A backlog at the state forensics laboratory is holding up the court proceeding in the case of murdered pharmacology student Annie Le GRD ’13.
The Dec. 21 court appearance of Raymond Clark III, the lab technician charged with her murder, was put off until Jan. 26 because not all of the materials in the case had been made available to lawyers, said one of his attorneys, Beth Merkin. John Waddock, the state prosecutor handling the case, said the postponement was necessary because of a backlog at the state forensics laboratory. Because of the same backlog, Robert Berke — the attorney for Clark’s fiancée, Jennifer Hromadka, whose DNA has been collected in the case — said he has not received information on whether the DNA has been analyzed.
“I know for a fact, independent of this case, that the lab is backed up for nine months to a year,” Berke said.
Merkin said all the police records, lab reports, photographs and other evidence had not yet been collected by the prosecution. In this case, she said, it has taken longer than usual to compile all the materials because four investigating agencies were involved: the New Haven Police Department, the Yale Police Department, the Connecticut State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
But Connecticut State Police spokesman Lt. Paul Vance said the Le case is a top priority and that “all the materials for the hearings to go forward have been made available.”
Vance said Waddock may be waiting for additional evidence to be checked for DNA matches. Vance said he does not know how long it will take to complete those reports and acknowledged there is a backlog “to a certain extent” at the state forensics lab. However he said all the materials necessary for the case to proceed have been collected.
Waddock declined to comment on whether all materials had been provided for the case to go forward but said the state lab has been “terrific in trying to expedite” the examination of materials in the Le case.
The prosecution is in charge of obtaining the materials in question and providing them to the defense, Merkin said. Waddock declined to comment on the case specifically but said that, in general, once the prosecutor’s office obtains the materials, they are provided to the defense counsel.
Joseph Lopez, Clark’s other attorney, said he expects to have all of the necessary materials by Jan. 26, the next time Clark is expected to appear in court. The case will be delayed again then if Lopez and Merkin do not have enough time to review those materials after they conclude the other murder trial they are working on, Lopez said.
“We’re hoping to have enough time to go through the materials,” Lopez said.
Clark could enter a plea on Jan. 26, Merkin said, and it would be “not guilty.” Merkin said that if the public defense team decides the prosecutors have a strong enough case, the defense would waive their right to a probable cause hearing.
Ira Grudberg ’55 LAW ’60, a trial lawyer, said postponing a court date is not unusual especially in a case “as serious and perhaps as complex” as Clark’s.
“It’s totally normal,” criminal defense attorney Paul Carty said.
Clark was arrested and charged with Le’s murder on Sept. 17. He is being held at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Conn., on $3 million bond.