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Trial Set For LAPD Criminalist Who Claims Her DNA Results Were Ignored In Murder Investigation

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Veteran LAPD detective Stephanie Lazarus (Getty Images)

Veteran LAPD detective Stephanie Lazarus (Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A trial date has been set for a lawsuit filed by an LAPD civilian employee who alleges a detective overlooked evidence that would have implicated a police officer in a murder much earlier.

Jennifer Francis’ retaliation lawsuit, which alleged LAPD Investigator Cliff Shepard ignored the results of DNA tests Francis performed, has been scheduled to begin Jan. 26. Those results gained importance years later when another detective determined LAPD Detective Stephanie Lazarus killed romantic rival Sherri Rasmussen.

Francis worked as a criminalist in the LAPD’s Scientific Investigation Division. She filed her lawsuit on Oct. 30.

The lawsuit alleges that Shepard knew Lazarus had ties to the victim and did not want to consider her a suspect. Francis also claims she was told by supervisors beginning in 2005 to ignore possible evidence implicating Lazarus.

“Plaintiff was outing a coverup that lasted almost 25 years,” according to the lawsuit.

In 2010, Francis was told by the LAPD crime lab’s assistant director that the District Attorney’s Office no longer wanted her involved in the high-profile Grim Sleeper serial murder case, according to the suit. He also said she had allowed the “emotional side of her brain to take over the rational,” according to the lawsuit.

Rasmussen, a nurse, was found beaten and shot in the Van Nuys townhouse she shared with her husband. Lazarus was convicted of first-degree murder in Los Angeles Superior Court and was sentenced in May 2012 to 27 years to life in prison.

Attorney John Taylor, who represents Francis, told KNX1070’s Claudia Peschiutta his client hopes her actions will inspire others who may be in similar circumstances to speak up.

“She’d like to feel that other people who come forward are protected and have the ability to do that without the sort of retribution that she’s been put through,” he said.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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