N.Y.C. doctor who questioned DNA technique loses job
New York — A doctor who says she was forced out of her job at the medical examiner’s office after raising questions about the city’s use of a disputed technique for analyzing trace samples of DNA filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on Thursday.
Dr. Marina Stajic said she was told she could either retire or be fired from her job as a laboratory director in April 2015. She says she was perceived as an adversary because of her position on the use of the DNA profiling technique known as low copy number, which critics have argued is unreliable and should not be used in court.
Besides her position at the medical examiner’s office, Stajic also served on the New York State Commission on Forensic Science, which is tasked with developing standards for DNA laboratories.
Stajic, 66, alleges she was ousted from her position with the city after Chief Medical Examiner Barbara Sampson found out she voted to require the medical examiner’s office, which investigates suspicious deaths and was responsible for identifying remains of Sept. 11 victims, to publicly release a study about the testing technique.
Sampson was “displeased that Stajic appeared to be aligned with the criminal defense lawyers on the commission,” whom she “viewed as adversarial,” Stajic’s lawsuit says.
Stajic, besides losing her city job, also was tossed from her position on the 14-member state commission. Her lawsuit, filed in federal court in Manhattan, seeks unspecified monetary damages.
The Office of Chief Medical Examiner says it investigates when people die from criminal violence, by accident, by suicide, suddenly when in apparent health, when unattended by a physician, in a correctional facility or in suspicious or unusual manners. It says it’s committed to fairness and providing the highest standards of service to people in the city.
“Courts in all five boroughs have recognized that OCME’s DNA techniques are reliable and generally accepted by the scientific community,” office spokeswoman Julie Bolcer said in a statement.
The office didn’t say in which cases, if any, it used the low copy number technique.
The city’s Law Department said Stajic’s claim would be reviewed after the city receives a copy of her lawsuit.