The decision marks at least the second time an appellate panel has reversed a lower court’s decision to grant a retrial owing to problems at the lab. In October, the Appellate Division, Second Department, reversed Nassau County Acting Supreme Court Justice George Peck’s decision to hold a retrial for woman convicted on charges including first-degree vehicular assault, People v. Marino, 2011/03006 (NYLJ, Oct. 4).
The lab was closed in February 2011 in the wake of a national laboratory accreditation board’s report. A new civilian-run lab within the Nassau County Medical Examiner’s Office is partly open. In the current case, the panel observed that Conneely’s blood alcohol test occurred at a different facility than the county lab, with a breathalyzer that had not been implicated in the lab’s missteps. Justices Denise Molia, Francis Nicolai and Angela Iannacci sat on the panel.