Hurricane Destroyed Evidence Held by New York Police

hurricanePerched on a narrow crook of land jutting into New York Harbor, the Erie Basin auto pound and evidence warehouse seems a logical place to store hundreds of seized cars, thousands of guns and 9,846 barrels of evidence containing sensitive DNA material.

It is easy for the New York Police Department to safeguard the secluded bunker, in Red Hook, Brooklyn, from potential thieves.

But not, it turns out, from the surrounding water.

As Hurricane Sandy lashed the city, the surge breached the warehouse’s roll-top doors and hurtled hundreds — perhaps thousands — of its barrels into the wet muck. The storm wreaked similar havoc at another Police Department warehouse by the water, along Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Now, the damage is having an impact on the courts.

In at least six criminal trials in recent weeks, a police official has had to testify that evidence was inaccessible, but still existed, said Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the Police Department.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers said they were concerned that many more cases could emerge. “This is likely to be the tip of the iceberg,” said Steven Banks, chief lawyer for the Legal Aid Society.

A defendant in Brooklyn, Manuel Castro, was one of the first people convicted of a crime based, in part, on DNA evidence destroyed during Hurricane Sandy. A jury found him guilty of robbery and attempted assault after a judge allowed…



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