Free DNA testing should be provided to prisoners in more than 400 cases in which a substandard or incomplete serology work was originally performed by the Houston Police Department’s crime lab, says a special investigator’s report quoted by the Houston Chronicle. The final report in a $5.3 million independent investigation into the crime lab suggests that a special master be appointed to further review more than 180 serology cases in which “major issues” have been discovered. Michael Bromwich’s report is the only comprehensive investigation of problems at the Houston crime lab, which have unfolded over the past 4 1/2 years, casting doubt on thousands of convictions and unsettling the criminal justice system in Houston and beyond.
The scandal also forced the city to conduct retesting of DNA evidence in 414 cases. Bromwich’s team reviewed 135 of those cases, and found “major problems” in 43 – or 32 percent. The cases include those of four death row inmates. The independent investigation forwarded information about each of these DNA major issue cases to the Innocence Project network that is exploring what additional steps, if any, should be taken on behalf of these defendants. “While the number of proven wrongful convictions attributable to the Crime Lab’s DNA work is small  the possibility of other wrongful convictions resulting from DNA analysis during this era can not be dispelled,” Bromwich said. The report accuses the serology division – which analyzes blood evidence – of even failing to produce blood types in almost three hundred cases. The Bromwich probe, which began in March 2005, has uncovered severe and pervasive problems at the Houston Police Department crime lab that never before had come to light in the years controversy has plagued the lab.