More than two years after rumblings of trouble at the Houston Police Department crime lab, state lawmakers are poised to launch a legislative response, reports the Houston Chronicle. Adding urgency to the issue was last week’s revelation of a second case in which the police department’s conclusions about DNA evidence were found to be wrong. A Houston Chronicle review of DNA results shows that discrepancies linger in 25 percent of the cases where new tests have been attempted.
Since problems with the Houston Police Department’s crime lab surfaced, the work of several of the lab’s divisions has been questioned and problems have been found in other labs across Texas. The most likely response will be creating an oversight board to certify and audit crime labs. Lawmakers may seek sweeping changes to the state’s crime lab system. The current network consists mainly of many local labs, run through police departments and medical examiners’ offices, and state labs run by the Department of Public Safety. One possibility is to take forensic sciences out of law enforcement agencies and establish regional crime labs like those in Bexar and Dallas counties, which operate as independent departments.