Chief Houston prosecutor Chuck Rosenthal will not prosecute drug cases from the city’s police department involving trace amounts of evidence unless they are analyzed by an accredited crime laboratory. The Houston Chronicle says that Police Chief C.O. Bradford, whose department operates the largest unaccredited crime lab in the country, must find a way to ensure that such cases are examined by an appropriate lab.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of drug cases may be in limbo as Bradford searches for a solution, which likely will cost the cash-strapped city thousands of dollars, the paper says. The police department 15,000 controlled-substance cases a year; it was not clear how many of those involve trace amounts of evidence — usually tenths of a gram of drugs, such as the residue found in crack pipes. An source close to the crime lab investigation said hundreds of cases or more will be affected by the district attorney’s decision.
Rosenthal was influenced by a new state crime lab law passed in the wake of a DNA testing crisis at the police department. The department suspended DNA testing last year after an independent audit uncovered shoddy science and conditions, raising questions about the accuracy of the lab’s work.