Evidence in 21 cases tested for DNA by the Houston Police Department’s troubled crime lab is missing, raising concerns that questions about the quality of work in those cases may never be answered, the Houston Chronicle says.
Defense lawyers say the missing evidence, which was scheduled to be retested by private labs, is another sign of the extent of problems at the crime lab. Prosecutors remained optimistic and said the evidence may be found or other reviews of the cases may be possible. “Missing just means that they don’t have it (the evidence) right now,” said Assistant District Attorney Marie Munier. “Each case will have to be looked at individually, and we will have to see what is missing and what might be left to test.”
Evidence can be stored in several places, including the police pepartment property room, the crime lab itself and the Harris County district clerk’s office, which retains items entered as evidence in trials.
District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said no inmate with missing evidence is on death row, though one has been sentenced to life in prison for capital murder. “This is not a good thing to happen but, well, it’s hard to assign blame for anything at this time,” he said. “Given the fact that there are tens of thousands of cases handled by HPD over the years, it would be improbable if something wasn’t lost.”