Houston Prosecutors Face Runaway Probes Over DNA

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Two grand juries investigating problems in Houston’s police crime laboratory have widened their inquiry to ask local prosecutors about their potential culpability for winning convictions with tainted evidence, the New York Times reports.

The Times says that the Houston grand jurors have rejected the guidance of the prosecutor’s office in Harris County, which includes Houston. Sources

say this reflects an awareness of a possible conflict of interest that the prosecutors face in the scandal over the laboratory’s DNA unit, which was closed in January after a state audit found widespread flaws in its work, including sloppy record-keeping, misinterpreted data and evidence contaminated by water from a leaky roof in the laboratory.

Barry Scheck, a founder of the Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, testified on Thursday before both grand juries. In an interview that morning, Mr. Scheck said, “The grand juries are running away because the district attorney, they realize, shouldn’t be conducting this investigation in the first place because he has such terrible conflict issues.”

The Houston Chronicle says that Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal has been subpoenaed to testify before one of the grand juries, but on Friday refused to recuse himself from the probe, despite earlier promises to step aside if he became part of the investigation.

Now Rosenthal adamantly refuses to recuse himself and notes that the grand jury has no way to force him to step aside. “Nobody with my office has done anything wrong,” he said. “I will not recuse myself — not unless they rewrite the Constitution.”

Link: http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/printstory.hts/metropolitan/1941252,http://www.nytimes.com/2003/0

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