During a 1999 murder trial in Corpus Christi, Tx., a state scientist presented DNA evidence to support charges that the defendant beat and sexually assaulted a 4-year-old victim. He was convicted and sent to death row. Four years later, the scientist said he was wrong about the DNA results on one piece of evidence, the Houston Chronicle says. Other experts said that at best he was “misleading the jury; at worst, he was misinterpreting the results of testing,” said court papers.
The evidence was processed one of 13 Texas state labs, all of which are nationally accredited. The agency’s DNA work is held in such high regard that it will oversee accreditation of all Texas crime labs by Sept. 1, 2005 to prevent a repeat of the sloppy DNA work at the Houston Police Department crime lab.
But a Houston Chronicle review of annual audits of seven of the regional DPS labs shows that they suffer from some of the same problems that prompted closure of the Houston lab last year, though to a much lesser degree. The problems included Evidence improperly sealed and inadequately identified to show who had handled it; a refrigerator half full of rape kits that was left at room temperature for days, risking deterioration; a supervisor who had not taken a required statistics course essential to interpreting DNA test results.