Critics Cite Paltry Results Of Houston Lab Probe


Investigations of the Houston police crime lab has uncovered dozens of faulty tests, but the findings have freed just two wrongly convicted men in three years, says the Dallas Morning News. Critics say the legal system has been slow to respond. Legislators and inmate advocates are looking for ways to make sure innocent people have not been sent to prison or the death chamber. “There needs to be some mechanism to giving those individuals the proper legal representation they deserve,” said state Sen. Rodney Ellis, chairman of the New York-based Innocence Project and a member of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. Prosecutors say few convictions have been overturned because most errors were not major factors in convictions.

Preliminary findings last month showed 40 percent of DNA cases examined and 22.5 percent of blood-test cases scrutinized between 1987 and 2002 had major errors. Michael Bromwich, an independent investigator hired by the city in 2005, is extending his inquiry seven years further back, to 1980, casting doubt on hundreds more cases. The examination is unfolding even as other cases around the nation have been overturned for similar problems. Triggered by a 2002 KHOU-TV investigation, the investigation has gone through several stages – prosecutors and police combed through more than 400 DNA cases; two grand juries studied and criticized the police lab; and Bromwich sampled 2,700 cases of various types for examination. Bromwich said poorly trained lab workers faked or misinterpreted tests, withheld exculpatory findings, and gave false testimony in court.


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