DNA-handling scandal taking toll in Texas

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Since closure of the Houston Police Department’s crime lab earlier this year, it has become clear that hundreds of cases may have been tainted over the last decade of DNA testing, the Christian Science Monitor reports. “In a state that sends more prisoners to death row than any other, it’s considered a catastrophe,” says the newspaper. “State lawmakers are pushing for regulations, defense attorneys are demanding retrials, and judges are calling for a grand-jury investigation into possible criminal misconduct.”

This week, the Fort Worth Police Department announced that nearly 100 DNA cases handled by its crime lab over the past three years would be reviewed because a forensic scientist did not follow protocol. “We were all told years ago that DNA was infallible and we wouldn’t have innocent people being convicted. Well, we forgot about human error and misconduct,” says Rep. Kevin Bailey, who chairs a legislative committee looking into the Houston crime lab.

Of the 400 to 500 labs doing forensic work nationwide, 240 are currently accredited and another 25 are seeking accreditation. Attorney General John Ashcroft plans to commit $1 billion to the DNA issue over the next five years.

Link: http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0418/p03s01-usgn.html

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