NYC lab director fired after raising concerns about DNA test methods wins $1M settlement

Marina Stajic, PhD, former laboratory director in New York City's chief medical examiner's office, was awarded a settlement of $1 million by the city over her claims of retaliation from the office after she questioned its usage of a novel DNA testing technique, according to The New York Times.

In 2014, Dr. Stajic voted on a panel to request the release of a study on the reliability of Low Copy Number DNA testing, which she worried could lead to wrongful convictions if used incorrectly. The study was never released — and her lawsuit later revealed it had never been conducted at all — and six months later, after nearly three decades in the medical examiner's office, Dr. Stajic was fired.

In 2016, she sued the office, claiming her questioning the test's reliability had played a role in her dismissal. The lawsuit never went to trial, and on April 22, the city settled the case for $1 million, while maintaining that the settlement was not an admission of inappropriate treatment.

The Low Copy Number technique tests tiny amounts of DNA, often retrieved from surfaces touched by multiple people. New York City, believed to be the only crime lab in the country to have used the method, used it in thousands of cases between 2006 and January 2017, when it was quietly phased out.

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