Did NYPD Manufacture a Murder Tie to Occupy Wall Street because Its Terror Myth Is Dying?

Let’s start with this. NYPD got its ass handed to it yesterday.

Specifically, Justin Elliott provided the definitive debunking of Mike Bloomberg and Ray Kelly’s repeated claims that their multimillion dollar Muslim profiling program has done anything to thwart the 14–or rather 3–terrorist attacks on NY since 9/11.

That wasn’t the end of the ass-handing, though. After Elliott’s piece, NYPD’s spokesperson Paul Browne started trolling Elliott’s comments, pretending the NYPD hadn’t repeatedly claimed to have stopped 14–or rather 3–terrorist attacks with their vast counterterrroism apparatus.

Elliott debunked that, too.

Mayor Mike, meanwhile, was backtracking–or perhaps forwardtracking–wildly, in another attempt to pretend the NYPD’s core terror myth wasn’t a carefully crafted myth.

And Ray Kelly? He hasn’t been seen to ask him about this ass-handing; maybe he was crying in a bar somewhere?

Meanwhile, last night, during the All Star Game, a new myth started.

Murder! DNA! Occupy Wall Street!

Starting with NBC, followed by a slew of other predominantly NY outlets, the press reported a flimsy story–sourced to law enforcement–claiming that DNA found on a chain left at an Occupy-related protest earlier this year matched DNA found at the site of a murder of a Pretty White Woman. Most of the stories didn’t include a caveat until the last paragraphs of the story that there’s no evidence suggesting the DNA belonged to any of the people who left the chain.

There’s no immediate evidence that the DNA belongs to the protesters who chained open the gates.

And none of them pointed out that the chain of custody suggested by the stories made the evidence useless in a trial (NBC, though, noted that NYPD has a suspect whose DNA doesn’t match any of this).

In short, it was facially a ridiculous smear, leaked by law enforcement (cough, NYPD), made to suggest in the press something NYPD has no evidence for in reality–that OWS are murderers.

No one, by the way, led with what should have been the blaring headline.

NYPD collects DNA at sites of civil disobedience

In short, the press got their asses handed to them.

Just so the NYPD would have company, I guess.

But then, later today, the NYT (which has was slow in covering Ray Kelly’s Muslim profiling, but has pointed to other problems with Kelly’s NYPD), did some rather interesting reporting.

The DNA that investigators initially believed was recovered from skin cells on the slain woman’s portable compact disc player and from the chain found after the March protest came from a laboratory supervisor at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, the person briefed on the matter said.

“The O.C.M.E. tainted the samples and it was the O.C.M.E. supervisor’s whose DNA was on both,” the person said.

But Ellen S. Borakove, a spokeswoman for the Medical Examiner’s Office, said, “We’ve excluded all medical examiner personnel.” She added that the office was still working on the test.

Now, either something’s funky with this report, or this is a giant scam. After all, wouldn’t the match come from a database search? How would both samples–plural–be tainted unless they weren’t working from a database match but rather from some invented reason to check the DNA samples side by side?

I don’t know the answer to that, but this much we do know. The NYPD has been known to plant evidence before (in drug cases). The NYPD loves to engage in myth-making to justify its heavy-handed policing (not to mention its budget). And, the NYPD has tried to insinuate Occupy Wall Street were terrorists in the past.

Perhaps it’s time for the press who reported this so breathlessly to start reporting on the underlying cop-work here?

Update: Thanks to Jay Ackroyd for the photo.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

22 replies
  1. bmaz says:

    Well, let me say this much, you are dead on when you question how the hell the “contamination” story makes sense. It doesn’t by anything I have ever known about crime labs and DNA testing procedure.

    1) This same omnipresent lab tech was fondling the walkman/CD player lo all these years later at the same time as swabbing the chain??

    2) The same not so fortunate lab tech happened to be doing both items 5-7 years apart and is such a slob he habitually contaminates everything he touches??

    3) Their state of the art computer DNA Match-O-Matic Machine got carried away?

    Seriously, this is so lame as to not even require gaming it out any further. Jeebus.

  2. emptywheel says:

    @bmaz: Alternately, Ray Kelly said, he, here’s that CD player from 8 years ago. Will you double check whether it matches that chain we got from a subway station that 2000 people had touched? Just a hunch–wink wink wink wink.

    That’s my operative guess at this point.

  3. Peterr says:

    This reminds me of Steve Goodman and David Allen Coe’s “Ultimate Country Music Song”. As Steve tells the story, he wrote several verses, then showed it to David, who noted “you haven’t mentioned ‘momma’ or ‘trains’ or ‘prison’ or ‘trucks’ or ‘dead dogs’ . . . which prompted Steve to write a final stanza that begins “Ever since the dog died and mama went to prison//Ain’t nothin’ round this old farm that’s been the same//You know when mom broke out last Christmas//She drove the getaway laundry truck into a train”

    Going back to this story, Mayor Mike’s mistake was not also tying this in with a shark attack.

