By Daniel Shatz, Assistant Appellate Defender
For those of you who just cannot get enough Duke Lacrosse news, the Court of Appeals issued an opinion on August 2, 2011 in a civil case involving a lawsuit filed by the DNA tester, Brian Meehan, against his former company, which had fired him “for cause.” Not surprisingly, the Court held that submitting an incomplete lab report that obscured the test results constituted just cause to fire Meehan both under the express terms of his employment contract and as a matter of public policy.
Although it is a civil case about employment rights, the Court’s language regarding public policy and incomplete, obscuring lab reports should be helpful for anyone working on a case involving bad SBI lab reports. The case is Meehan, v. American Media Int’l. The most helpful language is at p. 26-27 of the slip opinion:
In the present case, Plaintiff’s misconduct involves intentionally obscuring evidence and submitting an incomplete report in a court of law when clear explanation of the test results would have exculpated individuals wrongly charged. We believe public policy supports the conclusion that such misconduct is grounds for just cause termination of employment.
R. B. Parrish
It may be worthy of note that the entire lacrosse team was cleared by DNA tests two weeks before the first arrests in that case were made. DA Nifong originally justified ordering DNA tests for the entire team by saying that they would “immediately clear the innocent”. When they did just that, he reversed course and asked, “How does DNA exonerate you?”
Unfortunately, such was the atmosphere that the DNA evidence was not sufficient to abate the public furor; the case was permitted to drag on for another year on no evidence.
And worse, as far as I am aware, not a single DNA expert in the country stepped forward to defend the reliability of DNA tests to demonstrate innocence; especially in a case in which three men were alleged to have struggled with a woman for half an hour in a confined space, and then raped her in every possible way without condoms, all the while leaving not a single specimen of DNA, not a single hair, not a single cell behind. (Unbelievable.)