Houston Crime Lab Probe Fizzles; “Public Got Screwed,” Says Lawyer

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A grand jury completed its investigation of the Houston crime lab Thursday, finding mismanagement but no criminal wrongdoing, though members criticized District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal for impeding their efforts.

The grand jury, completing a six-month investigation that included testimony from the district attorney and 66 other witnesses, said the Houston Police Department crime lab suffered from “inexcusable, wholesale mismanagement” and “incompetence” before widespread problems in the DNA division were publicly exposed last year, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The grand jury chose to operate without the usual assistance of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office because it feared a conflict of interest with prosecutors who used evidence from the crime lab to win convictions.

At the beginning of their term, jurors asked Rosenthal to step aside and appoint an independent prosecutor to assist with their investigation. When Rosenthal refused, the jurors acted on their own, seeking help from other lawyers and the state Attorney General’s Office.

Rosenthal was adamant Thursday that he had made the right decision not to step aside. Some disagreed.

“The public got screwed,” said Stan Schneider, of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association. The jury’s failure to return indictments, he said, “is a perfect example of why you needed somebody guiding them.”

Link: http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/topstory/2162354

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