    Pretty White Woman + shark attack = OMG moment

  4. bmaz says:

    @emptywheel: Maybe, but my experience is that crime labs are not quite the traditional “Blue Line” as far as covering. But, obviously, no clue on the state of play at NYPD. Heck anything is possible. And, frankly, nothing is mor5e stupid that the two versions propounded to date. So….

  5. emptywheel says:

    @bmaz: Well, and there you’ve got someone leaking really damning story less than 24 hours after they leaked this story. That’s not Blue Line at all.

  6. bmaz says:

    @emptywheel: No. It is not. There are, apparently, multiple forces at play, and playing in the media, here. If this was playing out in Arizona, I could tell you what that means and why; in NY I dunno.

    But something tells me there is a reason the “NYPD” and the ME’s office, through Borakove, are yammering, and the actual forensics shop is not. Just as a general FYI, crime labs have undergone dedicated “how to fight, and better yet, never fall into the trap of, CSI arguments of specificity”.

  7. emptywheel says:

    @bmaz: Well, Borakove is saying something different than “NYPD” (or whoever leaked this yesterday). Borakove is not disputing this is tainted, just that it didn’t come from her office. NYPD is not saying it’s tainted at all (Well, Kelly won’t comment today–though that doesn’t mean he didn’t yesterday).

  8. bmaz says:

    @emptywheel: Actually, and I may well be wrong, I dunno, but I think Borakove is, from appearances, providing an, even if couched in vernacular, fairly direct rebuttal to “taint”.

    The allegation of taint is a specific one, and Borakove specifically and directly countered that by stating unequivocally that such was not the case and that testing was incomplete and ongoing. In the terms of how such things play out, that is pretty darn direct and contra. It may very well turn out that the case is such that “Borakove is not disputing this is tainted, just that it didn’t come from her office”, but the dynamic s are more than a little unclear so far.

    The ME shop is different than the cop shop, which is different from the forensics shop. They may, or may not, be acting in concert. Frankly, at thius early point, I would be a little shocked if they were.

  9. emptywheel says:

    @bmaz: OK, fine, she’s not saying taint. She is saying they think it’s the same person and they’ve tested for taint. She also rather bizarrely seems to be suggesting it COULD be taint, which doesn’t make sense for a database match.

    Which, again, is not what NYPD leaked to all the world last night.

  10. emptywheel says:

    @bmaz: Sure, but that NYT alone undermines the NYT story, even if Borakove is right.

    What seems to have happened is someone pointed to the lab forcing Borakove to expose, at a minimum, details that suggest the NYPD was doing something bizarre.

  11. klynn says:

    And this AM the headlines are quite different. Words such as “lab errors” in the headlines.

    I am tired of our MSM not digging and looking at the facts and getting the story correct. I also hate when they get the story correct but use a salacious headline and kick off a rumor mill type of response in the general public. It. Is. Old. And. Tiresome.

  12. klynn says:

    I think you’ve done a great service calling out the falsehoods and examining all the information that was put out in the media and then asking the correct questions and pointing out what did not make sense.

  13. emptywheel says:

    @klynn: Yep, the NYP even.

    Curiously, they’re not citing 3 sources saying these were lab errors. And yet no one has yet explained how both samples got in the same place to be tainted, which to me is the story.

  14. beth says:

    I’m just going to throw out my wildly uninformed guess here as to why there’s a sudden match- the prime suspect in the murder walked into the police station again in June and handed over an envelope with his clairvoyant research into the identity of the real killer (I know, I know). I’m guessing that event pulled the cold case back out of storage and the NYPD decided to try to retest the CD player for the suspect’s DNA since (I’m perhaps making an incorrect assumption here) the technology/methods for testing has been refined in the 7 years since the evidence was tested. Whoever pulled the old evidence for testing also handled the chain. The new DNA found on the CD player was entered into the database again and *bingo* there was a match suddenly.

  15. ondelette says:

    On the other hand, maybe lab technique is sloppy and DNA contamination is so routine that it’s normal procedure to discount known lab tech DNA.

    So if they want to have a story, all they do is make such an announcement. They know it’s true, and unless somebody follows up, nobody will be putting out a rejoinder that it’s the lab sup’s DNA and they knew it. The headline has its desired effect whenever it’s needed.

  16. emptywheel says:

    @beth: I like it!

    I’ve even wondered if the supsect’s clairvoyant solution WAS OWS (which of course didn’t exist at the time, but nevermind) and that’s what got them looking.

    But your solution would explain a lot.

  17. mouse says:

    @klynn: there is a specific reason they don’t bother doing proper fact checking until hours later, in the 30sec soundbyte world that has been one of the most effective social engineering schemes in history the 1st bit of news is almost universally accepted as truth so unless a major revelation is produced that MSM simply can’t ignore the 1st soundbyte is firmly lodged in the collective psyche and becomes fact even if proven to be false.

    it works so well that even now, years after the fact and nearly a decade of damning evidence to the contrary, some people still say Iraq had WMDs and was selling them to ‘our enemies’

  18. J Andrews says:

    The chain of custody on this piece of evidence can be tracked back as far as ‘some cop’. A member of a known and violent gang. Start your testing there or STFU.

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